by Cynthia Pitman

With all your science can you tell how it is — & whence it is, that light comes into the soul?– Thoreau

The science is settled.
We know it all now.
No more need to wonder
why the sweltering heat of the wind
blows across the burning blacktop,
melting the thick tar pitch into a sticky cohesion.
Science has that covered.
No more need to wonder
why the tornadoes
gyre across the vast heartland
with unleashed terror,
attacking and flattening the homes, the trees, the animals
and the people.
Science has that covered.
No more need to wonder
why the ocean’s cryptic creatures
dwell deep in darkness,
adorned with rich jewel tones
that will never be seen.
Science has that covered.
No more need to wonder
why the flowers bleed blood-red
or drip butter-yellow,
their heavy scent
saturating the air
with aromatic jubilation.
Science has that covered.

No more need to wonder
why the stars gaze down upon us
while they are trapped
in the frozen pose of gravity,
lighting our darkness,
but never enough.
Science has that covered.
The science is settled.
No more need to wonder.
So many secrets,
and all of them – covered.

I will need a shield.
I could choose a Roman shield —
wide wings of eagles diving for their prey,
fierce thunderbolts spearing down from Jupiter on high —
to honor mighty Caesar’s erection
of Corinthian columns and colossal coliseums,
a blinding array of his brutal strength,
his decimating power made manifest,
a power I could hold close to my chest.

Or I could choose a Greek shield —
a reverse lambda, their ‘V’ of victory,
a charging bullhorn burnt on wood,
or a deep-sea lantern fish carved on rawhide —
to marvel at their sea-faring glory,
to pay homage to Poseidon,
to lay siege to Troy,
slay her heroes,
retrieve the Janus-faced Helen
and clutch her to my heart.
Or I could create my own shield.
But where should I begin?
I have a fealty to fire.
I could paint a burst of red-flower flame
from the poison oleander.

Then, as I lie burning on the funeral pyre,
clutching my flaming shield,
the thick toxic smoke of the oleander would ascend.
The shield would not protect me from my enemy,
nor my enemy from me.
Rather, it would gather us up, together,
and carry us to the Sun.

I turn my face from the world
toward the timberline.
Resting there for me is a wait —
a slow, timeless wait.
I cross the wide, wet field
that separates me from the woods,
drawn by their deep-shadowed darkness.

The leaves sharpen.
The trees take shape.
The creatures of these woods
dismiss me with their indifference.
They know me here.
The hidden path inclines
just enough to make me breathless.
I follow the path,
It is revealed as if in a dream.

I hear footsteps, but I don’t feel them.
Are they mine?
Trembling, I come to the end of the path
where the branches of the trees
hang low.
Vines laden with overgrowth
curtain the mystery.
My hand reaches out
to pull back the curtain:

Always it is the same.

Amalgamated Memories
Imagine yourself seated on the ground,
surrounded by baskets,
each basket cradling a jumble of disparate items
(a feather, a knife, a memory),
items confined yet uncollected.
Within each basket is one red marble,
bright and biting in its insistent redness,
this one red marble,
rising above the disparate jumble
(a feather?),
ascending, then suspended,
a presence to hold you and you alone
String the marbles together.
String them with your own sweet string.
Weave your web.
Surround yourself, for there is no escape.
(A knife?)
Bow your head.
Let go.
Whose hands are these that ascend,
lifted by your own sticky-sweet web?
Whose hands are these that open their palms
in silent supplication?
Whose hands are these that cup and caress
the red red redness of the mesmerizing marbles?
Whose marionette are you?

The Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
                                   . . .dedicated to Julian Jaynes

Old Amos heard God speak to him.
He didn’t know what the linguists know.
These new prophets say
it was not the voice of God he heard;
The voice was but a breach,
a missing bridge between
the two matched sides
of his bicameral mind.
The presence of this breach,
the absence of this bridge, they say,
Forged the covenant between Amos and God.
When this missing bridge finally appeared,
It was too late.
Old Amos had already heard
God speak to him.
But his ways were passing.
This bridge, in all its glory,
Revealed that — all along, all along –,
He had only been talking to himself.

Which is the genome of insanity?
Hearing the voice of God
Thundering in your brain?
Or crossing the bridge
Back and forth,
Again and again,
Only to hear the echo of your own voice?
Each says, “You are not alone.”
But every time you cross the bridge,
You are the only god you hear.