The Floating Man


In this experiment of Ibn-Sina, I must float
for as long as it takes to forget the sweating desert
And the sifting streets of Hamadan.

No part of me may touch another body part.
My hands are spread so wide, each finger
Thinks it is the only finger in the world.

My head is shaved, lest a stray hair
tickle my ear, or remind me that I'm beautiful.
I must take care not to hear my own heart beating.

When the time comes, you will ask me
who on earth I am. Shall I say a man or a thought,
or a man thinking about deserts and cities?

Sky folds me in. I'm as lonely as a spent star
calling into the darkness. Now ask again.


Shiba Onko

Then the youngest gazing
into a porcelain urn astir with koi
fell in and was trapped his friends cried
and tore at their clothes I'm telling this story
for you Leo
swimming alone at night
in the reservoir one of the boys returned
with a stone and hurled it with all his strength
shattering the urn the water broke over him
and the dying boy who cannot be
told apart from the hero
lay gasping saved


—Virgil invented Camilla, leader of the Volscian army of
women, dedicated by her father to Artemis.

My father first threw me across water,
An infant, pinned to a javelin. In the warrior
Dream of the risen body, heaven is a precinct

Of sweetmeats and concubines. My heaven
Was constant flight. He threw me skyward,
So that I would never doubt the will's fierce transit.

Fate was another kind of fate. What I took to be
Divine momentum—flung from his hand and sped
Onward with the hawk's guidance—turns out to be

Merely a weapon's trajectory. Pity the weapon,
The missile locked on doom—launched and accelerating

In the name of the fool illusions: perfect human aim,
God-given prophecy.


The Long View

After a last late breakfast, leaving
my lover to his renovations, meaning
I was out and she was in, I took the old route
past the boarded-up clubs of St Judes,

and in another ten minutes of chewing-gum
walked past the requisite subway bum
and down along by the floating harbour
where, on the other side of the water,

the brewery was being demolished,
and the bricks that once said Courage
then said age, and then nothing,
gave a perspective more edifying

than anything which until then
I'd maintained as my ground plan.
Coming down to earth meant losing the cause
I'd spent all my years looking for,

deciding, then and there: better the stranger
you don't know, for the devil's view is shorter.
And the river-mouth said as much
as it opened out for that longer reach.



Before the first star breaks through the blue sheen of sky, you hear them buzzing. Those little friends dart all about, but descend only on you. There are so many they feel just like a coat of fur.
Don't swat them away with a stick. They have become accustomed to you. They follow your lead. It's you they look to—your blood is theirs.


The sun's forever flooding the universe with light that never returns to its source. Every day half our world turns its back on it. Maybe the light that fills our eyes becomes too hard to bear without respite.
Even though the light sometimes falls upon a shroud of clouds, that brightness is there, that beacon steering us away from a buried reef or helping us search for something lost—maybe a love without whom life cannot be endured unless it's a life unswervingly set upon such a course.


High above, a couple fling themselves back and forth across the air, falling gracefully into each other's embrace. The crowd roars and you applaud with them. Caught in your cheering you don't notice a spotlight shining on your face.
You're led to scale a rope ladder. High up on the platform, someone hands you a long, light pole. A pair of cups and saucers are balanced on either end. Drums roll.
There you go on the high wire. The audience looks up and holds its breath. You take one step after another, enjoying the attention. You keep the pole steady as an explosion below shakes the wire, deftly bending your knees as the human cannonball sails overhead.