Spring 2010, Volume 8

Poetry by Frank X. Gaspar

I'm in the Dark Night of Everything

I guess it’s one of those oracles that speak only to the dreamer. 
Something from the depths.  And it’s just like in all those old myths,
too, how you never believe what you hear from those strange chthonic
voices—or else it only begins to sink in when it’s too late, that wisdom
of the one moment, when the hour of precarious balance is long past
and the king’s flag is lost forever.  That’s when I’m in the dark night
of everything, with a skunk in my back yard, cozy to the ground in her
black Victorian plumes.  She must be gravid, she is so broad and low. 
She seems to be engaged in nothing but a portly waltz—alone—on
the winter grass of Los Angeles, but then, sensing me maybe, she scuttles
for the fountain and disappears into a flowerless daisy bush.  Come back,
I say in a manner of speaking that is only a silent setting of my teeth. 
I don’t want to look at the clock anymore, I don’t want to look for the stars.
All these years, and I am still a novice.  But at least I can move in silence,
and so I do, easily, easily, with the latch and the door, and then I’m on
the back porch and I have become a shadow, and the yard is a ruined
temple of shadows.  Then I breathe in my own strange language whose
only word is the smallest huff of air between my open lips. I wonder if
you ever feel that strange mix of joy and sadness, like someone floating
into your life bearing strings of radiant pearls and baskets of red and
orange fruit to lay at your feet, which in some houses might be taken as
a proof of the soul.  What sort of night is this where a man can go out among
his city trees drawn simply by the otherness of an other?  Mysterious heart-
beat, I don’t think there’s any terror there.  Some sort of purity.  She knows
exactly whom she is saving and for what, little animal from god knows
where, city-girl, city-eyes, city-tail.  She outsmarts everyone, hiding in
the bushes.  How she settles so assuredly into her own vanishing.  I can
tell she doesn’t worry about me too much.  She doesn’t stir or give herself
away.  I’m the one who will flinch.  And she’ll wait there as long as she has to.


BIO: Frank X. Gaspar has published four collections of poetry: The Holyoke, re-issued in 2007, Night of a Thousand Blossoms (Alice James Books, 2004, and named by Library Journal as one of the twelve best poetry collections of the year), A Field Guide to the Heavens (1999 Brittingham Prize) and Mass for the Grace of a Happy Death (1994 Anhinga Prize for Poetry). He is the author of two novels: Leaving Pico (Hardscrabble Books 1999), and most recently, Stealing Fatima (Counterpoint Press, Dec, 2009). He is the recipient of numerous awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, three Pushcart Prizes, and a California Arts Council Fellowship. His poetry is widely anthologized and appears in Best American Poetry of 1996 and 2000. Born in Provincetown, Massachusetts, he now lives in Southern California. He is Professor Emeritus at Long Beach City College, and currently teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Antioch University. Frank's web site: www.frankgaspar.com