I was typing out for a friend an old poem of mine from about 1970, in that prehistoric predigital era, and I liked it and thought I’d put it up on the blog. It was in Counter-Terra (Christopher’s Books, 1978).
The Wind People
Their faces are the skeins of air that we
sometimes perceive to finger across a flag or sheet;
their bodies, that which fills a tree
when it is wrought by their possession, throws
about its limbs as if distraught.
And they are like the catspaws of the fire,
and they are simple-minded in their time;
often their quarrels by coincidence
catch in the splinters of a human fate
and pull us willy-nilly to the grave or flame.
Lovers, quite often, capture by mistake
within a kiss, a wind-person by the hem
and then the breath that each one breathes
is the trapped and unknowing spirit of another being.
It’s this that scares a lover oftentime.
The wind people inhabit wars and shores.
It’s they who form the whistle of the shell,
for they are fascinated by all forms of spirals
and love to lie along the horns of shells.
They’re angered, though, by bangs and bells.
Especially in Fall the wind people come by.
They think that we are only swifter forms of trees. To them
the tender flesh of thigh and breast is hard as stone.
In these last months
I’ve become not much different from they.
A year ago I felt a ticking in my eye
whenever wind was round.
Investigating this phenomenon I found
A veil of colors in the air so faint it was
Not so much sight as sound.
At first I could not tell the boundary
Between one windperson and another. Now
I’ve even named them, though their names are secret.
I wondered whether they had anything to do with prayer:
But they come neither out of heaven nor hell.
–And now I know their shapes in whirling sand;
I’ve grown to recognize their smell
(like hills of bitter snow) and see
in turns of my own madness their many-fingered hand
weaving their versions of eternity.