The way into the woods
is easy at first—here and there
the various trees
lay their shadows gently down
on bits of brush,
on tufts and
small green stuff.
When you turn to look back,
full of light,
is right there. Still, even so,
you are in the forest now,
and every little bird can tell
you’ve filled your pockets up
& a bird
“…an inordinate fondness for beetles.” –J.B.S.Haldane
After the funeral’s done
After the coffee and cakes
After the whiskey’s sipped
After the weepy aunts
And smoky uncles have gone
That’s when the beetles come
Squeezing under the lid
Chewing their way through the wood
Grand in their hard shiny hats
And long black carapace capes
Making their way in the dark
To the feast their Lord supplies;
Rovers, Scarabs, Stags,
Beetles that Blister and Click,
Hundreds of thousands of kinds
Convene in coffined night
Where the body, rotting, blooms
And there they discourse on God
Scuttling about in the black
Eager to taste the Word
That drops from the vaulting bone
Eager to breed and to lay
Then with a stir of wings
Raptly to rise in air
There in the echoing room
Buzzing hymns of praise
Declaring their settled creed:
To the very End of Days
We need never know fear
For the Thing that is Dead is ours
And the Lord of the World is here.
Trippin’ At The Three Roses 1970
New England spring 1970 three teen boys in a suburb of Boston
Dissolve a barrel of sunshine in a quart of orange juice – Get up! –
The funky basement room starts to wink and smile – Get up! –
They gulp dank air with trembling throats – Get on up! –
They play – goodgawd! – the radio, but – oww! – can’t stand it,
So they get in dad’s car and drive to Boston
To an all-night pizza place called Three Roses
Where they’re young, and strange – Stay on the scene! –
With a large pie – “for here” – that’s got to be
A map of the universe and “Sex Machine” on the jukebox
Over and over and never before so blissful or ridiculous.
Later on they drive around in the dark with the lights out.
Clear after rain, the night is shiny, moist, with stars,
And the earth around them full of the buzz and rush
Of brood X cicadas in their millions getting up, just now
Making their way up
Into the acid brilliance of unexpected air.
They are placing radios tuned to noisy interzones atop boneboxes.
I don’t remember what it’s called. There are bits about it
On 60 Minutes and in magazines: people, pairs mostly,
Posed in graveyards with their machines over what remains
Of forms that danced and spun once in flows of heat – goodgawd! –
Among names scratched in stone, listening for voices—dimes
Dropped down the akasic telephone by some maggot Houdini: Fellas!
Fellas, I’m ready to get up and do my thing…can I—like shepherds
Making figures of the stars—can I…can I take it to the bridge? [piano…
Hunh! piano…]: loved!lovedl!loved!loved!loved! In pairs,
Feeling for the knobs and switches of their dark boxes,
Dowsing the radiosphere for a spirit-flow until subtle worms
Rise up from noisy bodies to speak in tongues: death, death, death, death, death.
But we don’t need no radio. Let that plaintive anthem fade.
We’ve got a green grave to lie on and the brood X cicadas singing singing
And the stars too have slipped their chains and – oww! – yes, yes,
The way I like it is the way it is.
Seventeen years sipping small roots in the dark with brothers
Sisters lovers buried beside it in slow earth, then to rise up
Into air, into light – raptured, strange – with wings!
Singing what must be –what is, yes – the one – goodgawd! –
Urgent, infinite song of all its kind’s choiring millions – love – love –
Xzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzxzx – pure,
Simple – xzxzxzxzxzxzxz – strange – like a, like a
Sex machine, movin’, doin’ it, y’know? – bomp!bomp!bomp!bomp!bomp!
Then – spent – a midsummer litter
Under the trees. Bedded in cotton in this slim, silver
Cardboard box from Nordstroms, I’ve got what’s left
Of a brood X cicada, looking like archaic bronze, dark,
The veins in its wings, gold, its eyes, red once, now
Two amber drops—a thing as if from Pharaoh’s tomb, stolen out
Into air again, into light, and black with fire of cities sacked
In famous flames. I lift it careful to my ear. Do not breathe.
Listen. This is Pharaoh’s music now.
Blake Leland‘s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Epoch, Commonweal, Indiana Review, Atlanta Review, and elsewhere. His poems have also been incorporated in a number of digital artworks both in U.S. and abroad.