No matter how I try to dodge it or what accidents
of fate get in my way, the green light persists
in dogging me like, well, a dog, or a light that’s green
sifting in through windows after hours, in my dreams,
or every evening when I sit on the back porch
and let go of the day, or every morning, same.
As today, slyly circulating around the edges, letting me
feel its presence enough to confirm its existence like a
gentle toothache or perhaps gas, but no more. Until
someone says a word, suggests I dive down into it, stop
pussyfooting, take a lungful of air and press down harder
toward my fear, like a bellows fanning the flame. It ignites
not all at once, but great puffs of black smoke show
something’s cooking. Then sure enough — crass
confessions burst forth like bombs —“I hate you
as much as I love you! Loving you is like pouring
water on a rock!” surprising in their excess
of both scales. Then bucketsful of tears and snot,
and then the deeper knowing, the one I’ve been avoiding
since I first stepped into the magician’s room,
the iron ball I’ve lugged around inside all these years,
since birth almost. Now I see it in that blush
of strange fire as something in which I was contained.
A shell for the embryonic me, armor against
the knives this world flashes. And there I lay,
for a moment at least the once and future I,
encased in cold iron, a cannonball
that was no threat to anyone but to him
who bore it, and was held by. Into a crack
the weird light crept, this green from a world
outside of time and not to be recovered,
releasing molten hues of red and yellow
and further within some fragile, sweet pink thing.
Head pressed near her heart
slung with sweet poison
I read with the tongues
of temple and belly
against her unsure skin
a darkness that swarms
the unbounded green ocean
I have only just left
though it lingers on the fringes
of my body-cape. Two currents—
gloom of insects
dousing phosphorescent fire.
The fire is me. Was me—
the roofless globe pressed flat
to make horizon, eternity split.
The scent of green shreds away.
I gulp the globe of night, tuck it
under, craving its weight
to drown me back. A wave
shushes from that sweet lost home—
a breath across fouled waters.
Tether too thin to draw me back
I fall towards murky tomorrow.
Black blood seeps from behind
leaving markers in swampy ground
which I will read like mystic bones.
I surface sick and crying
into a wind that swaddles
like a straitjacket.
With a fresh wind comes a little rain,
spreading squash leaves,
and gin. The bite of too much
lime, and a sparrow perplexed
by a full nest, empty feeder, me.
This morning I sat
in a brown room in a brown robe,
trying to think of nothing.
Now, with a green drink,
a green lawn, and green
trees all around, I sit
with the opposite problem.
The bird bath is almost empty,
too, except for a little dirty water
that sits in it, stirred by air.
I toss a cracker towards the birdhouse.
It rolls across the stone patio.
If the sparrow picks it up
it will only be when I’m gone.
But in this moment, startled,
he flies to a farther tree, even with
the hefty mayfly he’s caught
for his dear ones’ supper.
His chicks call. He returns,
hesitates. I drink, munch crackers,
move my pen.
The breeze seems to pause. Rain stops.
An opening in the clouds, some blue,
and the sun that’s been there
all along breaks through.
David Ruekberg lives and teaches near Rochester, NY. He received his MFA from Warren Wilson College, and was awarded a residency at Jentel Arts. His poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Mudfish, North American Review, Poet Lore, Sugar House, Yankee, and elsewhere. His manuscript, Hour of the Green Light, was semi-finalist in the 18th Annual Elixir Press Poetry Award.