Mennonite Poetry Home | Leonard Neufeldt





Always the astonishment of light.
welcome or not. The atmosphere’s millennia
seeking out infinite progress-regress
from the uncharted past, the earth
drawing to itself the colors of sunset

and on a day a continent away
a kind of blackened violet demanding
full presence, the turquoise gulf mirroring
meteor flares bent by the swells
and the impossible distance they feel
from the Yucatán light no longer there

the endless roar of silence and on the sky’s
far wall the large round dusty
blindness of the sun and only raptors
and scavengers at their last meal to see it.
The earth plea-bargaining

                      Canto 1

Lord of words tasted ages ago
under the iridescent heavens by those
wiser than the assurances they wrote
down to hold a universe in place

Dante, exiled for refusing
to separate the passionate from the divine
and a world from hell and heaven
dreamt in Ravenna of how earth and sun
and stars flew into the void to their
appointed position, keeping their distance,
keeping God's double measures,
how hell and paradise completed them

and how the king of time forbade
Virgil to leave the gates of hell because
the law that reaches past moon
and stars to a pilgrim’s cantos cannot bless
the greatest poem of them all
Domine, non sum dignus
but the pilgrim's guide must have known
Virgil too was worthy, and not only he,
for the uphill syncope
through hell with paradise on its mind

                      Canto 2

An epic distance of loss and gain
between its twinned supernovas,
which once flared the farthest ends
of what we see and know
and whose dying light still reaches us
with what comes after, so much happening
to confirm there is no time without
distance or distance free of time:
impossible as a star's birth without
the reach of a nebula or the start
of a new galaxy, terribly alone,
bereft of mass or light beyond itself,

still-born in the orphaned void

                      Canto 3

"More light," Goethe beseeched his last day,
and the pilgrim knows that spires of form
must learn to live in the fitful here and now
and not in hell, where desire separates us
from ourselves and seeds that separation
with words desperate to unhinge themselves
from now, to rip away its cusp,
collapse it into moments of inmost swirl
seeking center and circumference, yet holding
to a maybe nowhere, rush and pauses
its margin, the outer nowhere far too fast
for the inner maybe maybe now,
that possible flash of what is just
beyond the vapors of the starless gulf,
in the birdless shadows inside the gates
left to unforgiving isolation,
fleeting an invisible trace like some
god particle already gone

                      Canto 4

Unlike the pilgrim's uphill miles,
his moments, ordinary or not,
still his searching ground outside
hell's endless circles, staying in time,
his guide long gone, refusing to go farther.
No need to let the meridian's sides know
a hawk is riding the sky's poverty
past the sun, or that this shape out of reach
will not leave him although he's leaving
where he's been, the season getting shorter

                      Canto 5

After time has eaten away the pilgrim's
bones and dust and the galaxies' fiery work,
all the years, forbidden to talk about
themselves, will shrink into a single separate
now and die, the end no longer a fine art,
and with the suddenness of a first flash
of day will body forth again
and bend with every new appearance
of near and far, feeding an old hunger
anew into what will be


The finer expression of birds, the light
changing the sea as squall lines and thin
shivers of rainbows pass through

© Leonard Neufeldt.   NonBinary Review, No. 19 (2018). 




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