Susan Schultz

Early Memoir

Back to these warm layers the sun sheds,
cloaks flung over volcanic rock.
In the sensible city no horns
sound; the breeze these days is
blank. Definitions aren't adequate,
endings without closure,
the thousand murmurings of lava flowing
to the sea on its own terms, veiled
by salt steam. No priest appears,
just the pastoral loneliness of waters
and a moon's prophetic stare, hanging
on a string that binds the heavens,
if only we care to look. Somewhere in 
the conjunction of astronomy and astrology,
pure description and imposed narrative,
it's possible to know more than the mirrors
at the end of the driveway tell us.
A plane descends over ocean
and I hope to name it before the buzzer
sounds and someone else claims
my prize, closing down storefronts
as another story of revelation
and redemption teases us
with its negative to white, a bedazzlement
accorded those who see life as itself,
no more than a script about temptation,
the messiah a product of our finest
schools. No one knows the rules, but all
may surmise that they exist as members
of the beautiful consortium each new
year portends or pretends.

In my ever more to be imagined past
I felt weather not as external
process--the puppet-work of gods--but
located inside a theater where I played,
inventing a climate appropriate
to my mood, be it dry or wet, like
a Greek soul. Regrets take their place
in this panoply, and fools begin
to resemble me, lined up as
photos on the grand piano, flat
emblems of passage, like church icons.
I suspect transcendent realities are
flat, pressed in a scrapbook awaiting
captions. The past is a well, and baby
Jessica has fallen in, a soft
stone, fearing nothing but time's
lower limit--not the metaphor I 
wanted, where linear time is a rain
forest adjacent to a desert, and I
can walk from one to the other. Even
as a child I wanted to write memoirs,
knowing geography is geometry
and the planes that razor space
mean more than abstraction suggests--
the gods' gossip, eventually 
reduced to the one voice
we hear over wires, and yearn to know
repeated, children awaiting sleep.
In my dreams I knew witches and foul 
instances of newspaper tragedies
brought to fact, professing only 
to see a carnival I relinquish 
to the redemptive energies of the last
camel to the right, now snorting and stomping
its approval of the genie's new tax cut.