Sestina by John Macker

It is always thrilling to discover a poet through another poet…

Elements of Mystery and Surprise

Nicanor Parra said, “take back everything I said”
anti-poetry was his game and he took it to his grave
his vernacular Chilean love fest with language
permeated my life with hard-edged oblivious
soul and a militant wonder at everything that moves,
that is beautiful or sorcerous, everything a surprise.

That he died at 104 in January is no surprise,
he took his wild white hair with him to his grave
and for a moment I thought of my mother’s oblivious
end, and how silence is its own language
how it stalks and centers the mind, how it moves
through rooms on its own recognizance, left unsaid.

“In poetry everything is permissible,” or so he said.
You can’t improve the blank page from the grave.
I’ve always been attracted to sorcerers of language,
who braved elements, who watched winter’s blind moves
without flinching, who used words that enticed and surprised
who romanced each word with a knowing. Death to the oblivious.

Like those beautiful Chileans Bolaño and Neruda, oblivious
to the sorceries and machinations of fate, they stalked language
with the white hot passion of martyred saints, there ain’t no grave
worth its weight in silence that could still the bold surprise
of their words. Nothing left unspoken but everything left to be said:
winter drives us deeper in, the wind takes a breath but still moves.

Across landscapes wretched with drought, the ancients move
with the alacrity of wind, each track, each bone is a surprise
and if we dig deep enough, the words appear in a language
we don’t recognize but we do, where whispers of wind once said:
everything is permitted, nothing survives the ground, even the oblivious
can take root. Even then the world seemed cruel, its condition grave

its dancing black ghost horses stared at ghost borders on ghost graves.
I visit my mother’s grave and everything we said
is above the ground, in the wind, safe in a quiet house oblivious
the passages of time. I think of her, of Nicanor, how memory moves
us from one dimension to another. Every blank page a surprise.
Nicanor, your anti- is my anti-. I remind myself that snow is the language

of silence. Chile is a long way from Colorado, a different language.
A kid in winter is waiting for the bus in the wind, it moves
him to allow for the coming mysteries and the elements of surprise.

John Macker

Nicanor, young and old, from Wikipedia.

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