Last Night I Went To the Map of the World
and I Have Messages for You
America says it has misplaced your number.
I wasn't comfortable giving it out. I said
I'd let you know.
Africa's Birthday is this weekend.
There's a party. No gifts.
If you're planning to go, Greece wants
to know if it can get a lift. Awkwardly
so does Turkey.
Russia wanted me to say The worm knows
the cabbage but the worm dies first.
I have no idea what that means. Do you?
Japan looked really uncomfortable all night
but never spoke. Is something going on?
Ireland asked to be remembered.
I sang to it for you.
I didn't get to connect with Europe
but, as the French say, Isn't that just
Is that everyone? Oh yes, the oceans.
They asked what they always ask
and I promised I'd repeat it,
Why do you never call?
When are you coming home?
ONE MILLION YEARS BC
The oceans were hot
and spat toothy fish into the air
like olive pits. Mountains
drooled florescent paint,
valleys filled with loose change
and lost sunglasses. In the jungles
great lizards walked on two feet,
carried flasks of warm lava,
and lied and lied and lied.
Cats with knives for teeth
stalked each other under skies
crowded with sharp birds calling
"Oh, baby!" The trees wore
bad tattoos and dropped handbags
full of money on the ground.
At night nothing walked,
the moon hissed at the ocean,
and the stars held each other
- Bodrum Turkey, May 2001
Listen, I want to tell you something ordinary;
the sun was setting when I started out, his house
was on the other side of the pasture, cows
like ships were tugging the field toward night
while the quick head of a rooster nodded red
among daisies. In Turkish the daisy is papatya.
A star is yildiz. Many stars are yildizlar.
There were thirteen in the palm of the sky,
evening's first bid. I held out and kept walking.
I was visiting a man who believed in the stories
of stories, that no truth could be fully told
without telling of the day it was learned.
"I am going to teach you something to prove
you were here" he said and showed me
to the kitchen. It was a monk's kitchen, a place
where only one thing is done and quietly.
In the cupboard were two plates, in the drawer
He set a narrow pot on the stove, measuring
into it a cup of water and two spoons
of coffee the color of earth, kahvesi.
Lighting the burner he told me to stir gently
without pausing or slowing down. Like calling
something old from a cave; you don't stop
before it enters the light or it turns back.
The work was hypnotic, the details of the room
seeming to soften in their peripheral orbits.
Dimly I heard him ask if I could see foam yet.
I could, though I saw it as something else;
I was spinning a planet now, a black
planet with black oceans toiling as muddy
continents whirled from their depths.
Together we watched as islands converged
and hove upward. "Now" he said, cutting
the flame, as though putting out the sun.
Two cups, finjan, waited on a table. He
sat while I carried the pot. And this
is when I learned what I need to tell;
as I poured, little bubbles like wooden
beads boiled up and clung to the edges
of each cup. The man leaned forward
and with his finger poked them out
one at a time. "The old women" he said
"believe the bubbles are eyes. We must
never let them see this world".
Before I wrote poems I meddled.
As a boy I would dress the dog
in my clothes and get my parents
to fight over who I resembled.
I told my brothers there was
no gravity and watched them flail
their short arms as they bounced
around the ceiling. Once I tore
a page from the kitchen calendar
and nothing happened for a month,
though I don't really remember it.
What turned me around was a night
in my eighteenth summer spent
watching old movies. I was tuning
our black & white when I touched
the glass and found it soft and wet.
Fitting my fingers into the frame
it came away in my hands like yolk.
The people in the film stopped
talking and looked around, startled.
I got ready for them to be angry
but instead they just stood there;
the man scratching his forehead
with the sight of his empty gun,
the woman smoothing her skirts,
unable to face me, my terrible colors.
© 2004 Brendan Constantine