After the olive groves at Samothrace and fog
which billowed up from a green sea,
the rocky sheep path and bleating ewes,
wind and sun—there was only memory
to carry and a few thoughts, a few torments
in his wet cave on Patmos as he waited
for whatever would issue from the ceiling fissure,
whatever vision was appointed him
to tell Prochoros, who would write on calfskin
when words flamed his tongue. Friend,
do you wonder how the air must have opened
before him as we lie among the maidenhairs
that caress us with cool fronds? The sky is so void
of everything except a diffuse light, that it’s easy
to imagine an ivory throne above the water-
tower, cherubim drifting over the pin oaks and lindens,
the saints’ multi-hued robes shimmering.
How many years of solitude, how many beatings,
bouts with unbelief, we wonder, how many
sleepless nights in rain, in open fields, feverish weather
and despair before the voice we so desire
to hear speaks? The sky is Mediterranean blue.
Whatever wind was has ceased. The air
is heating up, midday, and still no reason to leave
this shade, no crack in the sky, nothing to report
from the heartland where without a vision, the people
perish, our friend has said, and so that ruby kinglet
from his mulberry seems to echo. His plaintive ti-tu-whits
seem to say, we, not he, are the aliens, the exiles.
Michael Borich teaches at Missouri State University, in the heart of the Ozarks.