Black Sun Crown

—Brian Teare

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[ an eye born with the lid closed ]

Sleep begins at the pinhole
I put my eye to. Its aperture
opens and the scene sighs

into whiteness, sulfur
whiff that finishes a match.
Slowly the street develops

gray scale : paper dropped
on the waters that put out
the fire : and floats, a city

scene seized by what moves it.
Not water. Nor wind.
Nor the winds that precede wildfire.

What is this other
weather in the trees.

*

[ other weather ]

People seem to speak—
and move. The cars seem to.
Under a bench sparrows

and pigeons seem still
to seek the pith in seeds.
Without sound the wind

carries the cast-off hulls,
soft under foot, from general
to specific, the way sleep moves :

the woman touches the sore
above her lip, bright blood

she lifts to her mouth. And back again.
She seems to bleed. What else.

*

[ And back again. ]

A dog at the door
whimpers—high-
pitched—as if hurt

or lonely. Gathered
in its mouth : hard to see.
I can’t say stick

or pinecone, pigeon or
rag stiff now with dried—
what. The dog drops it,

sits. Whose black dog.
Who called it what name.
And why its head tilted.

Why does it stay at the door
expectant. I’m not awake.

*

[ I’m not awake. ]

The image won’t come clear  :
a photographer’s cloth falls
over noon. Its stifling calm was
meant to soothe the panic

induced by the immense pretense
of everyday life, each shadow
continuing to fall from its origin
as though crisis weren’t immanent,

as though the eye will remain
open to receive the last image
vanishing. The dog whimpers

again into paws it’s crossed
beneath its chin : it waits
at the border of the ordinary.

*

[ the ordinary ]

Then the light lifts high
and it seems I need
something. I’m walking.

Over-bright and precise
the scene at the bus stop
a series of frames

as regular as sidewalk :
first the neat seams of crow’s feet
in the white-blue waxy skin

of the elderly man,
then his ill-fitting toupee,
then his immaculate executive briefcase.

His bus pulls up, hissing
in its cicatrix of wire.

*

[ cicatrix ]

The dream offers a choice :
to resist the knots
is to tighten them oneself.

But I know what will happen :
eros wears an embroidery
of flames on its sheer shirt,
its skin a ridge of goose flesh.

Beneath lights of three hues
the men will hang the slap
of wet leather from the ceiling.

I know what will happen :
my body above the bed. Cold
air. How’d I get up here?
We ask the questions now they say.

*

[ my body above the bed ]

Then the rain arrives. It moves in
and opens its cardboard suitcase
smell. At all hours a grammar’s
racket, it hammers hardest
at degrees : wet, wetter, wettest.

Up to the pinhole I put my eye :
the sleep I read there won’t shut.
Against its covers pages swell
illegible, irreparable and cold.

I get up and open the suitcase,
put on the heavy regalia of pajamas
braided with silver rivulets.
My shoulders just fit. I lie down in
the river where my mind meets the sea.

*

[ I lie down ]

The scene returns first
to consolation, then
to the inconsolable :
I’ve lost something,
I search the plaza,
a hand scatters seed
in concentric rings,
ever-dilating, ever-
thinking I need it

what. The sonnet,
the way a sleeper leans
harder into a dream,
turns : toward what
evidence of need.

*

[ what evidence ]

I don’t have a black dog.
Bus stop, plaza, wide street
and palms; sore whose blood
she carries on a fingertip
to her mouth—the scene
never leaves me. Even when

I turn the pillow over,
find its thick fur fragrant,
warm against my cheek.
The scent never leaves me.
Even when the rain begins.
Even when the fear :

a handful of wet hair
falls through the mail slot.

*

[ a handful of wet hair ]

At the pinhole I see
other weather moves
a hand over my mouth.

Hard wind steals a series
of cues : an umbrella
blows out, a hat reels across
the street, the scene tips
all the grocery carts
against parked cars.

Alarms mean nothing
except it’s my dream
of a knife : cut an “x”
to release steam : cook it :
cool it : peel it later.

*

[ alarm means nothing ]

Then a voice says :
I’m the traveler
who calls at night
to the gods.

Under the surface of stone
they lie down, or seem to,
and all the people.

The sleep I dream
I’ve kept locked
like the open gates
of the great city—

but this is myth when I wanted
justice. The judgment seat sits
empty, no gods still at work.

*

[ no gods still at work ]

But the feeling repeats itself :
the salt of the hand that seals
my mouth, the wet breath
at my ear. My own sweat
curls around the ribs of what
if I could see it I would scream

I think later. Now cold water
stings the nest of worked nerves
that crowns my head. A circuit
of vervain lobed and toothed,
spiked with mauve blooms
opening : this is prescribed for

what I thought, my mind
the scald the hot cup held.

*

[ what I thought ]

Night again : wet, windy.
Back across the plaza I walk
thinking : Now I’m meeting
the old devil. He’s got his spine
through waves of rain, but
he doesn’t know years of fear
make an anvil. He’s never seen

the face I’ve hammered out on it.
His cold white lights ride out
over the street—then vanish.
To wait for the bus, under
the great palms I stand :
eyes of fire, nostrils of air,
mouth of water, beard of earth.

*

[ eyes of fire ]

Now I see it for what it is, now
I recognize its familiar scent.

I could call its name, say :
Your leash is here, and your ball,
and here is your bed. Instead

I trick it in front of a car :
through the pinhole I see
its black fur slick with blood,
a gesture it can’t comprehend.

But I could never injure it.
The ghost stirs in the animal
and I have made its bed. I have
had no choice : a real ghost opens
an eye born with the lid closed.

*

[ Envoi ]

Sleep begins at the pinhole.
The image won’t come clear.
When the light lifts high,
I see it for what it is; now

the scene returns : first
a dog at the door;
people seem to speak;
then the rain arrives; it moves in.

At the pinhole I see
the dream offers a choice
then a voice says :

the feeling repeats itself :
night again : wet, windy.
I don’t have a black dog.












Thanks to: Willis Barnstone’s The Gnostic Bible, William Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” Robin Blaser’s translation of Nerval’s Les Chimères, Hans Jonas’ The Gnostic Religion, Julia Kristeva’s Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia, Jane Miller’s Midnights, N.K. Sandars’ Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and Virginia Woolf’s Diaries.




The recipient of Stegner, National Endowment for the Arts, and MacDowell Colony poetry fellowships, Brian Teare is the author of The Room Where I Was Born, Sight Map, and Pleasure, as well as the chapbooks Pilgrim and Transcendental Grammar Crown. On the graduate faculties of Mills College and University of San Francisco, he lives in San Francisco, where he also makes books by hand for his micropress, Albion Books. He maintains a web presence at www.brianteare.net