'The Pepper Trees,' 20 poems for & with Arie Galles

 Arie Galles - PepperTree III – 18.25 x 12 – 2012 – Graphite
Arie Galles - PepperTree III – 18.25 x 12 – 2012 – Graphite

                                                     “They are gone, the pepper trees”
                                                                      F.G. Lorca

the more a man’s arms
to reach the woman’s

& the branches
can no longer bear
their weight

moss is foremost
if the mind will entertain
matters of fact

a tactile splendor

ferns & rind
the black a distance
deeper than a star

heavy as a heave
the layered cork & wood
cry out to you

or is it only
something furtive

in your heart?

at the side a shadow
like a child
beside the fallen bodies

the last chance
for sleep

a limb athwart
coiled branches

forest dreams
& shiny shadows

is there a black hole
here on earth?

a place so deep
that even leaves
turn black

spiny dust
over the swollen

the hairy wood
is like a man’s flesh
or a woman’s

a memory of where
we lived & swung –
our place in nature

to seat yourself
inside it
ache of trees
& ache of majesty

he who falls
recovers grace
only a little

the ferns take over
& the question
rattles our minds

where have the bodies
gone where
in the world is love

plain in our sight
the black hole
carved into the center
limbs askew

more what the woman gives
a field of light
below her

down where the world
takes root

they dance together
taut arms rising
from dark trunk

in front of which
the dancer
leaves her shadow*                                      * her meadow

eager to draw him back

that which is lost
leaves only a wound

the mystery of light
more than the mystery
of something lost

the memory of where
we were
guarded by snow

a scar that will not heal

between an island
& the main
blind spring arrives

the strange allure
of black on white

drives color from the brain
refraction from the eye

is every image that we see
seen from a height

& every block of wood
as stiff as stone*                               *as bone

receivers & believers
we let the shadows go

counting by threes
is learnt by rote
nohow forgotten

more as a number known
by comrades
than by a bride & groom

the tallest tree of all
no taller than
those that surround him

the way that every count
leaves space & air

brought back to earth
the sadness
of mute nature

waiting for the dead
to rise & shine

like stony ridges
schist & caulk*                                    * chalk
no sign of verdure

but the layers
stacked each one
atop the next

offers a broken wall
a perch for demons

eggs dropped
along the way
or hanging from
the rotted bark

a bed laid bare
the rank turd
lies within
firm in its nest

eggs & turds
the rest is barely
bark & sunlight

traces of a life
long gone


[NOTE. Arie Galles’s images of a single gnarled & weathered pepper tree begin as black & white photographs that he then translates, as with his monumental 14 Stations, into a set of twenty charcoal drawings, to which are added twenty poems of mine as linkages. My own procedures, after the fact, are largely improvisational, speaking to his images while maintaining a sense of distance & independence. To borrow from the medieval Japanese, the principle here is not one of direct comment or illustration but of something like juxtaposition &/or collage “wherein it does not matter that the upper and lower part are put together in a seemingly unnatural and arbitrary way so long as they cohere in the mind.” The whole suite of 60 drawings, "Graphite," consists of three twenty image sub-suites, "MoonFields, "CloudPoems" and "PepperTree," with accompanying poems – a work still very much in progress. In this posting, however, the poems stand simply on their own. (J.R.)]