When you were this small, I showed you how both index
fingers jammed up tight together could raise a steeple;
then we opened our doubledoor thumbs, tumbled
our clasped knuckles inside-out and rolled over
and, Hey! look at all the people
stacked like mumblety-pegs in their pews.
Uncle Carl made nickels disappear and re-
appear suspiciously close to the cuffs of his pants.
Wish I could hand you the secret
but the secret is you are the secret.
If only you trusted yourselves instead
of them; it would save you so much time.
Wish I could dash to your shadows and say:
Lead them west in the morning to new frontiers,
and east of the moon at the end of the day.
Parents fade into the back country
where children cave into parents themselves.
You are all I have left for a legacy.
My ripe old words will glean their clauses with
commas that curl up into periods themselves
that will go to sleep inside themselves period;
at which time I will have done all that I could
and wish to God it were more than I ever did.
The sands drip through a woman’s hourglass-
body of their own accord in passing.
They leave themselves to join themselves.
They count their sandy seeds like rosary beads
as they sacrifice themselves to the past, one grain at a time.
They unload the moving van of the wind,
and store the foam-rubber sofas of the moon.
The water spreads a plastic cape along the beach,
whose castles are built to crumble in seconds.
Clouds shake a salt and pepper shine and shade
on a progress of camels, packages and merchants
in a caravan for the Sultan of Curious Eyes.
Finally, the sand spins like a madman
whirling a dervish, and sinks back in dunes.
Anchorites and cacti live in the desert
where the soul has no distractions
and mirages wave the real from our eyes
so the “great sloth heart” can wake to its feelings
and the mind make images that slander the dust
with daydreams and visions that will not rust.
Andrew Oerke has had poems in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Poetry, and numerous other magazines. In 2006, African Stiltdancer and San Miguel de Allende were published jointly by Swan Books and the United Nations Society for Writers and Artists. Subsequently, Oerke received the United Nations Literature Award. His most recent collection is Never Seek to Tell Thy Love (2010). Oerke passed away in early May.