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Big Windows cover
Big Winds, Glass Mornings, Shadows Cast by Stars - 1981

Big Winds, Glass Mornings, Shadows Cast by Stars

When I was six,
the winter nights
were black with drafts beneath the bedroom door
and the Icicle Man stamped and chimed outside.
His breath was star bits that whirled,
star bits that shivered and boomed,
a shower of filings and fossils,
cinders, crystals,
and shards of obsidian,
although once the night was a thick black wine
where someone had pressed raisins
into all the starholes with his thumbs
and the wind was a brush that scrubbed the sky
with a morning clear as glass you could see through but not in.
It was that day, I think, that I began to lean my head to the side,
so I could see the dazzling edge, the hidden seam of things,
although teachers and aunts and little girls
thought I was trying to look beneath their skirts
and slapped my face or screamed me into corners
where I stood for hours
squinting at the juncture of two schoolroom walls,
hoping to discover the crack, the fissure, the secret opening
that would leave me high above a valley
where palm trees swished and people lived forever,
singing in little huts.
The teachers and the girls were right, of course,
for there were stars beneath my great aunt’s skirts
and winds so sweet and close
I thought that I would suffocate
when I sat beneath them when I was three
and, a stargazer even then,
would look up as one looks up in church
to search the vaulted ceiling high above
and sees only shifting shadows or the flitter of bats.
I learned then
that everything was shadows you could reach for
but never touch.
Glass mornings, shadows cast by stars.
I have always wanted that exact place,
that moment,
where day touches night and cold touches warm;
where waking is fastened to our sleep,
dreaming fuses with our daily sight,
and our living merges with our death.
A day falls from a year,
a leaf from a tree,
a spider from a web,
a tooth from a child’s jaw,
a dream from an old man’s head.
In the story,
the spider tumbles onto the leaf,
and with the tooth to wish on
they both sail off in the twilight of an old man’s dream
toward a glass‑clear morning.
All things touch:
star bits that whirl and boom outside my door,
brushes that scrub.
The great wind shakes the oak tree by the throat,
weeds gossip and sing.
Solitary,
or among enemies, friends;
placing one foot after another in no apparent direction;
among tenements and sewage plants
or in this field
where my shirt is running away with me—
I know my life is an endless linking;
that each moment
is the dazzling edge, the hidden seam,
where all things great and small
touch and join and dance.


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