Ramon Fernandez did not live
As has been suggested,
By the sea.
The unacceptable thoughts
That plagued his dreams
Were diagnosed as being the result
Of unacceptable thoughts.
He could see the stars
Over the San Juan Valley,
Moonlight on the Sangre de Cristo Range.
He could hear,
Despite the constant ringing in his ears,
The feet of Penitentes
Scuffling past his low door,
The whistling of their thorn branches.
It all seemed real enough to Ramon,
And not in the least to require his witness.
I'm not saying Ramon Fernandez
Had no imagination.
He could alter the way he saw
Some things, small things,
Like transparent vessels
And birds, both rare and common.
But the mountains were too much for him.
When the Penitentes scuffled by moaning,
Directly underneath Ramon's fields
An abandoned coal mine smoldered.
It had been abandoned
Because of smoldering.
Every time the wind blew hard
Water in the ditches boiled,
The acequia Ramon used
To irrigate his vegetables.
Ramon picked cooked vegetables
Carrots, turnips, beets
Out of the steaming soil.
To someone else this might have seemed
For Ramon it was just the beginning
Of sacral dolor.
Ramon Fernandez did not like his father,
Though his father was dying of cancer.
Oh, there were two or three
Ramon could list
That might have seemed acceptable
To someone else.
His father was a stoic
To the point of emotionlessness.
His father was a bultero.
The Penitentes never bothered him!
Then there were Ramon's sisters.
Ramon Fernandez wished
They would leave him alone.
Ramon Fernandez wished they would stop
Praying for him.
His mother had died very young.
Unacceptably young it seemed to Ramon.
It made his ears ring.
He loved his wife and children
With acceptable excess of devotion,
But their mortality
The idea of it!
Was unbearable to him.
Furthermore he wanted
To sleep with every woman on earth
Except the ugly ones.
Ramon recognized this feeling
When he confessed it to his wife
She made him sleep in the cistern.
Ramon Fernandez it seemed,
Wanted acceptable thoughts
For unacceptable reasons:
To rid himself of chronic lumbar pain,
Ringing in the ears
And, if possible, to gain
Escape from Hell.
There was, near his house,
On a plateau at the foot
Of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains,
A lake reputed by local myth to be
Was to lie on the ice at night in winter,
Cruciform, and ponder
The manifest, synchromeshed stars
And the unmanifest
Depths beneath the ice.
He began to think there was only one
Whose absence was happiness,
Whose anaesthesis was labor,
That loneliness and guilt
To the events which triggered them.
The same with love, hate, boredom, nostalgia, envy.
Nostalgia was the worst,
That urped over his existence
And immobilized him
With carpal tunnel pain,
Rotator cuff discomfort.
Ramon Fernandez began to think
That all great philosophers
Were simple fugitives
From the kind of thinking that gives one
Excruciating back pain.
Also Heidegger, Freud, Marx.
All cowards. All had cobbled,
From unacceptable thoughts of loneliness,
Escapes that crumpled like paper wings
On the moonlit talus.
Ramon Fernandez was not sure
He could only guess how lonely
Jesus must have been.
Eventually Ramon unstuck himself
And went home to sleep in the cistern,
Which was onion-shaped, chiseled
Out of solid rock,
With a single, starry opening at the top.
At least Einstein and (Ramon's favorite)
Wallace Stevens had left
A little room for loneliness,
Had heard what it had to say,
Though a great many poets, it seemed,
Had embraced and later died
Like a venereal disease.
Having so thought,
Down in the cistern,
Under the terrifying stars,
Ramon turned to the chiseled wall
And away from desire
Without Ramon's volition
Or reference, images
Of eternal principles-
Not ones he would have thought up
For example, his burro.
For example the arias of coyotes
Which never frightened his burro.
For example the asters
His burro stepped on
As they rode, in summer, through the San Juan.
Ramon Fernandez considered the bultos
And santos his father whittled,
The inherent religiosity
Even of secular art.
He considered the Penitentes,
The unbelievable spiritual confusion
Of their children.
He considered the missionary aspect of termites.
When he closed his eyes
He could only approximately
Imagine the stars.
His wrists hurt.
He said, God has brought me here.
Copyright © 1996
Electronic Poetry Review