Archive for the ‘helium’ Category

burden of light

(inspired by Munch’s series of paintings of of the sun, in which he actually suffered retinal damage from looking directly and continuously into the sun)

The strangest pain is too much joy—
I stagger under its weight.
Born too bright,
I crave shadow,
my face fading
in the burning light.

There is no skeleton,
only skin—
There is only pleasure,
never sin.
I levitate easily into the sun:
in dreams I float right in,
atom by atom
in its permanent grin.

The worst pain is having known and seen

and living in the green afterglow
of the burnt-in cornea,
hearing the roar of eternity
in my blown cochlea
but when I look in my backpack,
it’s empty
and I feel suddenly so alone

and knowing I’m supposed to find it again
somewhere under a bush
and share it with you
and then when I look,
it hides, laughing, and flits behind me
Sometimes I dig something out of my pocket
and it blinds me,
a post-it note from God—

ecstasy is a switch
that, once pulled,
stays forever turned on
so, burning and electric,
I fight the urge to dance
at odd moments
and cloak myself in clouds
so I won’t be noticed—

maybe if I seek the night,
the stars will oblige
one by one, to share their light
divulging subtleties
in their constellations
without the side effects
of ultraviolet radiation

Or maybe I’ve missed the point
and didn’t realize
that all along,
the bush itself was burning
and so am I
and everything that dances
in my wake—

ecstasy is no currency
in a world of corners
if anything,
it is a weakness
so use it accordingly
and guard it preciously
but distribute it freely
and realize there are no dualities
paradox is orthodox

and syntax is the substitute
semantics are gymnastics
understanding is confining
to a prison of the past
Don’t try to make this last
Don’t try to explain,
just close your eyes
and notice the patterns
on the backs of your lids
that form a landscape
if you look long enough
an inner city
within easy commuting distance

I know I am awake
and that my eyes are superfluous
but until I learn to see through the blindness,
it’s so hard to burn alone,
living in this secret place
where joy and sorrow are one.

© Sarah Noack 2006


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I’ve been wound up
so tight
for so long,
tangled in knots
and caught on my branches
like a kite on a tree—

so please allow me
this solemn luxury
of being loose:

loose like a shudder,
like a low-hanging sky
like an unchained sob
or the sound of a sigh

like Matisse’s blue
slowing down my heartbeat
like moon jellies pulsing
in the ultramarine deep

like the scent of gardenias
or the flavor of butter
like a worn-out child
in the arms of its mother

oh let me be loose
and let me be sweet
let me open the gates
and collapse on warm sheets

let me bathe away worries
let me swim away cares
let me whisper and sing
through the haze of my tears

oh let me be loose
and let me be gentle,
let me raise all my white flags
and wax sentimental

let me feel all there is,
let my fences all break—
let the dogs come and find me,
let me make my mistakes

let me give it all up
and grin like the fool
who’s realized
there is nothing amiss:

this sudden abyss
that froze my gait
is only this:
my own two arms,
open and waiting,
strong like the earth
and loose like the sun
and its many rays,
woven around me
like invisible skeins—

longing to hold me
and kiss my soul awake.

© Sarah Noack 2006

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I thought I could just let you go,
but now I know
how the wind itself remembers
this silver thread
connecting you
to me


you never needed shelter
and I never detained you
in your flight to the stars,
yet here you are—
following me like the tethered moon
across the pale blue morning.

you are pure helium,
floating and drifting
along the glittering edge
of akasha,
playing in treetops of my highest canopy
where rare birds nest,
whose feet evolved
in spiderweb delicacy
from lack of contact
with the earth—

you are the guardian
of my breath,
home of my laughter,
resting-place of my secrets—

and because of this,
you will always follow me:

I who grasp the thread,

because you ask this of me.

Have you mistaken me for the star
you were programmed to seek?

Each time I release you,
you keep returning
with stories of heaven
for which you show no awe—

forsaking its splendors
for the earthly warmth of my hand.

© Sarah Noack 2008

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“Natrum Muriaticum: The primary characteristic underlying the Natrum mur. pathology is introversion arising out of a feeling of great vulnerability to emotional injury… they create a wall of invulnerability, become enclosed in their own worlds, and prefer to maintain control over their circumstances.”
– George Vithoulkas, homeopath (www.vithoulkas.com)

I want summer
and all that is golden
right now
in my eyes
on my tongue
like the way your hand feels
holding mine in my pocket

I want sky and clouds
and the white squint of light,
not this hollow gray night
rent through with a whistle
but the salt truck came again
and yesterday too:
my shoes crunch on the crystals
collecting in drifts
and I’m tired of running
past shanties and tracks
on an electrified bridge
trying not to step in the cracks,
and wishing I could just
get back home
to you

like a child,
poems don’t heel—
they just feel
and come at the most inopportune

I’m tired of fighting with the sun
it’s so simple, but it overwhelms me now and then—
even in my polar remoteness,
you find me
(and bring a coat)
and in this northern light,
you can see any color
and there are no numbers and shapes,
even this you and me is just
a phenomenon
of magnetic friction—
the music of the spheres
cast before us like dice,
painting this glittered world
of snow and ice
these cities and lights
reflect so plaintively—
but darling, don’t let me forget
to be lonely
because it’s these moments
these split seconds of transcendence
that heliport us out of codependence
and make me remember
why I summoned you in the first place.

I want blue days
with white cumulus stories
working their lazy ways
across our fields of vision.

I want summer
and the blue playground of your eyes
as my personal sky
to write on

because your mind
is so full

and so beautifully empty,

a canvas for our dream-clouds

that drift and merge
through various stages
of yours and mine,
twisting through lazy incarnations
from swirling polar color-cupids
into tempera hues
of the temperate zone

like living shapes of abundance
schooled by the wind,
learn to breathe on their own.

© Sarah Noack 2009

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salt and sugar
sugar and salt
the captain’s asleep
and the fevered crew
sleeps below deck

sugar and sugar
salt and salt
I am swimming too far
from the shore today

but somehow you’ve found me,
cradling me
with infinite starfish arms
in a yellow room
beneath this blue infinity
where even islands hide

salt and sugar
sugar and salt
I hold my breath
in nacrous layers of dreaming

and waking into dreaming and dreaming
into the white constancy of you:
my brow marked like sealing wax
from the signets of your shirt-buttons
as you grow new arms to support the weight
of all this dreaming me.

Soul swimmer,
you scaled my dream cliffs
and held your breath underwater
to bring me these oysters you’ve collected
in your pail—
calcified secrets of ocean candy

surprising me from sleep
with the sweet liquid shimmer
of oyster-flesh—
slipping pearls through my parched lips
as I fall back into dreaming
with the taste on my tongue
of poetry
from a luminescent benthos
so deep
language cannot penetrate—

sugar, sugar and salt
I’ve sunk my tired feet
in the smooth sand of your heartbeat.
I soak in this silence
of warmth and you
and the intimate sunlight
as it climbs to its height
before dipping into twilight
caressing this instant
before it slips, too fragile
to survive the daylight of waking—
just hold me close:
close as water to skin
close as the seafloor is far
beneath these rocking waves,
farther than the edge of stars
waiting to awaken
under our blinding veil of daylight—

don’t let me wake—
here in this fever, I have access
to all the secret rooms
with their mirrors and melting clocks
of persistent memory
where you find me,

in this sea of mad Escherian
potential, possessing no dimension
or sense, doorways in the sky open and
displaced barn owls prowl above seafoam;
coy angels flit—
who keep their distance
who never loved like this
who were never blanched silver
with such innocence
or they would have chosen
to fly so close to the sun
that their wings would have melted
in waxen impotence

I understand now
the love of the barnacle
for its whale
and I understand also
the fathomless floor of the whale-cry
as I wake into dreams upon dreams,
each one more false and motherless than the next
and yet there is this you
in only one liminal tidepool
at one cruel pink eclipse
I keep setting my watch to,
but the sun itself is confused
between day and night
and my second hand has stopped
in its tracks
as you slip away again as I wake,
dancing the silver thread
of forgetfulness

I feel you fading,
but I will be waiting
right here for you
in this secret place
where fever takes the soul.

A part of us stays here
always when we drift back to shore.
When I awaken,
I’ll touch my forehead
where your shirt-buttons rested.
Follow my sounding
into the surf and grottoes
where I wander, lost
but tethered safely to the tide-rush
of your heart—
awaiting your presence
within the sweet death
only dreaming permits.

© Sarah Noack 2007

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osmanthus (poem)

How could I forget a kiss?
I know it’s strange to forget this
when I think of how you entered my life
like a monsoon: a sudden pressure drop
and rainbow macaws streaked across flat gray sky
like the mist auras on spigots
long after it stopped raining —
on that summer day when you picked me
with your nimble white fingers
like sea glass on a beach
that day the subway stopped
due to a sudden accident
when someone tripped on the train tracks
and died instantly of a heart attack. 

The day we met, you sealed me up
in the blue envelope of your mind
but you were always a clutterbug,
easily distracted by new vegetation
in the damp forests of your imagination
so you quickly forgot
how I startled you that day,
and you lost the letter somewhere
in the scattered paintings on your floor
and I turned down the volume
on my infatuation, 
mailed it to some unknown destination,
distracting myself with poetry
and religion

but I didn’t mind;
I loved your ride,
how you let me be your man
then tricked me into submission —
free-falling through flashing lights, slot machines
and popcorn forgetfulness
through white sunblind surf, 
dizzy spray-splashed camera angles
and wicked trysts —
into your warm lap
where we sipped tea
from cobalt tetsubins:
breathing peachlike osmanthus
androgynous petals falling over us,
perfuming us with purity
and remembrance
of all we could have easily taken,
but gracefully left to imagination
after a taste of cotton candy
as sublime as clouds
that somehow we let drift away
as I ran from you to God

I was a monk, you a virgin:
loose-leaf aesthetes,
aescetics loving in reverence:
you were my bodyguard,
neighbor, friend, 
fashion diva hairstylist
lending me shirts and music,
leaving notes at my doorstep,
surprising me with the depth
of your uninitiated heart
as we danced in the dark,
chaste, Uranian, touching only wings.
We loved with the tender blinking of stars—
separate and lucid, 
sharing protection and sanctity,
moving in white delicacy,
hands touching in the dark.

How could I forget a kiss? 
How could I lose something so precious,
a memory like this, a moment
of breached friendship 
when you offered yourself to me,
a thousand falling petals —
all regrets and trembling secrets, 
but I turned down your fragrance,
haunting and ambiguous,
renouncing body and possessions,
running headfirst into a winter
I thought would save my soul —
choosing the walls of an ashram
over the love of a boy

and in a flash I remembered,
like the shock of lightning and death
that brought me to you,
like that accident which brought me in
from the rain into the warmth
of your electric blue
how I had you, lost you
and always wonder
why I left you on that platform:
and what train has carried you away,
who read the letter I lost,
who embraced those arms I turned away —

whose knowing fingers plucked you from the pebbles
like a sea-glass treasure, the way you’d carried me lovingly
from the crowd that day—and I sometimes wonder
who’s ripped that blue envelope
and found the mysteries of monsoon
and blue topaz that live in your eyes.

I wonder who’s enjoying you today, white seafoam angel—
who’s sitting on your lap now sipping your warmth:
a sanctuary of osmanthus,
brewing in an earthen cup.

©2007 Sarah Noack

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for Sandesh

Blizzard in a doorframe—
parked car,
the hush of white snowdrifts.
I found you in the Yellow Pages,
“Massage therapists.”
“Come on in,” you said.
In your eyes were moss,
forgotten ancestors —
a shared Tatar slant in our smiles.
“You were in such a rush!” you laughed later,
after the snow had melted.

I knew you’d be my friend,
but never that you’d stay so long
or were so old —
mehendi ghosts from ancient weddings
forgotten at birth,
faded frescoes of last suppers —
too many lives, loves foolishly spent,
white outlines of loss tracing our embrace:
the more I know of you,
the deeper I find my silence goes.

One moment, an eyeblink later
rain was falling,
whispers in a womb—
pre-dawn grey, spring, fragrance of lilacs—
your arm around me in sleep.
Painful peace,
fulfillment so fragile—
these moments laced finely with spider’s silk,
those times we connected.
Life is short:
the next morning,
a kiss at the train,
a flash of copper, your car slipping onto the horizon.

That was just our greeting.
Another eyeblink, hot August night —
3am in my kitchen, mango peels everywhere.
“Let’s take a walk,” you said,
“I hate being inside!”
Holding my hand, you rushed me to a hilltop,
where we sat, out of breath on a rock,
touching heartbeats in silence.
For once, I felt our dance stop.
A white flower opened,
too perfect for words,
for lust,
for tears.

When you cross oceans, nothing changes —
my tea still boils, lovers come and go.
You live so easily inside me,
a ghost in my cochlea,
whispering guileless mischief, and outside —
thunder in summer after a drought,
a nude prayer in rain.
You’re embedded so deep in my code —
constant, invisible, holding my hand.
How could I long for you, then?

your passion breaks my silence —
cracked shells of little white lies beside me,
my heart opens —
each time
emerging, trembling, a wet-winged nymph.
You stop me in my tracks,
incense me.
We bicker on bandwith like children.
We coax each other’s tears, then lick each other’s wounds,
bitch like sisters, too alike;
mooning about mangoes and sex,
raves and austerity —
stretching the edges of experience, restless.
You know we’ll never settle down.
When we’re old,
our hair white like falling snow,
you’ll still hold my hand, help me from my chair —
no matter who’s beside us.
I love this knowing.
After lifetimes of misspent love, we’re here,
past guise, karma, beyond color’s prism —
in this white eclipse of light, and still young.
We have this whole gift of a life to watch each other grow —
love, breed,
mourn, wizen.
We hug shadows, exchanging rays —
two bright holes in the dense cloth of matter.

All I can say is this.
Little brother, mother, guru, fool —
cultivate your white flower,
because it’s become so precious to me.
It lives in my garden now.

All I can say is this:
We’re not islands,
but clouds —
two empty dreams,
drifting and merging in silence.

© Sarah Noack 1998

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