PAUL KAREEM TAYYAR
In a photograph by David Hockney an old woman sits in the ruins of a devastated abbey.
I don’t know why the world is full of formerly holy places,
But I know these places are at their most holy after everyone has forgotten their names,
Just like the folk songs are at their most beautiful after all of the guitarists have died,
Just like the love poems of Marlowe are most poignant in landscapes
Where no shepherds roam.
I don’t want to think about the town where Judas hanged himself.
I don’t want to think about Billy the Kid dying by the hand of his best friend.
I don’t want to think about Odysseus returning to Ithaca with no one to greet him.
In my daydreams Butch and Sundance make it out of that Bolivian town.
In my daydreams Judas and Jesus reunite for a drink in Galilee,
Telling stories about the old days.
AFTER A PHOTOGRAPH OF LEE MILLER
The nude demands what Christ could not:
The touch of hand that spells the wounded with a wind of laughter,
The lip that curls into the sex of dreaming like a witch who makes marvelous
The secret language of the sleeper,
The eye that forsakes his truth for the larger faith of someone else’s silent weather,
The silent weather of the nude that makes of spring a pageant of the fleeting blessed,
And of summer a swim across the river whose shores become the names
Of autumn’s wild children—
See her place her arms behind her head as Demeter in the days of gentle harvest,
The sheet that she has loosely wrapped around her spreading waist is like the skin
Of some ghost she no longer wants to be,
As you praise her remember that it will not always be as it is today,
Eden is a country constantly redrawing its imaginary borders.
Paul Kareem Tayyar, a three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, is the author of four collections of poetry: Everyday Magic (West-Coast Bias Press), Scenes From A Good Life (Tebot Bach), Postmark Atlantis (Level 4 Press), and Follow the Sun: Poems, Stories, and Reflections (Aortic Books).