“The Secret Rubric”–James Cushing

We lived in a vague, beige cloud of rolling things
and no angels ever stirred there.

The crazy agreement they made with this culture
was just another song I sang to them, to help them sleep.

There were separate laws for the damaged and the whole,
and our private closet of names had no door.

The ocean hummed like a pipe filled with sin.
Drowsy with love, I became the brittle candy

you couldn’t keep secret from the world.
I danced a nobleman’s hula.

All the places I admired turned strange.
We filled March and April

with cream and eggs. Soil stayed warm
under our feet; we lifted them like

old memories. Gentle dust taught us
its snowy game in a language of

trees and garments.
The old fear gathered, loosely,

in the little bones of my wrist.
It rippled across the water

as men cheered, and it ended as mud
on the lip of my cup.

I’m pulled in three directions
that rise like blossoms into

wave-shaped streets of glass.
Hello, says the wild man.

You are lovely as a willow,
and as simple.

Thank you, phantom father,
says the velvet child,

seated in the slow, silver car.

JAMES CUSHING has published three full-length collections with Cahuenga Press in Los Angeles, the most recent being Pinocchio’s Revolution last year. He continues to teach literature and creative writing at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he has lived since 1984. The city named him its official Poet Laureate for 2008-10.


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