Peace In Exile

Poems from Peace in Exile

To the Reader: These are a few poems from the book Peace in Exile. If you’d like a signed copy, scroll down to the “PayPal” button below. —David Oates


Winner of 1983 Dovid Heersch Badonnah Award, Bitterroot International

He puts his head upstream:
something clear and indivisible requires
trout mouth–the rough tongue, the scarlet gills.

I do not fish; I plan six ways to succeed.
I return cleverly to my division and class.
I struggle to know. I find out my adversaries

and possess them. I master my profession.
I beat the system. I know the score.
I will be happy. I advance.

He puts his head upstream:
something clear and undevised requires
the smooth back, the silver crimson gold, the leap.

Trout is a way the stream has
of doing itself. Each breathes the other;
and the trout, moving,

knows nothing of water.

* * * * *

Even here

The roar of images and sounds impounds us
like ancient city walls—keeping out the world,
keeping in beloved mayhem, barter,
smells, deceit and favor. Nothing astounds us
but news: politicians, boy versus girl,
anything pungent enough and rank. No heart or
discovery of quiet need intrude.
This is the city: Get. Consume. Feud.

Yet someone, rooftop, carries water for her son
whose vine of melons steeps in warmth, half-grown.
Rains on distant soils soak deep and run
toward the city. The good does its work unknown.
Even here, it is love that grounds us.
Even here, where Babylon surrounds us.

* * * * *

Just before moonset, timberline

in the night
rushes, rushes

the sleeper, not far off,
wakes to listen:


in slant-shadow
unmade stones
lie silent
and untouched
each in a perfect hollow
of the close grasses

the sleeper sits stonelike
back to the westering moon

he will take no photographs

even to describe it
seems a falling away

* * * * *

The Dow is down

The tao is down slightly

(this I heard distinctly
radio’d to all LA
by a distant woman)
while stocks are mixed
and bonds are weaker.

I could feel it, too,
as I parked off Westwood
and worked my way up among the crowd —
the well-dressed people seemed apologetic
their hands kept flashing “Well one must wear something”
store-owners were pulling down their “Sale” signs
and the young seemed vaguely
to regret their haircuts.

Around the world
latches on briefcases were flying
tiny frantic arcs
papers describing partnerships were re-examined, anxiously,
pre-nuptial agreements gone over yet again.
Pilots stared out at seams and welds along the wings.
People remembered their wills
or thought of what bad lovers they were.

A perceptible click had registered
and things, somehow, had gone down a notch.
Maybe we’d strayed over
some invisible line of nature.
Maybe researchers had laid
violent hands on something vital.
Perhaps sufferings in dark cells
had finally rent the fabric.
I don’t know.

Each hour the radio woman will tell us
her voice silvery and arcane like some exotic alloy
how the tao is faring
and whether bonds continue to weaken.

* * * * *

Remembering the wideness of the world

remembering the wideness of the world
the silvery fish escapes the net

the light-flashed green
the round unending deep

* * *

a person switches off the television
stands on her screened porch
breathing darkness

* * *

fluorescent neighbors writhe
meanwhile, meanplace
on sofas in blue rooms

tomorrow we will seek money
boredom and pain
like toxic, fashionable garments
we simply must have
and again each night we will flee
money boredom and pain

O painlessness! Where are you!
we will hieroglyphically shout
in the subtleties of our discontented twitching

then the balm of objects
and strange foods
will soothe to a madness

and maybe tomorrow what is sought
will be found

* * *

on the porch
winds coast in from faraway seas
her eyes grow keen
small lights speed from friendly galaxies
and make port at last in her mind
opened like the night-flowers she smells
white-petalled in the earth below her

impossible to prevent or restrain
she drifts like golden pollen into her own life
remembering the wideness of the world

* * * * *


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