Revelation by Marilyn Buck

In celebration of National Poetry Month, we will be featuring a poem a day from our collection of City Lights Publications.


This is a time when the world seeks revelation.

Too many seek that which is not but illusion or reassurance;
those who thirst for visions drink hallucinations.

the future perfect tense belongs to charlatans; pied pipers
lead the future into deceptions poisoned seas.
        cataclysms, punishments, hell, damnation,

        all mirages of souls in anguish

        salvation for the elect: they fear

        themselves and the echoes of mountain tombs.

Do you see demons and desolation, hear sounds

of screams, wailing? Or smell sulfur burn

behind your tongue — a taste of wormwood

and aloes? Or encounter the touch as a torch upon the skin?
      You imagine fire but it might be ice.

Hounds of hell,

horse’s pounding hooves are ancient;
they tread through all the tales.

      Children who do not ripen on the vine cling and hide
beneath the bitter leaves, composting hatred of the world:
      their ear is stopped to the sweet sounds of Ascension
blown by Tranes of quotidian toilers, artists of the
      their eye shuts before the flesh of their own desire,
they name it decadence — hell for defiant revelers;
      they singe the air with sanctimony and light bonfires
the feet of non-conformity (flaming lovers deserts for
       mordant palates)
         demons race upon their tongue, salty

toads, ready to leap into hyssop-broomed allegories.
       They reproach those who dare lay among the lilies of
         the field.

Do you see the light that flirts on willow leaves

fallen in the stream? Do you hear the universe

sounding in a Robeson basso tremor? Or smell

the fragrance of the unsought kiss? Or cry

when the moon washes silken on your skin?

Do you taste dandelions dressed in orange and olive’s coat?

For you, no religious processionals
apocalypse no final reckoning:
       the day discovers itself, opens opal prospects,
       sweat drops from the brow, a stream mysterious
          unto itself.

             red is vermilion, green is emerald
             commingled dissolution

             into mud, the prism flawed by the acid mire
             of doomsday incantations.

All you do not know is of a different globe.

Rejoice! You will not go there; you circle not that realm.
      Ignore false prophets, find mysteries for yourself
      apocalyptic chanters sing sadomasochistic

      fantasies for those who live on surfaces and beg for fancy

      fanciful proof of perfect spirit.

Calamity follows the radiant day:

would you know stillness without the roiling of the seas?

You shall glimpse that you do not know

in the sound of the cedars in the night

and children weeping; in the smell of the rain
and taste of drought, in the breath of longing
upon your breast, and in the sight of bodies
strewn across ravished landscapes.

Do not be blind to the longitudes of the world:
embrace the latitudes and all they offer
       disown fear to live tomorrow.

Seek not revelations, all is revealed.
Listen to each word, a world in orbit;
each phrase, a nova: essay the beach,
each grain of sand, a poem

        do not sit idle, your path streams before you.
        bank the raging fires and light laurel branches
           against the cold

Marilyn Buck was a committed political radical, imprisoned for over thirty years for her revolutionary activities. She was released from prison less than a month before her death at age sixty-two from uterine cancer. She was also a prolific writer and poet, publishing her work in a prize-winning chapbook, an audio CD, and in various journals and anthologies. She received a PEN American Center prize for poetry in 2001. In 2008, Buck translated the 58th book in the Pocket Poets Series,State of Exile by Cristina Peri Rossi. The poem “Revelation” is from the forthcoming Inside/ Out, the first collection of Marilyn Buck’s poetry.

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