"Where are the gilded stags, that leap and leaping Glide through lives trailing gold leaf and stars, Like cold tears the dew cries?"

More Perihelion:

Issue 6: No More Tears

Bob Sward's Writer's Friendship Series

Book Reviews

Need to Know



A quick list to poets featured in this issue:

Mary Moore

Kate Benedict

James Walton Fox

Jane Blue

Tom Goff

Kate Lutzner

Heather Burns

Maria Melendez

Karen Alkalay-Gut

Laverne Frith

Laura Ann Walton

Roger Pfingston

Scott Odom


Bei Dao

James Walton Fox


Where are the gilded stags? I'd like to know.
Go right up the stairs past Tiepolo,
And through the fading saintliness
Of renaissance virgins and wise men;
Past the unfinished portrait of Michelangelo,
And the haunted twilight where Vermeer's ladies,
Still so shy after five centuries,
Mark with calm eyes thoughts of times alone.

Where is my life in this tomb of history?
Is my heart a stone deity frozen in a pose?
At once heroic and frail, a slate face missing a slate nose?
Where are the gilded stags, that leap and leaping
Glide through lives trailing gold leaf and stars,
Like cold tears the dew cries?
I have seen them in far swarms like lit towers
Give light to city nights and begging palms.
If all the world is gold what use are coins?

Go past Clifford's room but not so fast
That you miss his knife-edge dance through your honey.
The October leaves can't fall from grace
They just tilt-a-whirl and surrender their green
And Japanese waves on a golden screen
Behind low lit glass so as not to fade
Are answers an artist must have made
To questions that come begging:
If all the world's a painted screen, what use is art?

What's this likeness of a scull, or this photograph of space?
I want to find the one thing I can't seem to face
Within myself, like an African legend long lost,
Faces and bodies carved out of magical spells,
The sorrow and ecstasy of tribe and continent
Explained away with a plaque of text;
Coded into our colonial program,
Experience becomes a string of artifacts and tiny gods
Collected from the bush and publicly housed in glass.

Go past Greek Helen, the face that launched
Ten thousand Initial Public Offerings.
Go past the great walled pit of trading
Where the father of our nation was inaugurated.
My love, does god trust in us?
My accountant whirls through yeses like a drunken Mevlevi,
His family's tears plant beanstalks they climb
To hunt the golden geese that turn money into time.
To sift clouds for stags that graze on the sun
If time is money what is legal tenderness to a stone bust?

My love, how much time is left?
How long before we become museum pieces,
And symbols of rituals that never were?
Those rites of passage here and there,
Having safe sex beneath tax shelters
Or nude in oceans of forgiveness.
I saw a gilded archer in a garden of posterity
She was teenaged and naked and she asked me,
"If all the world is hunting love what use are arrows and guns?"

I told her to go past the American Wing,
Past the Grandfather clocks and furnished airlessness,
Go past the Temple of Dendur in its personal greenhouse,
Ask the gods of Egypt who had crab-claws for hands,
Ask the obelisk why its alphabet is a worn out photoglyph,
Why it's dead language is an arrow aimed at the cosmos
And know without knowing answers, there never were
A bow and arrow that didn't have to part ways.
One must go. One must stay.
And if time is an arrow, is space the archer, or am I?

I told the golden teen to go past the Asian halls
Past Shiva unfolding her dance in a ring of fire
Past the standing Buddha, his eyes cool, his torso armless,
I told her to grab a bite with the Chinese bodhisattvas,
Their bellies swollen with Lau Tsu's dictum:
If the people have full stomachs and empty minds,
They will be easy to govern.
The stags could be there, feeding on rice paper mists
In the twelve scrolls depicting the Palace of the Nine Perfections

And the farthest east is but the farthest west.
And the stags that twist through golden light
May hide in the flesh of Monet's Venetian reflections
Or curl within the bowels of Rodin's Burghers of Callais
I can see they must have leapt past Lepage's Joan of Arc,
Her loom overturned, her eyes in the council of angels
Round and burning with the realization of what is real.
Her hand raised halfway between there and here
Half wave, have beckoning, a mudra that says I know, I know.

Perhaps they ran through El Greco's cloud cover
Headed back toward the Chinese calligraphy
To graze on grids of symbols
And temple histories in the manner of plum trees in spring.
Renewing their determination with Korean versions
Of the Lotus Sutra in gold ink on indigo paper.
Like sunbeams surfacing from deep evening
The stars one by one landing at JFK
On grids of gold ink coaxed from outer space.

I have seen them run trackless under the volcano's ash
Through little architectures in seas of black
In the painted rooms of Pompeian villas
And English tapestries where stags pull kings carriages,
And medieval unicorns harried by hounds
Gaze up to archangels holding hands, dancing rings
Above the hurried scramble of worldly affairs
The trumpets of divinity blare through the horns
That twine arabesques in the antlers of gilded stags,

Stags that musk the minds of housewives and businessmen
Held over at checkpoints along Arabian incense routes.
Their briefcases filled with the perfumes of the zodiac
Their eyes widened by the desert sun.
Herds of gilded stags traverse oases.
Where no other beast or bird could be believed,
They weave their spells on underworlds
Above the law whose long arm outstretched
Can grasp just the shadow of something gone.

My mother passed into the cool one autumn.
Like gold dust through an hourglass,
A red rose on the dashboard of my mind.
Solid gold dancers thrust and grind,
And drive time through thin scrims
And guide this dream I have always been.
My father went, like smoke through cloth.
All that remains is an earthen question mark.
And I fly through life standing on the shoulders of skylarks.