Jack Webb


Passing the New World Light

Passing the New World Light
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Find Me a Magic


Find me a magic and I'll sing for you -
dig in the bog for a Coinneach stone,
black and shining, a cratered pearl, with a hole
through which visions seep and swirl;
or stick your sheers in the rind of a pig,
dangle the Bible-key to fate,
toss the bright blue yarn to the devil
quaking and jabbering in the barn and beg
to know the future, fierce and grand, the lilt of time.
I'd trance me if I could, mumble into tongues,
cast myself head-first into a burning tar barrel
thick-studded with spikes, seeking the cursed gift,
the second sight; shriveled and tarred,
there in my barrel, my Sibyl whispers
might be heard, I might say:

He gathered lotus in a far fair land,
a crooked man with a crooked hand,
and on his arm a parrot perched
as he walked with a lurch
between the pits that Pele dug.
Behind him flowed four barnacled ships
while in their beds the children wept.

The rest is silence, the swift passage
of the panther through the halls, as
the teacher prays, bowing to Buddha:

"My daughter is a light to me,
my sons give me strength."

Here where the Coinneach stone glows and shivers
things are spun out of rage, the convulsions
of a little-used switch, lighting a room where
the white-haired and rich gather after dying
and twitter like birds with clogged throats:

"Save me, sah, save me, I beg you."

For they see with their dead eyes all they'd
ignored when alive, and relive it: theirs
is the vision, we are born of their dreams,
their witness: the black man with dislocated shoulders,
oozing puss; the school reformer in $1,000 suits,
eating lobster while the lean-stomached children
bind tattered books with tape. These are the dreams
destined for our oblivion.


And yet, the white bird rests on the black branch,
gathering in its breast the pearl of song,
while below, in the chill tarn, the Coinneach stone
waits, dreaming of you, my love, awaited all
these years, of whom I sing, here on the broken last bar
where the sandpiper digs with blind joy,
the blue yarn stretched ahead in the brooding dark
and all our dreams shattered and rebuilt, shattered
and rebuilt, in this puzzling glory, this Coinneach stone, these words.

© Jack Webb
All rights reserved

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