On the Cypress, Tree of Mourning
What Van Gogh means by a cypress
Is not what I mean, I whose pictures bleed color,
I who deprive nightdreams of starlight,
And do not love the whole insomnia.
What Darwish means by a cypress comes clearer, closer,
Or rather what Hajjar means, his epigraphist, for whom
The cypress is the tree’s own grief, and not itself the tree,
And itself endures without a shadow, because it is the tree’s shadow.
What Ovid means by disconsolate youth,
The anguish of Orpheus losing his lover to the Underworld
Twice, once by accident and once by an excess of care,
Is not what the cypress means by the transition from depth to surface.
What Leivick means by a lost boat
Comes nearest to what a cypress means in its own idleness,
The cypress following its fundamental reverie like a destiny,
A dream without the insubstantiality of dreaming.
What Kosen means by a brush to inscribe the temple gate,
Fully aware that ink does not flow like wood,
Is not what the cypress means by the first principle,
Escape from the keen eye of those who make masterpieces.
What Ficowski means by motionless light
And tense silence, and anticipation of a cry that does not occur,
Is what the cypress means as a tumult of perfection
Against ignoble isolation.
What Zukofsky means by finding his initials
As the blossoms that his own admiring sight overlooks,
Is the cypresspath into errant paradise, toward the grace
That mourning leaves unused, unspent.
Photographs and poem by Jason Francisco
Photographs: Point Lobos, California, 2009-2014 / Poem: Salinas, California, 2018