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BOOKS & THE CULTURE I WAKE IN A CIRCLE OF WORDS Words pour flames through the house, flood my eye with fire. I am 200 stories up on a ladder of pedestrian alphabets. Words find my secrets. Words can’t get enough hours into the day. They are electrons of silence, they bring hands into the body, steal overtures from the flesh. Words, the engines of stars! They light arteries with cities and bays, send energy into wheatfields, tear down fences, walk promises off the promontory. Words bend the moment onto the page, bite the lip in spontaneous combustion as your mouth greets mine. Words call bullets from the wind, stare poppies in the eye Catch our private acts, like the fly on the wall. Or lie in our face to accomplish the delicate task of truth. Words, I go to bed with them, speak to spiders, call into the mouth of a scarlet gilia Take into my arms illicit bouquets of nouns and swaying heat. Every reef delights my ear, the dot of an eye is celestial. The unexpected fingernail that tears an S from my flesh, the warm tatoo under the navel the secret odor of the adrenaline verb all go down and erupt again from silent valleys Under the teeth behind the tongue that records the sound of quail at dawn. Or in calligraphy that joins the twin rumps of a B into a most sensuous pair of cheeks. Each name that wakes, every song that fades into brief fingers, tiny feet a Z left alone in the rain. a great red Y of existence, They glide from lips, break from banners, fall from curtains as I pull back time. O alphabet this is the voice of a stormy man. Words in the mirror Words out the window lost in thought Each with your own velocity and fumbled fortune, these words out of ash and apples that devour me, caress me, spoil me flay me, spare me, save me Words that wake from a drought and bring rain to my limbs These words compose me. John Brandi si ohn Brandi, painter and poet, lives in Corrales, New Mexico. He conducts writing workshops all over the country and recently traveled to Vietnam. His books include Heartbeat Geography, Weeding the Cosmos, Shadow Play, and Hymn for a Night Feast. Of his poems, Natalie Goldberg has written, “They bring your own world home and give you a fresh taste of wonder. As delicious as discovering the moon over and over again.” Anne Waldman has praised Brandi’s ‘pledge to clarity,’ his politics in the sense of witness, his candor, his delight & heart towards children & friends, his terrific travel details….” I was present when John Brandi read his poems at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, years ago. More than one of thOse students found me years later to say, “That was the best thing I ever heardI never thought about words the same way again.” Naomi Shihab Nye 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 19, 2001