Fred Pond

The southern hemisphere of longing and regret


Some confusion among trees before eternal life begins.
I will die in a stationary wagon, pretense against beauty. To die
for the one great love or from necessity for breath, one
or the other. No one hides their endless misadventures,
nudging and prodding soft forgetful skin: a stealth invasion
and then too late holding on, holding on so long until coming
in an empty glass, abandoned by identity. What is this place?
A palace? A grave? I dive underwater, pulling self under eyes
into an empty galaxy. Fish and eels swim close to my body,
white blinding light, fluorescently electric. Afterwards I
walk from bedroom to bus station. Wearing a suit of nettles
I will climb into the wagon, ride into the water.


A seed thinks too much, sweeping metaphors away.
Metaphors, malevolent yet unintentional, imprint themselves
indelibly in memory. Fast cars and paradox, boys collecting
boys and risk—the pills gave me an empty room
in an empty gallery, the wagon left behind as the caravan
continues across the water prairie. You sit motionless beside me
in the Greyhound station, observing movement in the shallows
of circumstance. There is movement from a tree branch. There
is the movement of the eels. The last face seen, the one
remembered and then morning: I should phone my mother,
tell her why I will stop breathing. A small price to pay after
all this rain, isn’t it? You take a broom from its closet. The ghost
face of a barn owl crosses the clearing. We find the fish playful,
merely curious but the eels—cells without membranes, their arithmetic
gone wild with letting go. Green shoots break the surface, sun crosses
the horizon to discover sun again. Now float in water, fly in autumn,
slump in the barren wagon. Something troubles you about the movements of the eels.


Repeat the names of God in whispers. Names touching names in the way
night shadows touch memory. We remain dressed in nettles for the journey,
thirsty in the undefined way of defeated things. Eels and fish join us
in a meadow. Water, earth, air, fire: the elements coalesce in order
to wait beside gravity. A black forest underwater, its blind inhabitants
welcome us into their tribe. We will embark with first light,
will journey through a secret passage to the southern hemisphere
of longing and regret. Empty the dust bin of stardust and history,
store it in the custodian’s closet. Remember the borderland
between death and sleep, an orbiting spherical mass
formerly known as a planet. Remember when I met you there. The silhouettes
of trees surround the meadow, fade in a featureless sea. Remove
the gray smock that still smells of ocean, return it to the closet.
Our wagon crosses a causeway to the island of speech
where there are only pretty numbers.


Before dawn everybody’s restless for tomorrow’s drugs and parties.
Lights turned off with a growing indifference toward pain when it ends
diving, flying, dying. Leave the Greyhound when the pain relents.
A traveler, an architect, a merchant in the chemicals likened to freedom—
never with appetite, our wagon emptied of all passengers,
deep space and sea bottom. A meadow hides in the undersea cave,
home of eyeless fish and eels, vacuum and pendulum. Sequestered
in a hollow in the forest, hidden in the sheltering cave. Find a seed
sprouting in moist dark soil: seeds don’t believe in ghosts under
water. An overdose of grief cauterizes, cannot heal, cannot forestall
collisions of tectonic plates beneath the oceans. Not sound nor light, not even
liquid heals. Immersed in a green continent, the dark wood of an empty wagon.