Now and Then the Sea Releases Its Birds | David Wiley Scene4 Magazine December 2014

Now and Then the Sea Releases Its Birds

The Art of David Wiley


December 2014


In the Land of Frumentius


In a country filled

with rumored portents

I grew a number

of odd appendages

and studied a kind of zoology

that never could be found

in the most outlandish



I learned

that sun devours water

water devours earth

and sometimes the hyena

will eat himself


I tried to become a species

that did not live

in the mountains or the deserts

the jungles or the plains

but knew them all well

and the spaces in-between


with a general store of proverbs in tow

I reached out to pluck

the whiskers of baboons

I covered myself

with transubstantiated honey

and a horde of newborn flies


here I discovered

that every soul

contains its own menagerie

and every hand

has touched the face of Creation


that history is an imprint on papyrus

which grows from spores

n the dark

and dies in the heat

n order to become the vessels

for an everlasting set of symbols

waiting n a hothouse

for the right moment

to become a forest

rediscovered and described

in the future annals

of a charming otherworldly botany


I sat on the shores of Lake Langanno

gazing into the mouth of a hippo

surrounded by the cries of mammals

and while I thought

about hunger and nakedness

my hair and fingernails

and the sun glistening

on the surface of the water

Africa played her tricks with time


In Harrar I found

the footprints

of the Poet

saw the mountains

and the very trees

that must have been

his final lyrics

hanging still in the palpable air

sanctified by his long-evaporated stare


one day on the path

between a mountain and a lake

I encountered Rasselas

and Prestor John

mounted on mules

and flanked by a colorful bouquet

of robes and umbrellas


"Is the luminous defecation

of a star

“good to eat" I asked

"Why are the mountains marching

towards a rendezvous with the sea?"

"Why does the black leopard

hunt the holy ghost

in the middle of a moonless night?"


they acknowledged my enthusiasm

with Byzantine chuckles

and paused upon the road

to Habashat

long enough to flay my heart

with fly whisks and other

priestly wonders

meant to be considered

works of art



before the sun rose

on the Awash River

the rock I sat upon

floated in the wind

and with a troupe of actors

I went dancing

slowly to the desert


the wings of flamingos

caress my forehead

I practice the scales and chords

of African lakes

a million voyages

have left the builders

of cities emptyhanded

a million dead-eyed people

have invented the wrong devices


I have seen frogs clinging

to the pink peeling walls

of tombs in the noonday sun

I have heard the chants of monkeys

kneeling in the moonlight

on the uncertain graves

of aristocratic wildebeests

I have known albino rock farmers

whose skins were anointed

with fermented ghee

stirring the gnarled air with sticks

from the shores of lost rivers

lepers and skeletons wrapped in shrouhds

floating across the quivering terrain

calling the spirits of birds

with Olympian flutes


trees alone on the velvet savannah

grasses exploring

with dancelike gestures

the undulating rhythms of space

hidden caves in eroded cliffs

occupied by nandi bears

with harems of apes

armies of neolithic warriors

eating at a place of embarkation

guarded by a skyful of harpies

trailing an odor of decay

that may have existed

before life itself

electric waves of ichor

pulsing through oceans of eyes


I live in your innards

and you in mine

with every whistle moan and howl

every taste of blog and milk

every birth of something seeking light

every moment of communal breath

I am the object of your digestion

and you are the subject of mine.


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Scene4 Magazine - David Wiley

David Wiley, painter-poet, exhibits throughout
California and abroad. A book about his work,
The Poetry of Color, is in progress.
To inquire about David Wiley's paintings, click here.
For more of his paintings, poetry and articles,
Check the Archives

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©2014 David Wiley
©2014 Publication Scene4 Magazine




December 2014


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