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Gerald Fleming

Poems from The Bastard and the Bishop


The composer said that birdsong was "God's language,"


and for the first time in half a century this was a god I might believe in. What if it was true, I thought, what if this god so remote, light years away in some palace whose architecture, elaborate, soaring, beyond the scope of our reckoning, turns out to be a god who speaks to us only in one voice: not the voice of proselytizer in the pulpit, but in simple birdsong. Simple birdsong, I heard myself think, and realized my error there.

Hermit thrush, Wilson's warbler, veery, golden-crowned sparrow, who hasn't heard such a song then lapsed into silence, lacking not just the semantics but the mechanics of response?

Birds singing for days outside my mother's bedroom window as she lay dying.




In Recall


He'd loved Jung's Memories, Dreams, and Reflections as a young man, and if you asked him about it now he'd probably call it enthrallment, for what returns to him are not Jung's concepts or any particular idea, but a sense that he was being freed—certainly from the Catholic dogma he'd been yoked to for twenty years, but also sent simultaneously by Jung into a synchronicity with the woman he was falling in love with. She was discovering the collective unconscious, too, and they were unconscious together—hyper-aware of symbolism, uncovering ancient myth & metaphysics for the first time—all of this made more real as they discovered the transformative power of their bodies.

Could Jung have rung so deep a chord without the resonating vessels of their bodies? Could their bodies have felt that holiness—archetypal—without their having studied him? Did they invent these thoughts—this heat—simply because they were young?

In fact, they never spoke of it until this year, half a century later, when, still lovers, she said, "Do you remember when we were first dating and we were reading Jung?"

And then he:

"I remember the beauty of your shoulders."



Gerald Fleming's most recent book is One, an experiment in monosyllabic prose poems from Hanging Loose Press. Previous books are The Choreographer, Night of Pure Breathing, and others. The poems here will appear in The Bastard and the Bishop, due out from Hanging Loose Press next year. Fleming's most recent editing work is The Collected Poetry and Prose of Lawrence Fixel, just out from Sixteen Rivers Press.


— posted JULY 2020
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