We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
They have photographed the brain
and here is the picture, it is full of
branches as I always suspected,
each time you arrive the electricity
of seeing you is a huge
tree lumbering through my skull, the roots waving.
It is an earth, its fibres wrap
things buried, your forgotten words
are graved in my head, an intricate
red blue and pink prehensile chemistry
veined like a leaf
network, or is it a seascape
with corals and shining tentacles.
I touch you, I am created in you
somewhere as a complex
filament of light
You rest on me and my shoulder holds
your heavy unbelievable
skull, crowded with radiant
suns, a new planet, the people
submerged in you, a lost civilization
I can never excavate:
my hands trace the contours of a total
universe, its different
colours, flowers, its undiscovered
animals, violent or serene
its other air
its paradise rivers.
Take to heart what may be learned from Oedipus:
If someone with a sharp axe
hacks off the boughs of a great oak tree,
and spoils its handsome shape;
although its fruit has failed, yet it can give an account of itself
if it comes later to a winter fire
or if it rests on the pillars of some palace
and does a sad task among foreign walls,
when there is nothing left in the place it came from.
I empty myself of the names of others. I empty my pockets.
I empty my shoes and leave them beside the road.
At night I turn back the clocks;
I open the family album and look at myself as a boy.
What good does it do? The hours have done their job.
I say my own name. I say goodbye.
The words follow each other downwind.
I love my wife but send her away.
My parents rise out of their thrones
into the milky rooms of clouds.
How can I sing? Time tells me what I am.
I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.
And when they bombed other people’s houses, we
but not enough, we opposed them but not
enough. I was
in my bed, around my bed America
was falling: invisible house by invisible house by invisible house.
I took a chair outside and watched the sun.
In the sixth month
of a disastrous reign in the house of money
in the street of money in the city of money in the country of money,
our great country of money, we (forgive us)
lived happily during the war.
How do you withstand, body,
Aimed at you? Minutes,
Seconds, like gun reports
Tattoo you with holes.
Your area of five
By one is not
Room enough for
The fists, the blows;
All instruments itch
To make a hedgehog
Of your hide. It’s your fate,
Poor slut: To walk compliantly
Before heroes! Offering
In your demolition
A besotted kind of love:
Battered patches; meat-mouths
For monsters’ kisses.
We picked flints,
Pale and dirt-veined,
So small finger and thumb
Ached around them;
Cold beads of history and home
We fingered, a cave-mouth flame
Of leaf and stick
Trembling at the mind’s wick.
We clicked stone on stone
That sparked a weak flame-pollen
And failed, our knuckle joints
Striking as often as the flints.
What did we know then
Of tinder, charred linen and iron,
Huddled at dusk in a ring,
Our fists shut, our hope shrunken?
What could strike a blaze
From our dead igneous days?
Now we squat on cold cinder,
Red-eyed, after the flames’ soft thunder
And our thoughts settle like ash.
We face the tundra’s whistling brush
With new history, flint and iron,
Cast-offs, scraps, nail, canine.