To gaze at a river made of time and water
And remember Time is another river
To know we stray like a river
And our faces vanish like water
To feel that waking is another dream
That dreams of not dreaming and that the death
We fear in our bones is the death
That every night we call a dream
To see in every day and year a symbol
Of all the days of man and his years
And convert the outrage of the years
Into a music, a sound, and a symbol
To see in death a dream, in the sunset
A golden sadness, such is poetry
Humble and immortal, poetry
Returning, like dawn and the sunset
Sometimes at evening there’s a face
That sees us from the deeps of a mirror
Art must be that sort of mirror
Disclosing to each of us his face
They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders
Wept with love on seeing Ithaca
Humble and green. Art is that Ithaca
A green eternity, not wonders
Art is endless like a river flowing
Passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
Inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
And yet another, like the river flowing
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.
There have been no letters from me. Such is your complaint
I am compelled to tell you that if my disobedient letters
Were to fall into your arms like inert leaves of autumn
Even once, you wouldn’t be able to deal with them, recipient.
Overflowing your arms into files, files into drawers, drawers into the trunk
Finally pushing open the lid they will emerge in a procession
Across the desk, the bed, the floor
The doorstep, the top of the cupboard, the window ledge
You will go mad.
The liberated leaves will not be contained even in your empty room
Unannounced, one night
Without sending word I will reach your neighbourhood
Peeping through the window I will see
Suspended over the jumble of my letters smothering your room
The white moon, laughing.
Your door is wide open
Turned insane by the torrent of shed leaves you have gone out
Without locking your room.
I will see my letters lying there
Naked, helpless, weeping
Anyone can pick them up and read them
And burst out laughing as they read
In competition with the moon
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.