On Writing A Poem After A Great Absence
This paper is an ear with no mouth,
water no dowsing can raise.
This pencil bleeds silence.
This hand plows left to right,
harrows breathing to silt.
The bones of the eyes rattle.
And nothing. Still.
Certain bacteria, rinsed of motion,
can sift to arid depths and wait.
For years. Until a sass or spark
jazzes clocks and appetite
and they render venom a food
or kill in thousands.
What membranes are still permeable here
ache for penetration,
the nucleus arched for splitting --
waiting for the first nick of rising water
to razor through the rind of old defeats,
pare clean the callous of an empty voice.
At night the radiators crackle and boil;
heat strops its edge on walls, on windows.
Sills, jambs, floorboards are whittled
then soaked and sing in creaks and wrenchings
as they grow. And the wood of the desk.
And of the pencil. And of the paper.
The nuclei filled with water and knives
sprout in the eyes that crack and fuse
as the world unearths itself
again. And again. In endless syllables
that slaughter dismay, revive the dust.
I watch the logs choke the river. My pen is ready.
Are they, perhaps, like some brief mosaic,
a garbled weave? I write,
cross it out.
Better yet, a bratticing of fate,
where men tread lightly, wary of
the errant butt, the snatching birl --
Cross it out.
Beyond transcendence, then, I cast them upward,
choral staves of nature's music,
the whole large stanza of their birth girdling
the faint diapason of nature itself,
and men, bare grace notes in —
The lines resemble the logs themselves,
uncouth, barked, sap-sweating,
limbless, pleached, forced and straining,
nothing beside the clatter of sun
on the helmets of the men, the brindled water,
the coarse obstinance of logs jammed tight:
the wooden words of an olding man waiting
for the current to get free.