Here, but for a few signs, you can’t tell dawns from nights.

Zigzagging formations flying over the watchtowers
on days of fighting, my only wings,
a thread of arctic air,
the head-guard’s eye at the peephole,
the crack of broken nuts, an oily
spluttering from the basements, roasting spits
imagined or real—but the straw is gold,
the winey lantern’s hearth enough for me,
if I can dream I’m sleeping at your feet.

The purge never ends, no reasons given.
They say that those who recant, who make signed statements
can save themselves from this massacre of geese;
that by breaking down and selling out the others,
by confessing and informing, you get the spoon
instead of being dished up yourself in that stew
reserved for the gods of plague.

Slow-witted, and wounded
by this piercing mattress, I have fused
with the soaring moth whom the sole of my boot
pulverizes on the stony tiles;
with the shimmering kimonos of light
strung out to dry from the towers at daybreak;
I’ve sniffed on the wind the burnt fragrance
of sweet rolls from the ovens,
I’ve looked around, I’ve conjured up
rainbows on horizons of spiderwebs
and petals on the trellis of my bars,
I’ve risen only to fall back
into that gulf where a century’s a second—

and the beatings go on and on, and the footsteps,
and I don’t know yet whether I’ll be at the feast
as stuffer or stuffing. It’s a long wait,
and my dream of you isn’t over.

This Issue

April 16, 1981