When a blizzard powders the harbor, when the creaking pine
leaves in the air an imprint deeper than a sled’s steel runner,
what degree of blueness can be gained by an eye? What sign
language can sprout from a chary manner?
Falling out of sight, the outside world
makes a face its hostage: pale, plain, snowbound.
Thus a mollusk stays phosphorescent at the ocean’s floor
and thus silence absorbs all speeds of sound.
Thus a match is enough to set a stove aglow;
thus a grandfather clock, a heartbeat’s brother,
having stopped this side of the sea, still tick-tocks to show
time at the other.


At sunset, when the paralyzed street gives up
hope of hearing an ambulance, finally settling for
strolling Chinamen, while the elms imitate a map
of a khaki-clad country that lulls its foe,
life is gradually getting myopic, spliced,
aquiline, geometrical, free of gloss
or detail—be it cornices, doorknobs, Christ—
stressing silhouettes: chimneys, rooftops, a cross.
And your closing the shutters unleashes the domino
theory; for no matter what size a lump
melts in your throat, the future snowballs each “no”
to coin a profile by the burning lamp.
Neither because there is a lot of guilt
nor because local prices are somewhat steep,
nobody picks this brick pocket filled
with change that barely buys some sleep.

Translated by the author

This Issue

February 18, 1988