What am I supposed to put now
into the sea of fulfillment, the broken record of swaying
I press out hard
along the hurt—the campaign road—I press my thoughts, my tiny
informers.The earth curves more than I had thought
at first.
My mind, my thoughts in uniforms,
I press them out like little hieroglyphs
onto the mudslide where the clods and lips
are moving now.
Who will you be?
What will you say when it says repeat after me
and you can’t hear it for the din
the black soil makes?
You come with your ploughshare, there, in your mouth—
it is sharp, it works for free which sharpens it, it cuts
into any distance freely thinking how good to die—
half out of their mind the words run fast and hard
over the muddy fields, seeking out woods and boundaries
—splendid declivities.
Who will you be when it comes your turn?
When I look up I see the body of my friend climb up
over the hilly rise
and redescend. There is an other side (my mind
knows this). I see my friend
climb down, straight down, into the open where there once
was pasture.
I see the sunlight beat him down.
I see how hard it beats with its clean sticks.
I see him going on in—it’s down of course—under such
loving, into the mound it has
prepared for him, this golden freedom with its
Later, at night, the fires on the horizon make clear, splendidly
clear, who we
must be and who (I sleep so badly now)
they are. You have to live something keeps whispering, by day, in
sun, under its army’s yellowest of boots…
And you: it is so prominent the way
you walk
over this soil, your soil, your mind held up there
in its fiery cavity—even the day before
still sparkling like oxygen in there—ah—
how much room you carry about in you over this field—
And tell me, did you volunteer?
Are you the last free man alive?
Are you full of life—billowing dresses on the lines,
blowsy hypotheses the butterflies can make over
their field?
Can you pick your way among the
among? And the illustration of…? And
the once-still architecture of
the grandeur of
the sensible? the obvious? the inevitable? the true?—
the chestnut trees, the clean white napkins folded
under there?
the stars in the day-sky?—
the petticoat of morning-mist and the great-coat of
What is it my friend will have to find,
breaking down and breaking down?
The earth curves more than we had dreamed.
The slope cannot be staved against.
Rainwaters, the day-before, the syllable
that grows its root into some tiny sleeping god
and makes that great sleep shudder-back
awake. The last slaves, when will they be alive?
The space in the heart, when will it be planted shut,
choked-off with root, with growth,
that final, thirstless, silencing.
My friend is lying in the earth. No, my love is
in the earth. He’s weathering, gingerly, the hurt of its
so I can’t see him anymore
from here.
Materiality has dwindled.
What is it, muddy god, that has increased
according to your law?
The day before the day-before-yesterday looks
spruced-up here in my cavity, my hole,
my grandest architecture of
syllabled—form building—clean—numb lidded
A book is lying in the dust where we last lay.
The grass is bloody under it, but that’s a
whim of blood, you know, a tiny thirst.
What does Paris look like now?
The eye darkens and the great cities kneel.
The monster of the mind moves easily among its marl,
its constant inward-sucking curl—
the day is measured-out in grams of light—
the monster, measured-out in grams of light,
moves gently over the playing field,
dragon of changes and adjustments,
mightiness of redefining and refinement.
I love the uniforms my thoughts are wearing.
The heels, the sleeves. The black where nothing disappears. I love
the stitching-in, each breath thread hard and tight
into each breath,
holding the great-coat on
that we be better-looking,
elegant informers, so well-dressed as to almost be
Tender, like the pasture.
Thick and clear, like a hole that can be jumped into—oh
earth, voice, string, gardener, lens.
Hear the hard damp in these our syllables.
We dare not pray. Hear us as the cloth
the needle.
The low buzz of the trees in constant wind
The leader here has cheeks shaved clean
and can’t misfire
because he is enslaved and as god’s son
is not allowed to miss.
Someone bites his cigarette.
Someone bites down hard and lets himself go
thinking how much he’d like to measure and to draw
this hole he’s forced into,
how much he loves the soil they’re shoving now
—lovers of poems, of flowerings, of all misdelivered messages—
down his wide throat.

This Issue

November 28, 1996