Move

- 1937-

Whether it’s a turtle who drags herself
Slowly to the sandlot, where she digs
The sandy nest she was born to dig

And lay leathery eggs in, or whether it’s salmon
Rocketing upstream
Toward pools that call, Bring your eggs here

And nowhere else in the world
, whether it is turtle-green
Ugliness and awkwardness, or the seething
Grace and gild of silky salmon, we

Are envious, our wishes speak out right here,
Thirsty for a destiny like theirs,
An absolute right choice

To end all choices. Is it memory,
We ask, is it a smell
They remember,

Or just what is it—some kind of blueprint
That makes them move, hot grain by grain,
Cold cascade above icy cascade,

Slipping through
Water’s fingers
A hundred miles

Inland from the easy, shiny sea?
And we also—in the company
Of our tribe

Or perhaps alone, like the turtle
On her wrinkled feet with the tapping nails—
We also are going to travel, we say let’s be

Oblivious to all, save
That we travel, and we say
When we reach the place we’ll know

We are in the right spot, somehow, like a breath
Entering a singer’s chest, that shapes itself
For the song that is to follow.

More by Alicia Ostriker

psalm

I am not lyric any more
I will not play the harp
for your pleasure

I will not make a joyful
noise to you, neither
will I lament

for I know you drink 
lamentation, too,
like wine

so I dully repeat
you hurt me
I hate you

I pull my eyes away from the hills
I will not kill for you
I will never love you again

unless you ask me 

Exile

The downward turning touch
the cry of time
fire falling without sound
plunge my hand in the wound

children marching and dying
all that I do is a crime
because I do not reach
their mouths silently crying

my boychild reaches with his mouth
it is easy, being a mother
his skin is tender and soft
kisses stitch us together

we love as long as we may
then come years without kisses
when he will turn away
not to waste breath

when I too will fall
embracing a pillow at night
touching the stone of exile
reaching my hand to death

Insomnia

But it's really fear you want to talk about
and cannot find the words
so you jeer at yourself

you call yourself a coward
you wake at 2 a.m. thinking failure,
fool, unable to sleep, unable to sleep

buzzing away on your mattress with two pillows
and a quilt, they call them comforters,
which implies that comfort can be bought

and paid for, to help with the fear, the failure
your two walnut chests of drawers snicker, the bookshelves mourn
the art on the walls pities you, the man himself beside you

asleep smelling like mushrooms and moss is a comfort
but never enough, never, the ceiling fixture lightless
velvet drapes hiding the window

traffic noise like a vicious animal
on the loose somewhere out there—
you brag to friends you won't mind death only dying

what a liar you are—
all the other fears, of rejection, of physical pain,
of losing your mind, of losing your eyes,

they are all part of this!
Pawprints of this! Hair snarls in your comb
this glowing clock the single light in the room