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That streetlight looks like the slicked backbone
of a dead tree in the rain, its green lamp blazing
like the first neon fig glowing in the first garden
on a continent that split away from Africa
from which floated away Brazil. Why are we not
more amazed by the constellations, all those flung
stars held together by the thinnest filaments
of our evolved, image making brains. For instance,
here we are in the middle of another Autumn,
plummeting through a universe that made us
from its shattering and dust, stooping
now to pluck an orange leaf from the sidewalk,
a small veined hand we hold in an open palm
as we walk through the park on a weekend we
invented so we would have time to spare. Time,
another idea we devised so the days would have
an epilogue, precise, unwavering, a pendulum
strung above our heads. When was the sun
enough? The moon with its diminishing face?
The sea with its nets of fish? The meadow’s
yellow baskets of grain? If I was in charge
I’d say leave them there on their backs
in the grass, wondering, eating berries
and rolling toward each other’s naked bodies
for warmth, for something we’ve yet to name,
when the leaves were turning colors in their dying
and we didn’t know why, or that they would return,
bud and green. One of a billion
small miracles. This planet will again be stone.
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The crunch is the thing, a certain joy in crashing through living tissue, a memory of Neanderthal days. —Edward Bunyard, The Anatomy of Dessert, 1929 Teeth at the skin. Anticipation. Then flesh. Grain on the tongue. Eve's knees ground in the dirt of paradise. Newton watching gravity happen. The history of apples in each starry core, every papery chamber's bright bitter seed. Woody stem an infant tree. William Tell and his lucky arrow. Orchards of the Fertile Crescent. Bushels. Fire blight. Scab and powdery mildew. Cedar apple rust. The apple endures. Born of the wild rose, of crab ancestors. The first pip raised in Kazakhstan. Snow White with poison on her lips. The buried blades of Halloween. Budding and grafting. John Chapman in his tin pot hat. Oh Westward Expansion. Apple pie. American as. Hard cider. Winter banana. Melt-in-the-mouth made sweet by hives of Britain's honeybees: white man's flies. O eat. O eat.
Man-made, bejesus hot, patches of sand turned to glass.
Home of Iron Mountain and McCulloch chainsaws.
London Bridge, disassembled, shipped, reassembled.
The white sturgeon stocked, found dead, some lost,
hiding in the depths of Parker Dam. Fifty year-old
monsters, maybe twenty feet long. Lake named
for the Mojave word for blue. Havasu. Havasu.
What we called the sky on largemouth bass days,
striped bass nights, carp, catfish, crappie, razorback,
turtles, stocked, caught, restocked. I stood waist deep
in that dammed blue, and I was beautiful, a life saver
resting on my young hips, childless, oblivious
to politics, to the life carted in and dumped
into the cauldron I swam through, going under,
gliding along the cool sand like a human fish,
white bikini-ed shark flashing my blind side.
We heard a woman died, face down in the sand,
drunk on a 125 degree day. That night we slept
on dampened sheets, a hotel ice bucket on the
bedside table. We sucked the cubes round, slid
the beveled edges down our thighs and spines,
let them melt to pools in the small caves
below our sternums. While you slept beside me
I thought of that woman, her body one long
third degree burn, sweating and turning
under a largo moon, the TV on: seven dead
from Tylenol, the etched black wedge of the
Vietnam Memorial, the Commodore Computer
unveiled, the first artificial heart, just beginning
to wonder if something might be wrong.
Since the phlox are dying and the daisies with their bright bodies have shattered in the wind, I go out among these last dancers, cutting to the ground the withered asters, the spent stalks of the lilies, the black rose, and see them as they were in spring, the time of eagerness and blossoms, knowing how they will all sleep and return; and sweep the dry leaves over them and see the cold earth take them back as now I know it is taking me who have walked so long among them, so amazed, so dazzled by their brightness I forgot their distance, how of all the chosen, all the fallen in the garden I was different: I alone could not come again to the world.
Translated from French by Marilyn Hacker X Who will tell the sun about my land my harried medlar tree my springtime without nervures my helpful hand Who will recount my rootless garden and my door open to all comers my night of faraway sounds my wheat that absorbs the hours Who will cure me of my sequestration and sweet secret —my monochrome dream my space gone gray at the temples the barter of my frenzy the slumber at the edge of my well of fever My steppe with an abundance of laughter Perhaps it would be enough . . . But I watch time passing
one day they showed me a dark moon ringed
with a bright nimbus on a swirling gray screen
they called it my last chance for neverending life
but the next day it was gone it had already
launched itself into the gray sky like an escape
capsule accidentally empty sent spiraling into the
unpeopled galaxies of my trackless gray body