Face of the skies
over our wonder.
truant of heaven
draw us under.
Silver, circular corpse
infects us with unendurable ease,
to thermal icicles
Coercive as coma, frail as bloom
innuendoes of your inverse dawn
suffuse the self;
our every corpuscle become an elf.
Man, the egregious egoist,
(In mystery the twig is bent,)
Imagines, by some mental twist,
That he alone is sentient
Of the intolerable load
Which on all living creatures lies,
Nor stoops to pity in the toad
The speechless sorrow of its eyes.
He asks no questions of the snake,
Nor plumbs the phosphorescent gloom
Where lidless fishes, broad awake,
Swim staring at a night-mare doom.
Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
Forgotten as a fire that once was singing gold,
Let it be forgotten for ever and ever,
Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.
If anyone asks, say it was forgotten
Long and long ago,
As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
In a long forgotten snow.
say goodbye to small towns
their boundaries cutting across the names
of dead indians, trees
still remembering that speech
their shelved histories leaning on
years of drought, of rain, lives
the immigrant knows nothing of
canadian, pole, latin
root their lives on rock
this earth won’t give up
their names the journey a word took
changed but familiar, unaware of footsteps
echoing years back in the forest
their lives held like a cup, thin and intricate
that could break with a sound like water falling
or the sound of an animal running for shelter
but strong with an old craft
hard, and made to be passed on
to their children
or to tourists who look out from car windows
bored, and unknowingly carry them off
translated by William O’Daly
Today is that day, the day that carried
a desperate light that since has died.
Don’t let the squatters know:
let’s keep it all between us,
day, between your bell
and my secret.
Today is dead winter in the forgotten land
that comes to visit me, with a cross on the map
and a volcano in the snow, to return to me,
to return again the water
fallen on the roof of my childhood.
Today when the sun began with its shafts
to tell the story, so clear, so old,
the slanting rain fell like a sword,
the rain my hard heart welcomes.
You, my love, still asleep in August,
my queen, my woman, my vastness, my geography
kiss of mud, the carbon-coated zither,
you, vestment of my persistent song,
today you are reborn again and with the sky’s
black water confuse me and compel me:
I must renew my bones in your kingdom,
I must still uncloud my earthly duties.
passing this time alone
with your father, how bright his golden laugh
which drew you to laugh yourself uncontrolled,
how sweet the happy hour oysters you two pry and eat,
piling wobbling shells that glisten on the table
while the pianist plays by the kitchen doors.
You find yourself reminded of what you wrote
in the eulogy: that you two would still possess
a relationship even though
he was dead, that you could still
go and speak with him
when you dreamed
and so you see the seat opposite from you seats no one.
Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking
through bare rooms over my head,
opening and closing doors.
What could he be looking for in an empty house?
What could he possibly need there in heaven?
Does he remember his earth, his birthplace set to torches?
His love for me feels like spilled water
running back to its vessel.
At this hour, what is dead is restless
and what is living is burning.
Someone tell him he should sleep now.
My father keeps a light on by our bed
and readies for our journey.
He mends ten holes in the knees
of five pairs of boy’s pants.
His love for me is like sewing:
various colors and too much thread,
the stitching uneven. But the needle pierces
clean through with each stroke of his hand.
At this hour, what is dead is worried
and what is living is fugitive.
Someone tell him he should sleep now.
God, that old furnace, keeps talking
with his mouth of teeth,
a beard stained at feasts, and his breath
of gasoline, airplane, human ash.
His love for me feels like fire,
feels like doves, feels like river-water.
At this hour, what is dead is helpless, kind
and helpless. While the Lord lives.
Someone tell the Lord to leave me alone.
I’ve had enough of his love
that feels like burning and flight and running away.