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This poem is taken from PN Review 67, Volume 15 Number 5, May - June 1989.

After Mandelstam William Scammell


I've studied hard to learn to say goodbye,
a word that grows enormous in the throat
like saplings looming up towards the sky
on summer nights, towards a balm of light
that sets the ox-jaw moving, and a cry
split harshly from the cockerel on the dump
as naturally as tears enlarge an eye
brushed softly by the halo of a lamp.

What nourishment is there in speech? 'Apart'
will part us, surely as the cockerel crows,
planting its arbitrary plosives in the heart.
Old fires on the Acropolis will blaze
new meanings out across wide city streets
heralding the dawn of some new age
while oxen lower heads, to grind up roots,

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