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This poem is taken from PN Review 198, Volume 37 Number 4, February - March 2011.

Four Poems C.K. Williams
A Hundred Bones
In this mortal frame of mine which consists of a hundred bones
and nine orifices, there is something, and this something can be
called, for lack of a better name, a windswept spirit...

                                                                                              Basho

And thus the hundred bones of my body plus various apertures plus that thing I don't know yet to call spirit are all aquake with joyous awe at the shriek of the fighter planes that from their base at Port Newark swoop in their practice runs so low over our building that the walls tremble.

Wildcats, they're called, Thunderbolts or Corsairs, and they're practising strafing, which in war means your machine guns are going like mad as you dive down on the enemy soldiers and other bad people, Nips, Krauts, trying to run out from under your wings, your bullet-pops leaping after their feet.

It's a new word for us, strafing. We learn others, too: blockbusters, for instance, which means bombs that smash down your whole block: not our block, some Nip block, or Nazi - some grey block in the newsreel. B-24 is the number of my favourite bomber: the Liberator.

My best fighter: Lightning. The other kind of lightning once crashed on an eave of our building and my mother cried out and swept me up in her arms: The war is here, she must have thought, the war has found me. All her life I think she was thinking: The war is here, the war has found me.

Some words we don't know yet - gas chamber, napalm - children our age, in nineteen forty-four, say, say Arnold Lilien and I, who're discussing how we'll torture our treacherous enemy-friends who've gone off to a ball game without us. They're like enemies, Japs or Nazis: so of course torture.

Do children of all places and times speak so passionately and knowledgeably about torture? Our imaginations are small, though, Arnold's and mine. Tear out their nails. Burn their eyes. Drive icicles in their ear so there's no evidence of your having done it except they're dead.

Then it was Arnold who died. He was a doctor; out West; he learned to fly 'Piper Cubs', and flew out to help Navajo women have babies. He'd become a good man. Then he was dead. But right now: victory! V-Day! Clouds like giant ice creams over the evil Japanese empire.

Cities are burning. Some Japanese cities aren't even there.The war is here! The war has found me! Japanese poets come later. We don't know we need them until they're already buffing the lens. Basho. Issa. Buson. Especially Basho: ah, that windswept spirit; ah, that hardly there frog.

Atom bomb, though: Basho as shadow burned into asphalt. House torn by mad burning wind. Poets in coats of straw, burning. What is our flaw, we human-beings? What is our error? Spikes in your tushy, ice in your brain. That frog invisibly waiting forever to make its leap.



Mask

Nobody had to tell me in the monster movie to cover my eyes and not look - it hurt to be frightened. You can't not look, though, later on in the movie of mind: that sex-theatre in with you, that thug.

I'd think: inside I must be an evil person: didn't I lust, wouldn't I be if I could that big-bellied thug? Or was it rather: I must be inside an evil person; these famished eyes, this insatiable staring out?
...


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