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This poem is taken from PN Review 170, Volume 32 Number 6, July - August 2006.

Four Poems Eric Ormsby

American Requiem (3)

To protect my head I bought a beaded cap,
The kind Muslims wear. It hugged my skull
Like the hand of Fatima, and buoyed me up

Against the sudden crumble of a pedestal,
A toppled plinth or capsized weather-vane,
It amuleted me against the spill

Of cinders from Con Edison, against the rain
Ripe with seething acids, it was a talisman
Against stray bullets or a plunging plane.

Thou art a worm , said Virgil, and no man.
I was surprised to hear him citing Scripture.
The Psalms had colonised my own brain-pan

Eons before. I recognised the stricture
But couldn't help myself: my cowardice
had long been my profoundest fixture.
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