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This poem is taken from PN Review 179, Volume 34 Number 3, January - February 2008.Three Poems
Distraction of Fish and Flowers in the Kill
People fish the kills here. Black, the kills, with shade,
Moist with shade, and the graveyard odours, the graveyard hush,
The hush of weedy distracted flowers, grass flowers, bush flowers,
Flowers of savour and those of ill repute.
And beyond, there is always the Island beckoning, to destroy or save,
The lure of the island, though there is nothing on it
But fireweed and gravel, and between here and there the water
Is deep, the water is deep between.
Fireweed grows where things have burned. The day
Squats with its magnifying glass. The boy in blue shorts squats
On the stones burning ants with his glass, and fireweed, which is not
The colour of fire, grows in profusion. Fireweed is purple,
As in shrouds, as in to destroy or put an end to.
This we understand. This thing on our hands we would be free of,
One crime or another, the plotted errors, all the dumb-show passages
We play over and over. The unrhymed passages
That call up the chief complaints: Chiefly the wind's fault. Chiefly
That of the Boy Actor...
The water's lights go off and on and the Island beckons.
There seem to be many hands waving. There seem to be many voices saying,
Jump now, before the fire gets you, the heart fire, the brain fire.
We are holding the sheets, holding the bedclothes.
And, yes, the air is full of white stuff: feathers or grave wrappings:
Something broadcast wholesale to the wind. But the warm water
Shackles our ankles, and the wrong ideas are firm
In the body: the idea that harm can hasten
The coming of good. That rain can make a lasting forgetfulness. The non-
Swimmer's reckonings that weaken the ankle. Poor
Lily-white ankle, dreaming it will step forward
As if for the first time.
The bees came out of the junipers, two small swarms
The size of melons; and golden, too, like melons,
They hung next to each other, at the height of a deer's breast,
Above the wet black compost. And because
The light was very bright it was hard to see them,
And harder still to see what hung between them.
A snake hung between them. The bees held up a snake,
Lifting each side of his narrow neck, just below
The pointed head, and in this way, very slowly
They carried the snake through the garden,
The snake's long body hanging down, its tail dragging
The ground, as if the creature were a criminal
Being escorted to execution or a child king
To the throne. I kept thinking the snake
Might be a hose, held by two ghostly hands,
But the snake was a snake, his body green as the grass
His tail divided, his skin oiled, the way the male member
Is oiled by the female's juices, the greenness overbright,
The bees gold, the winged serpent moving silently
Through the air. There was something deadly in it,
Or already dead. Something beyond the report
Of beauty. I laid my face against my arm, and there
It stayed for the length of time it takes two swarms
Of bees to carry a snake through a wide garden,
Past a sleeping swan, past the dead roses nailed
To the wall, past the small pond. And when
I looked up the bees and the snake were gone,
But the garden smelled of broken fruit, and across
The grass a shadow lay for which there was no source,
A narrow plinth dividing the garden, and the air
Was like the air after a fire, or the air before a storm,
Ungodly still, but full of dark shapes turning.
from The Orchard
The Satyr's Heart
Now I rest my head on the satyr's carved chest,
The hollow where the heart would have been, if sandstone
Had a heart, if a headless goat man could have a heart.
His neck rises to a dull point, points upward
To something long gone, elusive, and at his feet
The small flowers swarm, earnest and sweet, a clamour
Of white, a clamour of blue, and black the sweating soil
They breed in... If I sit without moving, how quickly
Things change, birds turning tricks in the trees,
Colourless birds and those with colour, the wind fingering
The twigs, and the furred creatures doing whatever
Furred creatures do. So, and so. There is the smell of fruit
And the smell of wet coins. There is the sound of a bird
Crying, and the sound of water that does not move...
If I pick the dead iris? If I wave it above me
Like a flag, a blazoned flag? My fanfare? Little fare
With which I buy my way, making things brave?
No, that is not it. Uncovering what is brave. The way
Now I bend over and with my foot turn up a stone,
And there they are: the armies of pale creatures who
Without cease or doubt sew the sweet sad earth.
from The Orchard
This poem is taken from PN Review 179, Volume 34 Number 3, January - February 2008.