Born during war, I slept by rivers,
Obion, Forked Deer, and Mississippi.
Before the words for those subtending powers
I felt their reach. Before my father’s maps
Opened all the patterns currents argue
I knew the branched unfolding drift of weight
That came with snow melting, rain gathering,
The graduals of season proving more
Was following than anyone could say.
The beauty of that landscape was a change
That came from elevation, like the sky
Let loose, a world of gravity
Working its old rage down by sidelong slant.
We were its floods and then alluvium,
Its soil by generation, all the silts
And sediments that choice turned into will;
Not force of principle but principle of force
Were we, during that war, beside those rivers.
This morning, staring from the backseat of
A cab caught in the Lincoln Tunnel,
I started counting all the little lights
That brightened and dimmed or darkened as though
So many mute opinions signed themselves
On whether we should flood ahead or stay.
Only by integrity of Nation
Can the people disagree. And then the horns;
And someone somewhere nudged ahead, and we
Drove on, emerging from the aggregate
Of something like a second thought, emerging
Outward now, as from the mystery of intent
To be the mystery of an unnamed will,
As light is blindness in the afterflash
Of waiting for the light to come again.