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Three Tales


ISSUE:  Autumn 1978

     Why is there something and not nothing?
     Because we have been spared
.

1. CREATION

Out of himself matter and shining.
And now she smiles and swells.
Sky is mother, clear and cheering.
Sea is mother, strewn face upward
to heaven—blue, pellucid, fragrant,
a petal. She is pleased, she is pleasure,
gathering his light together.
On the seventh day I opened my eyes
and was good: looking, I lit;
seen, I shined—a spark
in space, space in a spark,
world in a world of worlds.
He lets the worlds go and goes away:

father hides in clarity
—how clear the endless seventh day!
— everywhere at rest, at play, calling, Children,
knock on my door!—But no one answered,
no one was there, the house was empty,
all of it open and ours entirely.
Teasing, he said, Look, here I am, I’m here!
We couldn’t find him in the clarity,
and where we looked window, wall, and door
all were namelessly bright,
all were water, sky, and shore.
We flamed and flew in the ecstasy.

2. OGRES

     (from an old manuscript)

. . .The land is his, his hunger the law.
What he gets he eats, I cannot endure . . .
Blood in the streets, the very streams
seem butchered, the sky a piece of meat. . .
A friendly horror (the mouth emits
a smile, the eyes just show their teeth)
takes them in hand, terrified, sick.
Armies of tots flogged toward his maw. . .
the nimble, the quick, the tender, the sweet. . .
gibberish of shrieks, then drivel of limbs.
I saw this, hidden in a heap of knuckles.
The little hands were still reaching . . .
I’m smeared with it. I feel nothing. . .
Later on I heard him explaining
(I scratch these words with splintered bone),
“Because, after all, I’m your father.
What else do you think I made you for?
You owe me everything, your food, your drink,
your being, the ruddy flesh off your backs. . .”
This was no figure of speech . . .
And then, “Ungrateful, where are you hiding?”
(The shark, too, complains of his prey,
Why aren’t they more forthcoming?)
. . .
Still later he was at his bookkeeping,
counting off on his fingers, muttering,
“Six days to get, fatter, fatten—that’s
six days of fasting. On the seventh day
I eat.” The monster! . . . Moloch! Fiend! Leads each moppet up to the dish
and pointing all around he whispers,
“This is the world. You will die. Sorry, nipper,”
. . . I caught him afterward asleep.
Still slobbering gore. Nothing fancy: I shoved
his jaw down his throat, sent the head flying . . .
This feeling of freedom, this joy . . .
Strange, for all the absence of ogres,
existence has proven no less fatal . . .
and every death marked Final.
The sky is gone, just swallowed up . . .
I think I’m dead, too. Look at him,
his chine stripped, his jaws still clacking
. . . I coolly fought to save my life
. . . no longer rage to keep my innocence. I
know who is my father’s son.
Look at how they look at me,
push close with hunger, or run in horror.
Can’t a man eat in peace anymore!
My kids still think they’ll live forever.
I don’t have immortality in my guts,
only a clot of frozen terror.
I’m hungry, too.
I’ll poke down deep in theirs.
If there’s any heaven in numbles,
I’ll find it, I’ll eat it all.
I’ll teach them!
I’ll stop their staring! . . .

3. SABBATH

Whose children are these advancing in me
to greet the little boat bearing the wide bliss
and lead it lamblike ashore by its painter?
Mouths, limbs bathed in a clarity not theirs,
where have I known them all before if not here,
pushing and dragging the sabbath dawn
up the beach with shouts and laughter,
scrambling for places and rowing the air?
There was no other world, is no other day!
Where are these flowers rushing in place
all the sunny afternoon?
The perfect speed of the daffodil
is the daffodil perfectly still.
Who are they, overturning it with dusk
and crawling under the hull to sleep,
lustrous voices, selves invisible?
Whom are they begging for stories now?
I know a story, it is their own:
These children have been, they will be, spared!
—of all the worlds I made, this world alone
I did not destroy, but died instead,
Who am I, clear and dark over the sea,
dark and clear above the stars, the open
embrace, at once the greeting and goodbye?
Who will tell me while I understand?
What are they whispering snug all night
under the lulling rain, little and great?
Patter and pleasure of their sleepy conversing.
They name me sacrifice— their old man
is snoring; call me sabbath and ending the death consumed in clarity
—the clarity that makes the birth clear;
call me distance— and I depart;
the universe—I disappear and am immortal and forget.

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