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ISSUE:  Autumn 1999
for Judith Berke

The man and the woman, knees
in gravel, beneath the faceless rim
of tattered straw, break their rhythm
of splitting and digging
when they find what a thoughtless
eye might call another pebble.
Glass third century,
the woman says, turning it quickly
in the solar system of her palm.
There must be more, the man says,
and though they are smiling
at their find they are, in truth, smiling
at each other. And so they keep
digging through another summer’s
winter night, for they are in
the desert grave of their lust,
building up—stone by column

by window and banner, by street cry
and coin, by law and reverence—
the civilization of the invisible,
folded into the brainy crags
of limestone and sand. And there
it has kept until they find themselves
thrown against page and screen
like dice at a tavern,
like all good hopes.
It will be beautiful, she thinks,
the city they will build on a few trinkets.
And just, he thinks, its laws and merciful
its kings. They will have known the wax
face of epics and ledgers, and the grind
of wheels, and the iron that drowned
copper in blood, and dyes and amulets.
And their moon will ripple
on silken funerary garments
as our moon on the hood of the pick-up.
That we can share, she says,
that much has not changed.
The moon?, he asks.
No, the rippling, my love.


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