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The Double-Goer

ISSUE:  Summer 1977

Seeing that dangerous mover,
we remembered the hazards of walking, again:
the mastodon’s trick
of stacking his spine on its child’s box of blocks;
the mantis’s walking-stick;
or the equilibrist
bearing down with the webs and the soles of his feet,
claw over crystal, and printing a town with his fists,
isometric, saurian, prehensile,
moving toward plunder.


Face to face
with that obdurate profile drawn to its length
like a bow-string, with the noose
of a tie underneath, and a hatband
to level his jaw to the set of his teeth,
an arrowhead flinty with mourning,
pointed one way only,
insomniac, lonely—
coming or going, we averted our glance when we met
and offered our backs to our guilt.

God help our uneasy walkers, we said. God
hold their weight to the invisible wheel
of their feet driving their’ anguish uphill
in all weathers; tether
their toes to the chains
moving over and under, tighten
the tendons and ratchets:
God true their purchase,
walking past taverns and graveyards in a hemorrhage
of leaves or the herringbone-blue
of the snow. Make their placelessness perfect, going
nowhere, wherever they go.


Where should a man walk in his fear and his need?
The gymnopede
walks out of his innocence into his vertigo,
rises and falls on his toes,
knowing all distance is mortal, all walking
demonic. The wanderer, trying his exile over and over,
measures his failing humanity,
and the stalker intending him harm,
crumbles a spoor with his fingers, circles the sufferer,
and walks toward the print of his prey.

Only the walker keeps earthen.
The saltimbanque
tumbling toward God, falls another way. The breaker
of ether, the swimmer working in fathoms,
alter their stance to their element,
and forsake the old Adam. What was vertical,
durative, perishing,
falls like a diver, or floats on a stilled horizontal.
Only the walker totters past the rattles and mats
of his childhood, erect, toward the sexual flaw
of his symmetry, goes frontal,
and doubles his burden.


Even pity is helpless. Should we question
the bartering God—supposing
all action were fable, all
being, beginning: a “prologue in Heaven”
or a charade for two players
bent over their pawns,
the unmoved movers of a dice-cup shaken by good and evil:
should we ask, midway in the walk:

“Why go looking for trouble? Why
lengthen your distance to hate us? Where do you walk?
Where are you from?”
—the answer already is given,
Belial’s or Baudelaire’s. “From
walking to and fro and going up and down
in the earth. I am your Adversary,
homicidal or prodigal, practicing life:
Dutchman or equivocal Jew. I am Ishmael,
your brother, your double, your Other.”


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