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Dreaming of the Natural History Museum

ISSUE:  Summer 1978

Today I wake up and recall
of the entire dream only
the ceremonial ochres of the skull
of the Miami brave, the pickled
bull snake in its jar, its pallid
coils, the gold pendulum, big

as my head that swung forever around the red
X of center, proving the planet, and therefore
Indiana, truly turned. But most of all,
most coldly legible, something of stone, the great
whorl of the six-foot fossil nautiloid, balanced
against the north museum wall, ready

to topple at my least
step. And that is all—coil of snake,
round hollow of bone, circling
of plumb bob, and the stone shell,
taller than the child it might have crushed,
spinning in upon the perfect and revolute center,

everything in memorable stance, everything
at dead center, the old dusts
in plain array. Today
I awaken, and look
into the scarlet bullseye that my son
has painted on the bathroom mirror. I see
myself, which is to say
whatever there is to say of dream,
of sign, of language, of necessity—
the waking eye dead center, and each waking day
the same slow, enormous ceremony of retrieval,
however the need maintains, however

the elusive agile shapes may grow
from the casual shelter of my bones to say

the recollection of matter
is the suicide of angels; it is
the last giving-over
of the dead,


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