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As If I Watched Late Last Night With Baudelaire

ISSUE:  Autumn 1989
as if marbles had mouths instead of fitting into them
as if they rolled out sounds
as if I spoke from a stone’s heart
                 stone orator
                 stone orderer
as if crossing the causeway I felt the old cobblestones tell
   what they had known
   of measure, although the cobblestones were not there,
   the roadway cement and tar, the legions not there
   who had made Europe one bell rung to their tread
as if my mouth lay, one with the roadbed, a cobbled rock
                throbbing to their heels
   myself earth’s rock heart under the road
   a buried sweep of rock, a plate of rock
   so many miles its curve held measure, not sight,
   a huge, dull, rock globe burning to their heels
as if a fault line split me and I rang
   yes, I have wasted my life
   buried that one talent underground, cracked, dead
   so it rings dull now, harsh now, won’t test true

                eaten with earth and water
                ordure, not order

   with caring for what gave no care back
as if sea-bed and crag cracked through and I stuttered, yes
   fifty ill-fitted years and fitfully worked
   I’ve lost the best of it, not found what matched me
   loved, loins and loyalty, and not been loved
   and my children’s sweetness meets different needs, not that.
see the ghost legion break its march on the ghost road
   cement and tar over a memory net of cobbles
   cloven in the bleak, shifting plates that groan
   with their ghost step
             this stretched globe, my mouth
   although they walk through meaningless pain to their deaths,
   have died, holocausts with them,
   they’re breaking the march with a dice game;
             odds are, that fire, joy
   hope of embrace encircling me in love not hate
   has just rolled down on the ghost stones in ghost dice
   and the luck’s gone with their lilt, roll,
             lift of the language
as if the rock plates pulsed and swelled
   and the earth through that cracked hellmouth
   shot streamers of fire and stone,
   shot ribbons, shot looping spirals, fired the Crab
   Nebula, Andromeda, Ursa Major,
as if out of that mouth
   a wild galaxy of fire and rock whooped
   riotously through me as I lay heaped
   under its domed, ribboned net, its laced spears
                    and rang, yes,
   whatever I have left to make the best of
   is not what I should have made, and small time to do it
             (yes, sisters, for sure
             I blew it
as if the rock beneath and the dome above were one bell of fire
   and swung the life away
as if I were the clapper, the small, hard tongue of that bell,
   and the bell itself, and my fellow legions who lay
   cowering, groaning, believing the bell cracked
   when all the while it gave out its clear shout
   joy and assent from a whole heart, itself and you,
   yes, even for you, lover or liar, late into this vigil,
   reader or sleeper, wherever you are, my ghost legion,
   you, like me, broken and still free and hale
as if we could praise each other forever in this world


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