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Jan. 31st – 31 Yrs.

ISSUE:  Spring 1981
It was my thirtieth year to heaven,
Thomas wrote. Even that was
last year. In the corner, the radio’s
crumbed-over from the cake, a
final candle leans like a drunk.
The country station clears
its throat—I shave, then
nick, my own. A long time
since the stories of Moses-found-in-the-rushes,
little Albert’s eyes wide with
a promised land. I don’t know how
sweet Dylan found his owl nooks,
red currants, mussel pools, when
he returned a year later. I do know I
pick up that copy of Poetry February 1945,
and it’s one year yellower since my
last ceremonial consultation.—Tear a
strip for my neck, at least let it
be of styptic use. The radio’s
doing a hillbilly cover version of some last
year’s rock blockbuster. Dumb
cut neck. The original was better.

Happy birthday call from Carolyn, out
at the ranch. The ol’ damnfool
bull “broke hisself”—went hard, then
angled too sharp in a cow, now
drags it snuffling over the early grasses and
will have to be shot—which
happens with age. A feral dog
last night, while I was wishing, got
at the jugulars of a dozen kids (“they don’t want
food, but drink”) and slopped
the first few months of circulation out
of their small still bodies—which happens,
sometimes, long before age. The things
we learn today! My student Aletha
Irby, who types a mysterious
30 after each of her poems, walks all of her
20 sleek years past, and I ask her.
“It’s a journalistic symbol,” she says.
“It means the end.”

O may my heart’s truth still
be sung on this high hill in a
year’s turning—Thomas. Then I
wear a patch of him out in the morning
air of February, Texas, experimentally
peel it off. I don’t know what his
heart’s veracity was, but mine still pumps
a red smear out of my razor’s error,
badge for the day. Okay. It’s sad but
no torn jugular. These
comforts do. The ground’s already
itchy, Carolyn says, with spring.
When the Lord revealed Himself to Moses,
toward the end, on the mountain,
Moses dropped his eyes
from the blinding. Then the Children
stepped through. She says Indian
paintbrush, flame-orange fieldsful,
soon, the whole beflowered ranch—a cover
version of glory. I accept it.
I’m the one
that comes after the end.
I’ve stepped through the zero.
Bit of chill, but the radio forecasts
warming before it blacks out.


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