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Relief of Children

ISSUE:  Winter 1980
The galloping oats parted;
the dune knelt down,
and they debarked in the mild forgiveness
of his dromedary eyes.
They wept to say goodbye.
How they’d loved his shaggy knees!
And as they loved, so they forgot.
The land stood up; if land can sigh,
it raised a promontory,
and there they made a lookout of his grave.

They were etched children, they were spectral.
They were the article of my eye.
They ransacked cans and bottles
for messages.
They flourished their arms.
They held themselves beyond ransom.
They were taut
as the quaver of afternoon.
They stunned the tambourine of insects.

The little one,
the one with the marmalade hair,
about whose soft nape
the wind wrapped,
straddled the crest in a penny’s worth of thought.
He saw the waterlight as it had leapt
from his skateblades to the ice
and back the year he saved the town.
It was a port like this, but cold.
Spars and steeples poked the stars in heaven.
And with this charm
he defended it against
the story of harm:
at low tide the sea is land,
at high tide the land is sea.

The one
who made a daddy longlegs of the sun.

The child who could read
the ways of the giraffe in palm trees.
The brow that grazes the lintel of the clouds
bowed down to her—
he who ruminates on the whispers
of the uppermost leaves.
She laid her hand on the leaf-shadowed flank
and felt the pace
of the narrative of the creatures,
never told to man.

The one
who in his nightly ascension could become
a rivet in Orion’s belt.

The one who tossed
on the storm horse of a psychosis.
Oh bitter is the porridge
of knowledge.

Camp followers,
circus veterans,
raised from pink dust and shall return—

I heard them say their parts.
I tracked the five-toed fossil.
My throat hurt
in the old place where my tonsils were.
When the peacock nested in the evening sky,
I gathered the kindling;
I counted nimble sticks.
I saw the antics climb the bar,
the quarter-notes dance:
shrilling, treble children and sloe-eyed altos,
children deafened by the dissonance of families.

Why do you toil
to fill the moat
when the ocean sifts the shore
at your knee?

May vitamin and mineral uphold you,
who dig for rust
and publish gold.


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