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Roof & Writing

ISSUE:  Spring 1981

The the ladder slipped and Roger
with it. “The skull,” Cully
emphasizes, “showed through.” And

before they wheeled him in to drain
and stitch, he told her “Go home shit
cover the roof before it rains.” No

shingle work for me, uh-uh. I
don’t want to do more than write.
And tonight couldn’t do even that

flat task, with Roger’s skull
in my skull making everyone susceptible
to damage. I wished I were drunk

and I’m drunk. It cost a dollar
ninety-nine, that bottle with
cutrate genie. Now turn out the light.


A folklorist, Roger squiggles sorrow in
and out on a seaman’s concertina.
Ballads: death of the body, death of the

heart, the long dog-bay and train-moan
choruses pleated between his hands. So
nimble. He fell on those hands, the pain

so great he didn’t even know his forehead
bled like a butchery. Calm in front
of the children
, he thought. The oldest

swabbed his forehead and he didn’t faint
till Cully came home. Well it’s all okay now,
his hands at work on a new chapter. “I

was so banal. I just clung to the ladder
motionless and said, “Oh, no.” The falling dragging
that last word out to the railroad moan his songs know.


His scholarly study, my poems. . .
and something language can’t say
exactly, but tries. So where

to draw the line? When dying’s slow
enough we call it living. Some nights
even moonlight snags

on a rooftile, pulls slightly, out of its
numinous tensile self, and
everything’s confused. If I hold

on to something, it’s knowing we’re given,
on luck days, on strength days, to finish the text
successfully that begins with the silhouette of a man

askew on a ladder, a diacritical
mark: read this one
down to the bone


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