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Shelves on the Clark Fork

ISSUE:  Summer 1997
I know you’re restless,
the fields are drifting again into waxy shadows, waxy sky.
Still, I’m glad you’ve come
to keep me company under these fine stars and red moon,
especially here where the river sheds its trees
and all down the bank these stones recline
like a family sleeping.

This steam, aren’t you tempted to call it breath?
The woman with the hunched shoulder, the grandfather,
the two young women breast to back against the shelf—
maybe you knew them an eon ago.

What you ask here they answer in dreams.
Against that silence what argument is ambition?

Don’t be upset. That’s an owl, and farther off
a few sheep in an island of trees.
I love this wide sky—the distances between the stars
always increasing, the vacancy always increasing.

And why mind an owl, or anything with wings?
Lie down for a moment, here
beside this child
curled around her mother’s knee. Go ahead,
you can touch her, this is peace beyond violation.
Listen, you need to let go
of the people who have harmed you,
you need to slip out of those bruises
and across these stones.


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