Monday, April 12, 2010

Verse and Chorus for Nine Survivors


The time and space of you are gone,
enclosed in silver cloth and secret wood.
The prayer said, we leave
the lid and the first earth
to the workmen.
We've buried you again, and
this time, with you
on this clear and perfect day,
some of us.
We turn. We talk of how early
Spring has come,
of peach trees so soon in bloom, March only,
of the forsythia flame that quivers
as a golden snow.
The violets in your hands
tremble, full of dark, burn inward,
begin to infest your flesh.


There is nothing new about death;
it happens all the time.
Earlier, somewhat, a dam in West Virginia
has broken; a man
among the mud clutches
a photograph: a family smiling
on a summer picnic -- vanished
now into a wall of slag water.
He stares.
Our lives are not disturbed
like that,
broken open and bleeding
to the clean tear of the camera lens.

The mine exploded in '26.
One woman still waits.
a sealed coal mine can burn for fifty years
She comes each Saturday
and brings a growing thing
to place at the door marked
DANGER! in small letters.
There are not even ashes now
for urn or fireplace.

Further east, a dark farmer
releases a tire from his stream,
caresses its slick skin as if it were a carp,
sighs and heaves it aside.
The stream runs clear again.
Prayer for living in
those muscles.
In a century perhaps we will survive.


There was nothing we could do.
Brother, our mother dreams our father
greets you. Strangers to you
insist you're happy now, yet they linger.
For me, this ground is not tearless
and Spring not come, and no return
here to this lumpy green is possible.
Only: let the flowers
I placed in your chemical hands
take root and grow in your aloneness
that 50 or 75 years hence
this ground, swollen with sweetness
will rise and break and spew out
your violet-rotted bones,
and the fields drown in
your purple flood, that our
children at least, may see
what we have done,
and the spring run clean again.

Circa 1973

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