Tuesday, November 29, 2016

from Hours Near the Crossing by John Peck


from Hours Near the Crossing


Glass breaking and then laughter 
under the open window— 
a rabble of carousers 
drains through the night, blotted 
quickly, although still 
trickles of their abandon 
silver the great cave: 
this is a taste longer 
than echo. And their strength 
is to drink quickly, hear 
only their jangle strike, 
tinkling day into blank— 
the slaves of Tigellinus 
smashing a flagon, young 
fascists, and not so young, 
in brotherly numbness. 
Their bar lies two streets over. 
And dumbly I drift out 
on that sound when I meant 
only to listen further, 
go while my body darkens 
at the cool window, out 
where the night weave tatters through— 
blacker bitch of the crossroads, 
moon in your tooth and hearth 
in the smoky geometry 
of your throat, from a whelp 
we have known you and yet 
only in the weight 
of our having done nothing well 
do you press home. 
                             The men 
vanishing down there, being 
your brats, draw to your pelt 
like iron-filings, smoothing 
to your vast underbelly. 
But I too feel the suction, 
the night is too much yours. 
Closing my eyes I slowly 
bring back the afternoon, 
courtyard and plug stone well 
where a finch without splashing 
dover from one side to slice 
that blue, his font and mine 
in a pact too immediate 
to revoke now. 
And strength not to be claimed, 
strength of the keen forerunners 
unrepeatable, all 
pouted out, itself the air 
burning over burnt hills, 
while the bowl of clear fire 
remains to be walked into. 
At each step remains. 
Little knots of people 
talking cleared ground above 
the city inch through strength 
poured out and trembling and 
unseizable. 
                 It need not 
have been wrong to be strenuous 
though inadequate. 
                            A bald man 
tumbles awake from his roof-chair 
where the heat ripples him, 
disciple gaping up 
at swarms of shape—perhaps now 
he'll hear the command fashioned 
to his one need: Kill and eat! 
It need not have been wrong. 
And one life. Little cracks 
life itself will take care of 
widening. I need no poker 
to find that seam where the ember 
breaks open to burn brighter.
                       *
Pebble into air, 
and the boy's hand cupped upward 
and death not yet mature 
running after. 
                    Birth with sun 
pouring, and in the square 
the common bread lies scattered. 
eaten in urgency, 
stupor, or a blithe 
unconcern for what comes. 
Nocturnals into day, 
a full weave not forgotten 
but not sung through, the whole 
singing not wholly woven. 
Death with us. 
                     And the mongrel 
sure of his rounds trots past 
with his morsel, delegating 
care to the willing. 
                           Listen,
the sound of harpers striking up
in places where the women
draw water. . . .
 

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