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Poetry

after Paul Klee

I thought I heard someone crying—
but it was me
making that low noise

like a radio under a blanket
in a drawer
in the far wing of heaven.

My own crying disguised
the way paper
goes disguised as origami

or the backs of photographs.
The lesson today
was Logos, God saying

world—and there it was.
So we practiced.
But when I spoke, only

the old words came out—
love and death,
sweetness and terror, the language

God made in our image. So
I said sweetness
and there we were again,

in the country, wearing love’s mask,
flinging its
bedsheets over nearly anything.

Then terror and we were in
the same world,
a man made to lie down
in a boat, rowed out among the
harbor’s blue regatta,
his wife on the shore crying.

And someone dropping anchor,
and someone dropping
a sack over the man’s head,

and someone disguising his
wrists and ankles
with ropes—and me on the shore crying—

then someone dropping him
over the gunwales.
Then how a man is not a fish.

And God, that old sweetness,
old terror, who
I’d forgotten for so many years

said no, no. Say world, say
virtue, virtuoso, curia,
say courage which comes from the heart,

say credence, say credo.
But all day
I could muster only words

that belonged to the earth:
humus and humility,
sediment and siege, chamomile

the ground apple, chameleon
the ground lion,
hombre, homunculus,

human, the ground digger—
ground breaker—
homicide, exhume, bridegroom.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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