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Poetry

As he raises my bookshelf, empty now,
and therefore heavy with what I do not know,
my friend the carpenter speaks so kindly

of all the dark acolytes of one god
who walk the streets of ground zero in fear,
beneath the shadows and mistrust that pour

down the highest places like waterfalls
of dust. But those of no god or many,
he adds, well, they are another matter.

Then a nail goes in, and I am standing
before the space where Ovid will one day stand
by a Bible, beside, in turn, the lovers

of doubt who watched God vanish through a hole
and followed deep into the echo, knowing
less, step by step. Each waits for a reader,

the way a laurel tree waits for one to listen,
to sit beside the river and so drink
the words of the dead into those we speak.

Narcissus enters the mirror like a plane,
and we anticipate some flower or other
to take his place, to rise alone, and scatter.

I like to think of Ovid’s son as sweetened
by his father’s voice, still as a tree
that long ago was just a tree. Imagine.

My friend’s hands make of wood something
strong with beauty, and I see these shelves
as one world, beloved. One maker, he would say,

and the words go out to the rain, the root,
the author’s boy beneath the tiny freedoms
of the leaves, one child among the many,

whose will to choose is the god in each.


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

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