Workshop Date: 1966-1972
Poet: Paul Muldoon
This is not the nest
That has been pulling itself together
In the hedge's intestine.
It is the cup of a boy's hands,
Whereby something is lost
More than the necessary heat gone forever
And death only after beginning.
There is more to this pale blue flint
In this careful fist
Than a bird's nest having been discovered
And a bird not sitting again.
This is the start of the underhand,
The way that he has crossed
These four or five delicate fields of clover
To hunker by this crooked railing.
This is the breathless and the intent
Puncturing of the waste
And isolate egg and this the clean delivery
Of yolk out of the taut skin.
These his wrists, surprised and stained.
I believed in those plains
Without grass or sky,
A levelled silence
Broken only by the credible woods,
Then the first soft thud
Of a horse by radio,
And already I could sense
This horse would carry
Not only the plans
Of that one's plot or counterplot
But your realer secrets.
Your intending to go
In your own hand or evidence
To prove you another spy
Infiltrating my lines.
If only you were as easily waylaid,
Predictable in your road,
As a horse by radio,
Its tittering in one distance
That clatters, thunders by,
Then thins and thins.
I believed in your riding all night
Lathered by your own sweat,
Your dressing as boys
Keeping in their shirts or jeans
Messages for my eyes only,
Whose latest are canc-
Elled to a word, that lost in codes,
Telling of their being delayed
By horses' thrown shoes.
Taking, giving back their lives
By the strength of our bare hands,
By the silence of our knives,
We answer to no grey South
Nor blue North, not self-defence,
The lie of just wars, neither
Cold nor hot blood's difference
In their discharging of guns,
But that hillside of fresh graves.
Would this girl brought to our tents
From whose flesh we have removed
Shot that George, on his day-off,
Will use to weight fishing-lines,
Who died screaming for ether,
Yet protest our innocence?
George lit the lanterns, in danced
Those gigantic, yellow moths
That brushed right over her wounds,
Pinning themselves to our sleeves
Like medals given the brave.
'Within forty-eight hours Washkansky was speaking;
within seventy-two he was eating scrambled eggs.'
An eye for an eye,
Tooth for a tooth, people are
Different in sames,
We will always have
Our pounds of flesh. Yet we are
Good at heart, there are
Things we consider
Black and white and right and wrong.
On a small kibbutz
There is much we hold
In common, our five-legged calves
And our blood-oranges,
Our hens eating their own eggs.
Has it been only two years
Since the river went on fire?
Last year your father's heart wob-
Bled while he was dusting crops,
Too heavy for his light plane.
Was it three years ago, then,
The year I shot the wild duck
And we took her clutch of eggs,
Carefully, to our own bed?
They hatched out under our hear,
Their first passions being earth
And water, the sky that curved
Far over the huddling barns.
We taught the fields of kept corn
Good for both bread and porridge,
And as they were then of age,
The rightness of wearing clothes.
We hooked up their rubber shoes
For that sad day they waddled
Back into their rightful wild,
The heaven of river banks.
They had learned to speak our tongue,
Knew it was all for the best.
Was that not the year you lost
Another child, the oil slick
Again bloodied our own creek,
All innocents were set free,
Your father had learned to fly?
He thanked his parents for keeping still
And left them sleeping, deaf and blind
After their heavy meal,
Then stole away where the moon was full
And the dogs gave no sound
He thanked the dogs for keeping still
And ran along the tops of the dark hills
That heaped like the sleeping anaconda
After its heavy meal,
To the bright square in the highest coil
That was the lady's window.
She thanked her parents for keeping still
And they ran together over a further hill
Like the lady's belly so hard and round
After its heavy meal,
Till they stood at the top of the waterfall,
Its deep pool where they drowned.
Let us thank waters for not keeping still
After their heavy meal.
The girl alone in the wood's
Corner had just then filled her
Glass with tomato and crushed
Ice. She wore a man's shrunk head
Slung over either shoulder,
A child's head hung at her waist.
He would have raped and killed her
Had this happened in the past,
Not yet telling wrong from right.
Since the world had grown older
He approached and introduced
Himself as some more to eat,
Thinking still that wars were lost
Or won by hand-to-hand fights.
Though he had just then called her
Beautiful, they had just kissed,
She paused to bring back her dead
And his thin red line faltered.
The last war's end should have taught
The weakness of bright soldiers,
Those mushrooms at thigh and breast
Told of threat and counterthreat,
Yet they plunged helter-skelter
Through a young wood and laid waste
A cornfield. Then, this welter
Of steel and glass where they crashed
Through this heavy iron gate.
Their bodies are still smoulder-
Ing, they are like those old ghosts
Who skid past graveyards. Their heads,
Lifted clean off by the blast,
Lying here in the back seat
Like something dirty, hold our
Sadness in their eyes, who wished
For the explosion's heart, not
Pain's edge where we take shelter.