I thought it would be easier. I thought
And thought that thought would be insight enough.
I thought that what was mine I’d always won,
That what was once forever would be mine.
I knew that feelings people knew were sad.
That what they wanted never had been had.
They told me they believed in all I was
And, further, that we’d all die for the cause.
I had the sense, on that one, that they lied;
It seems the joke’s on them for how they tried.
I said what needed saying, top of my head,
And paid them only what they should be paid.
I miss that life, the one that I could drive,
When what I said was not what I must live.
Oh animals, I wish that I were you—
Rutting in spring, the clash of antlers, teeth
That bare to show a pecking order, beaks
That tear a prize from earth, each sun anew.
What is it like to be a bat? It’s true
I couldn’t say what simple thoughts might leave
Your mind, might shadow flight, might give you grief
If only for a moment, but from my view
All moments now are something less than fresh,
The daily jockeying for rank, the earning
Of each slice of bread, the rain that won’t fall,
Each workday just the same, my tiresome flesh,
And most of all the ceaseless pointless yearning
To understand these absurd seasons’ pall.
In France, they know, and they don’t know. Savoir—
The first French verb I ever knew, connu
The way we all know the phrase tip of your Langue. Words found there could all be fast and new,
Pronounced chez pas (just like chez nous?) by natives,
Or maybe old, hard-won, protected by
Academies and smoothed from long-lost datives
Into reflexives, a certain navel-gazing I.
And now the Europeans vote again,
And no one looks to anyone to square
History’s spiral with the future. Then,
As good as now, were we doomed? Va savoir.
As Western civ runs out of savoir faire,
Its people know the future can’t be there.
Move, mind, for it is high damn time,
Up with currents, which have the jump on us.
We worms have spent a measured life, peacetime
In body and home soil, inching thus, thus,
And noticing no changes in the flow,
Or in our very cells. Until the second
Of our becoming something new, we know
No thing, and stick with what is there, and next,
And next. If larger force is in the air,
We have no way of making use of it.
And if above us, other wills wreak where
Their limbs are, walking, we see none of it.
Until the morning, stunned, unfrozen, sprung,
We’re drawn to light as moths, and, knowing, flung.
The rain is not of blood, or frogs, or sweat,
Or even danger. The human is not
In it. It looks so like a jumbo jet,
A metal tube with wings. It can be shot
One thousand miles from target. Can be bought
A million bucks apiece. The deaths are net,
Not gross. Unlike the gas, the horror’s not
A gasping, grasping at the throat, the wet
Of suffocation. The bolt’s not a god’s,
Or even man’s, but math’s, and hence, is dropped
Without a warning from above. A streak,
And then it’s light revenge, or justice, lots
Drawn even. Can it help deter? It stopped
Six hearts dead cold, though none here missed a beat.
To walk time’s forests, even checking back
Over your shoulder, watching mass and trunk
Refract themselves in pollened light, hijacks
The vision itself, landmarks all pillars, sunk
And gripped of earth, as immemorial.
This is not the wood, its grain. You must lie
Down prostrate, duff-down, burrowed cheek-to-soil
To know the root of it. Here, you may yet see
The slime-licked toadstools, mandibles that shrive
The primal wood-eaters—and not just these
But stunted strivings of the sun-deprived,
Their gnarled dreams, and horror vacui.
In human glades too, dampened hope beneath,
For felling storms, fresh cracks, and open heath.
The strangest thing of all is we expect
Desire to make the world as we desire.
Nothing could fall further from the wreck
Of what we’ve known. Was it water? Fire?
Who cares? Or more to that point, what could care
Undo? The tree will branch and bud and leaf
And even sometimes make a pome, a pear
Perhaps, a yellow pip in some motif,
Which will mass up, at distance, as a forest,
A canopy. Your gladed, pillared eye
Will lose itself inside, will come to rest
Wherever shade and loam and violets lie.
Meanwhile, each year the fallen pile in drifts
And contemplate the rot or burn, in shifts.
To tell who won, and who’s lost, is harder Than it might first appear, in no small part Because it’s only those lost far farther Than can ever return who find the art To tell us. I alone can make this right Is not the way they speak, if they could speak, But only I can tell you how they might If they had lived to tell us, and had leaked. This is why new counting coup ought to wait For the ledgers to be balanced better. The survivors of events return late And have less to say than in their letter. This is the real knock against resentment. It so rarely agrees with presentiment. —IC