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from the January 2007 issue


Look: it happened here. A sense of surfeit grew
from the unfeeling past-
Paternal Moneymen, whose alphabet
lay buried in the mud rosettas
where pigs leave their traces;
the torch-eyed eagle
passing crooked judgment
in careless corners of history;
the bomb's early light;
the day leaning more and more,
by imperial equation, on the blind man's stick,
enforcer of night's might.

It happened here. Here burst forth
a new sense of honor,
shaky still in its will to say no:
no to the syntax of infamy
reaping colonial crops;
no to the army's gunpowder garb
waiting for infants to shed their skin;
no to the bombers, no to the phosphorus
etching hell's alliterations
on scaly green jungle tops;
no to the urban blight that darkens
flower and infinity.

Here the spirit contrived to join
longing with longing, sphere with sphere;
the soul mindful of the moment
found here a different summer and a different light
-a purer air for loving suns
achieved by the flapping of nestlings' wings.
The unruly track of this meadow
became a shortcut for the willful,
who basked in the surety of a miracle
waiting in the shadows of that first step.
And suddenly weathervanes stopped their dancing,
as a name was torn from the map: Woodstock.

Woodstock. . . . Over your half-open name
rumors of life raised a curtain
where linger, limned by childhood memories,
the legacies of ancient ties
binding our tribe to the garden primeval.
Songs, for example, and music,
God's coffers for a rainy day.
And peace, that border-to-border salute,
a promise of flowers.
And love, the eye-to-eye power
in which cycles throb
in their rush to be loosed.

Here, while all around the wind imprinted trees
with its kindest instinct,
the vertigo of turns on which futures build frontiers
came with that erupting trig.
Here, in every corner, chanting volunteers
piled up the ashes of progress;
from here, a purple haze raised circus cones
over the slumbering vastness of cities
that had previously been too well-etched:
and there the machinal brew was replaced
by acrobatic plays
from dreams of the Dream.

And freedom, that is, the noisy promise of its name,
exploded from a secret age, as when
the gods were naming. And the flute, little sister
bending with the motion of wooden ships,
of ubiquitous lovers who embraced by the lake
and affirmed a new future
of little ones destined to love.
Proliferating like flowers reaped by the winds,
the metamorphosis emptied its cauldron here.
And with the broken slither of lightning,
every pure thought so conceived laid
its power in the anxious hand of time unfolding.

Was it here? . . . Immense is the sudden silence,
crushing as the scream of a blank wall.
Tired of shadows the afternoon,
the veil of curving grass falls still,
and high above the heavens open,
scattering medals across the sky.
Was it here? Or more precisely: Was it? Where
then is the driving force of truth,
nobility imposing its titles in day's grey halls? Where
are those celebrants seeding the winds with slogans
to remind the spirit of its honor?

And what of the battleship ironing flat
the seas' blue praise as it circles the globe,
or satellites dulling the stars in our eyes,
or acoustics dead to laughter?
What of the state, sapping the zeal of those who,
remembering, strive once again to fix a human heart
in the ghost of rocky futures?
How blind is this inquisition, like a mask without holes;
how hard to gauge the angel's share in rose window
chronicles of these years! And what a raking, what useless
raking, to place before our eyes the leaves and fruit
of trees forever doomed!

Because, in truth, it's about celebration:
the discovery, back in that frame of mind,
of how soft the world's iron really is;
the return of scripture, advertising to the soul
on the firmament's great blank billboards.
We still thirst, and our hands still tingle
with the urge to act, recalling that time
bequeathed to us, and the secret of its place.
Look now: behold we are leaving, behold
as our footsteps retrace those heady days.
And be careful: those who profane this ground, failing
to remember, will reap only shame.

Read more from the January 2007 issue
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