A year ago I fell in love with the functional ward
Of a chest hospital: square cubicles in a row,
Plain concrete, washbasins – an art lover’s woe,
Not counting how the fellow in the next bed snored.
But nothing whatever is by love debarred,
The common and banal her heat can know.
The corridor led to a stairway and below
Was the inexhaustible adventure of a gravelled yard.
[From The Epilogue Poems]
A doctor extracted
From my blood its tusk
The mountain-root from my body
The seven-seas’ spring from under my eye-tooth
Emptied my skull
Of clouds and stars
Pounded up what was left
Dried it and lit it and read by its flame
A story to his child
About a God
Who ripped his mother’s womb
And entered it, with a sword and a torch
To find a father.
I hear your congregations at their rapture
Cries from birds, long ago perfect
And from the awkward gullets of beasts
That will not chill into syntax.
And I hear speech, the bossed Neanderthal brow-ridge
Gone into beetling talk
The Java Man’s bone grinders sublimed into chat.
Words buckle the voice in tighter, closer
Under the midriff
Till the cry rots, and speech
Is a fistula
Eking and deferring
Like a stupid or a crafty doctor
With his year after year
Of sanguinary nostrums
Of almosts and their tomorrows
Through a lifetime of fees.