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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts of activism

Willard, Nancy
Part VII: Poems of vision and action: a poem to tell the time by,   pp. [434]-436 PDF (2.0 MB)

Page 436

Riding with you, I am almost twenty.
I am riding to meet my father.
Now I am lifting the blinds in terror.
The freight cars have bedded down in poppy fields.
Nothing is left of Pittsburgh but angels
haloed in helmets, lighting their torches.
They have taken over the smokestacks.
They are washing the water clean.
In my daughter's house there are many rooms
whiter than flour. So I went to the suburbs.
Someone had taken the trees away.
New houses popped up like remarkable toys.
People bought sconces and spindles, precious with age
in an age where nothing was old.
They have declared death obsolete.
So I found my solace in vivid machines.
I made snow in one and rode the grass short with another.
The new children, taller and clipped like lambs
built aluminum playrooms on the stumps of trees.
In camp they made tepees and saw, at the City Museum,
Indian shards and a petrified man,
one hand still shading his eyes from the new sun.
He slept through air-raids, corals, the grief of birds.
If only our lives were as whole as his death,
touched by the skilled hands of the rain to a star.
Through his hair, bees comb their mysterious honey.
436                           In his head poems sharpen their smoky crystals.
Did butterflies light on his hands like rings?
Did he run with deer in the broken light of morning?
Did his thoughts stop dead in their tracks
like insects in amber, a fresco of buffaloes
friezing his skull? Are his veins diamonds,
does a starfish sleep in his navel, do shells
hum in his ears pierced by the snouts of worms?
There are children whose prayers are stamped by machine,
and there is you. You are almost twenty.
All their comforts you have left behind.
You are going into the cities, you carry your birth
like a hand grenade in your smile.
If you keep a plan for revolt tucked
in your knapsack, under your tongue, your heart,
be as hard and gentle as this man's death.
I see you in prison, in parks, in love,
sharing your last crust with policemen and swans.
Make us a place to love, make us a new earth.

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