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Selected Poems

After a Poem by Wat
Art of Biograph
Meeting Myself
Memory at 3 A.M.
Three Women


After a Poem by Wat

As Andrei and Anna couple on the bed in early dawn, sheets
twining slowly about legs, their doubles sit at the foot waiting, heads

What of these two, one of them says. Will they ever leave off?

And then, says the other, will it survive the afternoon?

See how he grips her, like a drowning man, as though only her
body can keep him afloat.

And look how her knees and arms try to pull him into her, all of
him, to contain him.

On the bed Andrei and Anna fall apart panting, two shot birds
tumbling to the ground, curled around their several separations.

I would not want to be real, a double says.

If you were, you would want nothing else, a double answers.

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Art of Biography

At nine you must be in Paris.
Everything is strange
about the man you'll meet there,
doomed as he is to diffidence
and a life alone. Yet for years he worked
in a room not unlike this one
at the top of narrow stairs,
took coffee like yourself each afternoon
at a café nearby, floated up again
and again, breathless,
from consuming, brief affairs with women.

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Meeting Myself

Young man that I was,
what can I say to you?
We meet at a party, stand together
near a sofa, hemmed in by other lives,

men who crawl through the city
in the black carapaces of cars,
women who watch with red lips
from doors and second-floor windows.

You were so serious, young man —
I remember. As Thoreau said
of Emerson: there was a fire in your mind
burning cord after cord of wood,

the cord of What I Believe,
the cord of How We Come To Be,
the cord of The Future,
the cord of Everything Else.

Perhaps even now when women stand
in windows and doorways
and look across the city —
perhaps it's those flames they watch for.

When the black cars stop before them
and they bend to touch doors
lightly, the steel is hot.
It burns the hands of their children.

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Memory at 3 a.m.

The sun yet lurks in this night:
somewhere a bright fin will suddenly
rip through, light spill
like gifts from a black pinata.

In the dark, as I shut
my eyes, they'll build another world,
those unseen engineers — their own
bright eyes on mine as I reopen them,

wondering. At first it seems much
like the old one. But then
every bird folding its fingers
on the branch outside

becomes another dark idea.
Insomnia, old friend, took me in —
scooping me from bed
at three, dropping me into

a light-rimmed chair. And there
in silence I celebrated departures,
all these revelations and masks
dredged down from the day.

Leaf by leaf now in morning I enter
the still forests of our past.
Gnawing its way
into wood, the saw sings.

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Mornings, slim young mothers
watch me emerge
from my half a garage and must wonder
about this forty-year-old
unsmiling, unpublic man.

Evenings, with part of a newspaper
for a tablecloth, reading Voltaire
as I finish off last night's curry
and half a cucumber, I watch them
ransom their kids from daycare.

The lizard of inspiration flits suddenly
down the trunk of a tree
outside my window and plunges into sun
on the gravel path: what
will it make of all this?

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Three Women

Following dinner, they go
north, north-northwest, due west, each
her own way, allowing tigers,
serpents, to the rest of the world.

One returns to a dark, small man
who hovers
above her in the long afternoons
gently prying open doors
between her body and the sky.

One returns to solitary rooms, carries
every chair out into the courtyard
and sits among them. Moths flutter
into pale moonlight, onto her pale body,
begin to cover it.

You are the third woman,
of course, and I
wait, eager as moths, hovering here
at the edge of the sky.

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In Mexico you wait for your country
to reclaim you. Under this strange sky
harboring its own revolution
you begin to understand that your life's
become history. But the fire in your mind
looks ahead, as ever. Soon the axe
will fall, pulling along the hand
that holds it, spilling that fire.


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