Let the Railsplitter Awake
of the Colorado
a place I love.
all that lives
I've been, what I am, what sustains me.
the savage air
its thousand hands
the high red rocks:
scarlet rose from the abyss
them to copper, strength, fire.
spread like a buffalo skin
the clear & aery galloping night
the star-spread heights,
drink your cup of green dew.
Yes! thru bitter Arizona, gnarled Wisconsin
Milwaukee raised against wind & snow,
the flaming marshes of West Palm,
the pines of Tacoma,
the dense steel smell of your forests
wandered the earth, among
leaves, cascading stones,
trembling with music,
like monasteries full of prayers,
apples, earth & water,
silence of growing wheat.
There, deep in the stone, I could
stretch eyes, ears, hands
to the air,
trains, snow, battles,
tombs, gardens, footsteps,
moon over the ship near Manhattan,
song of the weaving machine,
iron spoon eating the earth,
drill that hammers like a condor
that cutting, pressing, running, stitching:
lashed to wheels of birth and death.
love the farmer's little house.
New mothers sleep
aromas like the tamarind's, like clothes
a thousand homes & onions hang & dry.
men sing near the river
voices are rough, like riverbottom stones:
tobacco rose in its wide leaves
& like a fire spirit
filled these houses).
deeper, into Missouri, see the cheese & flour,
odorous planks, red as violins,
man navigating thru the barley,
newly mounted blue colt
sniffs & smells bread & alfalfa:
bells, poppies, blacksmith shops
in the rustic ramshackle theaters
shows its mouth full of teeth
the earthborn dream.
we love is your peace, not your personae.
warrior face shows no brotherly love.
are sisterly, spacious, North America
come from a humble cradle, like a washerwoman
your rivers, in white.
sweetness is honeyed peace.
love your man, his hands red
Oregon clay, your black boy
brought you music
the ivory coast: we
machines, your Western
from hive & town,
giant boy on his tractor,
oats you inherited
Jefferson, the rumbling wheel
measures your terrestrial ocean,
smoke, the thousandth
of a new colony:
love your worker's blood,
popular hand, full of oil.
the prairie night, time
over the buffalo skin in a grave
syllables, the song
what I was before birth, what we all were.
is a sea firhis branches
into a keel, one arm
timber & ship.
grain, Poet in his dark
wounds of our own absence,
more recently, Lockridge, all in the depths,
how many others in darkness;
these the same western dawn burns
from them we make what we are.
infantry, blind captains
in action, among leaves,
by joy & grief
the plains crossed by traffic
many unvisited dead in the flatlands:
innocents, prophets published recently,
the buffalo skin of the prairie.
France & Okinawa, from the atolls
Leyte (Norman Mailer has told this story),
the furious air, from the waves,
all the boys have come back.
all . . . the history of mud & sweat
green & bitter; none heard
song of the reefs well enough,
touched, except in death,
earth, bright fragrant crown of the islands:
them, grease & rats
desolate, exhausted heart fought on.
they've come back
you've received them
the wide open lands
those who've come back have closed up
a corolla of numberless anonymous petals,
be reborn & to forget.
Translated by David Cope