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"It is necessary to study the words you have written, for the words
have a longer history than you have and say more than you know."

                                                George Oppen, from his daybook


Man on train:  You have to plan for success,

but be prepared for failure; with all the assurance

of his squint-eyed beefy-armed years.  Compressed

in the next seat, splay-kneed, in cuffed brown pants—

an equally-crumpled friend, throat guimped in tie ...

What has happened to us humans here?  and how?  and why?

The wife awaits—is she glad, and does she kiss

the meaty face—and does she love the crooked

eye; and do the giant arms enfold—her weariness—

remembering how longingly they 'd looked—?

You who say that joy can no one flood or melt

for long, adamantly I will argue down;

flailing out as if I knew, as if I had already felt

twenty, thirty years of love growing, grown—

and writing words—write!—as if to show

a history I haven't had, of things I cannot know ....


Kate Light



From The Laws of Falling Bodies, Story Line Press, © 1997,
co-winner of the 1997 Nicholas Roerich Prize.  Reprinted by
permission of the author.

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