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Palouse.

 Banking out of cloud bank--light, the upflung
 startlingly bright onslaught, staggering
 shock of verge, rush and roar, aloft, aloft
 the veering whir teetering keeled off brink--
 Then, as sudden, an empty buoyant calm,
 low cool draft whalelike and breathing again,
 undulating miles of fields gently
 deepening one another-- A March green
 quiet, spring on spring, early hum, turning,
 sprawling over grasses of winter wheat--
 Of hue, a thing, yes and what a thing says
 of a body racked and loved, of voice,
 both borne-- We tinker among, as verdant
 as swaths pouring a skin shifting and thin
 an eye barely holds its marvel-- Too much
,
 too much
 says grouch spit, says iron scorn,
 and yet we mourn the not giving over,
 even as color becomes sky, the sky
 chromatic enough, and offer a song
 lit and wavering as anything new
 and clumsy as joy breaching the grief years.
 Friend, one way to say this: I am happy
 to see you
, another: Sorry about
 your mother
--though death is not about
,
 muddles with us as we fall out of clouds
 or enter the rooms of the dying, hands
 in pockets, half-expecting to fashion
 a thing, make by unmaking, undo
 the simple veil the practiced mask lifts
 and the dark beneath becomes surface-- Thus
 a song, as when you say Good Morning, Ma
 and she says Ah Pinocchio
, staring
 out a window, though there's no way to tell
 if she's cracking a joke or if Jim Dine
 left one dismembered outside a foundry
 absurd like a patient oddly earnest
 waiting to be welded. Hapless, Morning
 you try again, as if trying could change
 a thing. And this is how the gods know us,
 our mouths agape, salt taking salt, singing.
 Field songs of theft or stories the shape
 of theft: a girl whose body turns commerce
 because she gave her word to the grass,
 because she could not have done otherwise:
 a boy whose body became an offer
 because the ocean would not be appeased:
 the nerve-frayed hands of workers heading in
 and out of trailers, sickly boxes
 metal flecks scattered over the Palouse:
 because even the word is dispossessed--
 as origin, as swarm and cloud, the air
 quivers into and through, of and toward,
 ours its somehow here somehow beneath
 the ascribed, beneath combine and bale,
 yoke and hoofmark, beneath slope mound hollow,
 beneath bunch june fescue, dark yards of silt-
 lined basalt outwash wind-blown wind-crafted
 augured in the blank bowl stillness of now--
 Breath before breath, body within body,
 ovarian all now a killing field.
 Still time for cocktails, your dying mother's
 poor jokes--have you heard the one about X--
 clutch of figs and cheese, some vague parts of duck,
 an oaky white with a humdrum finish,
 time to while away an hour in a book
 about how to see what not to breathe,
 dozing off, a head resting down dreamless
 against another, let it take you in
 and not worry what plague, what coming dark
 slowly fills the body like a black bath.
 Unto water--among dead, wading, bent
 close and kneeling so that our faces rise
 mirroring back their own, so that held
 we hold too the children they once were,
 that ours are arms of boys we used to be--
 Unto water, unto grass, fold on fold
 we lay down in their dying, they kiss us
 with our words and we curse back with theirs
 and see in their still-open eyes our heads
 slathered astonished shimmering. Heavy
 heavy this quarry sack of all we have,
 heavy heavy this disease of forgetting,
 heavy accrual, the plaquing rivers
 that leave us chalk-white, wandering blighted
 unreturned ankle-deep in the shallows--
 Heaving we lug our flooded selves toward
 flickering surface quickening wick oiled
 cetaceous flaring into flame, falling
 ancient, true as tumor as harvest blade
 burning us away after some other
 when we wheel strung in this deluge
 gut-raw singing beyond wow, beyond cure,
 beyond scape and scree of what we want
 or grieve, toward no distance, no kind,
 the bright hour when wind does not act,
 aubade and elegy commune collapse,
 where the grass sounds and rises to meet us
 where we flour our bodies in its ash
 and listening down say it is as fire
 it is, it is
 as a green quiet forms. 


JAMES HOCH is the author of Miscreants (W.W. Norton, 2007) and A Parade of Hands (Silverfish Review Press, 2003).
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Author:Hoch, James
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Nov 1, 2011
Words:799
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