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The Sequence of the Night.

 As the night emptied itself
 onto the heap of dead rabbits a farmer left on the steps of city
 to protest the new water law, one of the rabbits spoke my name,
 and it used your voice. It wasn't my name, exactly,
 more like the memory of my name but I knew it to be mine
 so entered it and hung my coat from a nail in its pantry
 and moved in the utter darkness of it without bumping the table
 or creaking the floor. And it wasn't your voice,
 but whatever it was took me to the cannery emptied of its
 the night emptying itself onto the dock like fish scales of
 as I watched the anchor of my name sink beneath the moon's
sour eye
 as I trailed behind it.
The night has awakened to find itself
 turned into an animal. The tears of the animal
 turn into buzzards, the sweat of the animal
 becomes a rotting bear, the blood of the animal
 is a warm breeze dragging the stench to our town.
I've found a good spot by the river.
 The trees line up along either bank
 and bend toward the center. I've been trying to get rid
 of that part of myself that I most despise, but need most
 to survive--it rises like wood smoke into the night.
 It's shaped like a brass key, and the hole it looks to enter
 can be seen through, revealing a banquet hall
 with one chair and countless silver trays
 piled with rags.
It's finally late enough
 that all sounds are the sounds of water.
 If you die tonight I'll wash your feet.
 I'll remove the batteries from the clocks.
 And the two moths that drown in the lakes
 of your eyes will manage the rest.
I've seen a group of farm kids
 hypnotize a rabbit by pinning it on its back
 then stroking its neck. This is what I think of
 when I see you in the night--not the trick,
 but the distress call we manage to send out
 while we are pinned to our stillness.
A pain is climbing into the night
 by means of the fog bank and the crooked sounds of the stockyard.
 I'm burning a signpost and some old barn planks.
 I've dug a trough in the ground the length of my body.
 When the fire goes down I'll bury the coals and sleep,
 and it will be like sleeping on a memory or on the memory
 of the future. In the morning I'll swim through the dream
 of the field grass, and VII greet the two boys
 peeling blistered yellow paint from a house tilting to the east,
 each one telling his version of the invention of loneliness
 and the creation of the world.
Out there, somewhere,
 you are a variable in the night's equation.
 I clean an ashtray with my sleeve, fill it with milk,
 and wait for an animal that doesn't exist
 to carry you back. I open a window and listen hard
 to the hands of smoke moving beneath the river,
 to the abandoned grain elevator dragging its chains
 through the tender blood of the night. I listen
 to the hush of your name as it's subtracted
 from one darkness then added to another.
 I remember you by what you are not. You
 are the opposite of a horse. Your hair is not the seven colors
 of cemetery grass. Your mouth is not a dead moon,
 nor is it the winter branches preparing their skeletons
 for the wind. A double thread of darkness
 winds through me and the course tongue of the night
 scrapes your name against the trees.
The night undresses
 in the night. Its clothes are strewn in the fields
 and over the houses-- they begin to pile high
 where a creek spills into the green gears
 of the lake. I'll pull this thread
 until whatever it holds together falls quiet as a gulch
 of black stars where some buzzards
 unwind the dead, placing each strand
 on a stretch of river rocks still warm to the touch.
 They are ranking the bones.
We sit around the kitchen table.
 I shuffle and you cut. We each take a card.
 Mine is a piano at the bottom of a lake.
 Yours is a frozen lake with a piano resting on the new ice.
 Then the night draws a card-- it's a black box
 so exquisite in its shine it must have been polished
 by the terrible little stars of human hands.
It's always night inside the whales,
 even when they heave themselves onto the shore, when they balloon
with gas,
 even when they death-hiss and wheeze, even when we dynamite them
 back into the night. It's night inside the peacocks
 whose cries are the handshakes of a secret order.
 It's inside the way we pass one another at the grocery
 the feed lot, the way we lower our wet ropes
 into each other. And it's in the way we tend to the little
 of our skulls, where the night swings its smoking chains
 and arranges its candles. The tractor, of course, is filled with
 It won't start until you summon the lampblack
 in the river of your blood, where the sturgeon are decimal points
 moving upstream zero by zero. 

MICHAEL MCGRIFF is the author of Dismantling the Hills (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008), winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize.
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Title Annotation:two poems
Author:McGriff, Michael
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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