piyp day

piyp day
Poem In Your Pocket Day

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient tongue
has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not a language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses and birds.

Jack Gilbert


*************************

Z is for Zed at the End

After the 0 but before the over,
There’s hope. And then there is none.
There are simply the sheets
Which cover the waiting world. There are the seats
From which we watch. And hover.

At the wedding of now and be ever, someone makes note
That the Mickey Mouse clock on the mantel is stuck
And still. Someone else adds, “May there never be a snake.”
And another says, “And never a poison apple.”
Once we gave the apple and tree a story.

Once we let the snake speak. In a whisper, it said,
“Let no one fall.” And then laughed
Into its tail. And wasn’t it Eve who is said to have said, “Hello”?
And, “You’re right, this is quite tasty.”
All the while, on the opposite page, Ophelia

In her small lake. Ophelia, the water—
Edging her blue-tinged lips and bloated face—
The color of tin. The evening’s hair all laced with lily.
A hint of Madonna.
A face. A bed ready. A bed made.

Mary Jo Bang

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