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By Campbell McGrath
Even in the hour the knowledge
that our willful titanism cannot save us,
such prescient constructs no more
than ribbons time itself has braided
in our hair, courses of the river in flood
season after season rewritten while
the bedrock glistens unperturbed.
Even chiseled, hawsered, sawn into blocks,
stacked, girdered, engineered, blessed,
it is no more than a division of spoils,
partitions of a hive which may yet
be thrown down from its perch
and burned in coils of scented smoke,
moonfall bitten blue and amoral
across the marmoreal sky
of a descent beyond reckoning,
baubles, buried treasure, canopic jars,
lost process by which we shall know
no home but eternity, no balm
but sweet water in the shade of date palms,
a ringing of earthenware bells,
small foundries forging ingots of tin,
oil lamps along the water where boys
on donkeys proffer cinnamon and figs
beside that granary of the Pharaoh.
Because it lives here, within us, has burned
its fingertips into the fabric of stars
unspoiled from the spinnerets of time
the spider, time the jackal, the ass,
time the healer, the embalmer, the annealer,
the anointer, the vain and destructive,
the intransigent, the incorporeal, the just,
the praiseworthy, the bereaving and bereft—
always the same, witness and vanishing,
ransacked, laid bare, scoured, thirsty,
incorruptible and transformed and always
We cannot touch it, halt it, name it.
It sails past, wind upon the Nile,
rowed be whom and bound for what shore?
Poem available in Salmagundi No. 153-154.
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