Words of the Collector
For I was born to a high seat—
raised and daised above my cousins
and told it was my virtue
dropped me there, damp
and squalling baby that I was.
And from that seat I held forth
and fifth and first and last
in rolling periods and pat
the vantage of that height
overwhelmed me with vision.
Rich, enslaved, honored, decried—
all reeled before me, leapt
into my eyes like moles, the spies
who change the space they tunnel.
Then I fell silent.
All those sure sayings had rolled
from me like wind. Breath
of breaths, emptiness
from my vacuity,
all my certitude
Like ants, those humans toiling
in the dirt, wetting their furrows
with sweaty dew, thirsting
and wiping and drinking
to melt their salts anew. And what
did they get from it? What wage,
what prize, what elevation?
They got bread from me,
and beer, I who built each garden
they delved, I, the maker, I, the founder,
namer of trees, grafter of fruit,
I, creator of such worlds of pleasure!
I grew old on my seat, seeing
my people born and grow and spawn
and die, and born again, again,
again, racing time on a soil
that endured their insect lives.
They ate my bread.
I ate their lives.
And then I knew
I could not eat the might
and splendor I had grown—
and waves of heirs
would gnaw its coasts. Idlers
basking in the sun I made to shine.
And they, and I, and those
with empty mouths,
no matter what we’ve formed
or what we’ve known, down
in darkness go we all. I
and those insects.
and beggars, saints and knaves.
And still, circling,
the burning, melting circle
that’s the sun, mocking
top and bottom
in its rounds.
Masters err, enslaved err,
and all rewards
the same, rot in the end.
Digging pits to catch
marauders, we fall
to our own devices,
raid our lives.
Mortaring brick on brick
to form a wall, we’ve raised a blind
to veil all menace
from our eyes. Near, it waits.
Our own sweet words
can choke our lungs, corrode
our hopeful lips.
The prudent prince
who stocks his silver, wine
and might may find them seeping
from his stores—better
to feast the many, better
to put good bread upon the waves
than try to cache success.
Each row you furrow, each seed
flung out in hope, awaits
the clouds that may not come,
that may bring life or rushing
loss, or may pass by above the lips
you lick the cracks of, the soil
cracking underneath your feet.
And still, the sun is lovely,
breeze is sweet, the sky asmile,
though heartless. And thunder
rumbles symphonies from mounds
like shifting mountains. Though dust
blows, harrying pollen, still
gentle folds of earth accept my toes.
And as the clouds rush past, the days,
the seasons, harvests rich or lean,
the friends and strangers, robbers,
loves, the rumbling sage
and mouthing fool—they gleam
like pearls, like cherries, as I rush
and pass myself, though I would stay.
Who wants the prize
when the field is a garden? Who
stares at fleeing finish lines
beyond a flowery path?
Rushing, rushing. Like wind, like breath,
vapor of vapors, and each mist sweet.
A moment is a fruit to pause and taste.
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