Thom Ward


THE BODY IS MORE THAN ITS MALIGNANCY

       What if I just lie here and hold out my bowl
       where the world begins its moan and clatter?

       Wait, Iíll trade this place for a goatskin
       and set off fast on stiff red stilts! ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
             ó Anthony Piccione

and my desk is home to a wooden duck
a friend of mine, a friend of yours
carved years back. Though I donít hunt,
Iím not particularly fond of ducks.
And our friend, whoís good with pine and blade,
has never said heís fond of ducks, or if
on certain autumn nights, sitting at his kitchen
table in his house in the woods, he feels
a sudden urge to hunt. Thereís much I donít know
about pine and blades, men and ducks, the work
of exacting, unpredictable time. But I do know
heís dying faster than he thought, present
to each momentís uncharted edge. You say,
The O's in October have always been lonely
and the consonants are exhausted from hoisting
their arms. Our friend says, Every poem
will find its own abiding images and so itís best
to step aside, get out of the way. But what
is the abiding image for a man dying faster
than we thought? How do we step aside,
get out of the way? Tonight this wooden duck
will open its pine wings and fly over fields
and woods, drumlins and creeks,
through each of the O's in October.
Astonished by such flight, weíll attempt
to find solace in whatís lonely and exhausted,
in what the imagination unveils
as I dreamt up my desk and this wooden duck
carved by our friend, dreamt he was good
with pine and blade, though not the work
of exacting, unpredictable time. That I did not
dream up, nor the man dying faster
than we thought, each momentís
uncharted edge. Once, near the end of class,
he announced, to no one in particular,
Surely you donít think youíll get through
this life without the burden of weeping.
And though they had little relevance
to the chapter under discussion, to narrative
and plot, sentence rhythm, point of view,
those words, it seemed, were sleek and generous,
hard to step aside from, get out of the way. Now
so many Octobers later, the branches gnarled
with new exhaustion and the old loneliness,
I wonder if itís wrong to imagine all the things
this poem imagines, things that cannot slow
his dying, abate our grief. Unless, of course,
the act helps us remember his challenge
to name and forget, to trust some portion
of silence so that we might also lie down
where the world begins its moan and clatter,
and while baffling about a quirky faith, pick up
our necessary burden and set off fast on stiff red stilts.

Previously published in Pleiades




Date of Birth: May 25, 1963
Location: Palmyra, New York
Occupation: Editor / Development Director at BOA Editions / Teach poetry workshops in elementary and high schools and the Writers & Books Literary Center
Email: wardboa@frontiernet.net
Books: Small Boat with Oars of Different Size (Carnegie Mellon Univ. Press), Tumblekid (Univ. of South Carolina-Aiken), Various Orbits (Carnegie Mellon, forthcoming April, 2003)







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