Steel Guitars

The world is announced by the smell of oregano and sage
in rocky places high up, with the white doves higher still
in the blue sky. Or the faint voices of women and girls
in the olive trees below, and a lustrous sea beneath that.
Like thoughts of lingerie while reading Paradise Lost
in Alabama. Or the boy in Pittsburgh that only summer
he was nine, prowling near the rusty railroad yard
where they put up vast tents and a man lifted anvils
with chains through his nipples. The boy listened
for the sound that made him shiver as he ran hard
across the new sawdust to see the two women again
on a platform above his head, indolent and almost naked
in the simple daylight. Reality stretched thin
as he watched their painted eyes brooding on what
they contained. He vaguely understood that it was not
their flesh that was a mystery but something on the other
side of it. Now the man remembering the boy knows
there is a door. We go through and hear a sound
like buildings burning, like the sound of a stone hitting
a stone in the dark. The heart in its plenty hammered
by rain and need, by the weight of what momentarily is.

Jack Gilbert

from The Great Fires

(NB the room in Kinnell just below, and Yeats hammered gold)


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