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Anthony Evan Hecht

Paradise Lost Book 5: An Epitome

Higgledy piggeldy
Archangel Rafael,
Speaking of Satan's re-
Bellion from God:

"Chap was decidedly
Turgiversational,
Given to lewdness and
Rodomontade."

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Death The Mexican Revolutionary

Wines of the great châteaux
Have been uncorked for you;
Come, take this terrace chair:
Examine the menu.
The view from here is such
As cannot find a match,
For even as you dine
You’re so placed as to watch
Starvation in our streets
That gives your canapé
A more exquisite taste
By contrast, like the play
Of shadow and of light.
The misery of the poor
Appears, as on TV,
Set off by the allure
And glamour of the ads.
We recommend the quail,
Which you’d do well to eat
Before your powers fail,

[...] Read more

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Witness

Against the enormous rocks of a rough coast
The ocean rams itself in pitched assault
And spastic rage to which there is no halt;
Foam-white brigades collapse; but the huge host

Has infinite reserves; at each attack
The impassive cliffs look down in gray disdain
At scenes of sacrifice, unrelieved pain,
Figured in froth, aquamarine and black.

Something in the blood-chemistry of life,
Unspeakable, impressive, undeterred,
Expresses itself without needing a word
In this sea-crazed Empedoclean Strife.

It is a scene of unmatched melancholy,
Weather of misery, cloud cover of distress,
To which there are not witnesses, unless
One counts the briny, tough and thorned sea holly.

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Lot's Wife

How simple the pleasures of those childhood days,
Simple but filled with exquisite satisfactions.
The iridescent labyrinth of the spider,
Its tethered tensor nest of polygons
Puffed by the breeze to a little bellying sail --
Merely observing this gave infinite pleasure.
The sound of rain. The gentle graphite veil
Of rain that makes of the world a steel engraving,
Full of soft fadings and faint distances.
The self-congratulations of a fly,
Rubbing its hands. The brown bicameral brain
Of a walnut. The smell of wax. The feel
Of sugar to the tongue: a delicious sand.
One understands immediately how Proust
Might cherish all such postage-stamp details.
Who can resist the charms of retrospection?

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An Old Malediction

What well-heeled knuckle-head, straight from the unisex
Hairstylist and bathed in Russian Leather,
Dallies with you these late summer days, Pyrrha,
In your expensive sublet? For whom do you
Slip into something simple by, say, Gucci?
The more fool he who has mapped out for himself
The saline latitudes of incontinent grief.
Dazzled though he be, poor dope, by the golden looks
Your locks fetched up out of a bottle of Clairol,
He will know that the wind changes, the smooth sailing
Is done for, when the breakers wallop him broadside,
When he’s rudderless, dismasted, thoroughly swamped
In that mindless rip-tide that got the best of me
Once, when I ventured on your deeps, Piranha.


(FREELY FROM HORACE)

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Curriculum Vitae

As though it were reluctant to be day,
.......Morning deploys a scale
.......Of rarities in gray,
And winter settles down in its chain-mail,

Victorious over legions of gold and red.
......The smokey souls of stones,
......Blunt pencillings of lead,
Pare down the world to glintless monotones

Of graveyard weather, vapors of a fen
.......We reckon through our pores.
.......Save for the garbage men,
Our children are the first ones out of doors.

Book-bagged and padded out, at mouth and nose
.......They manufacture ghosts,
.......George Washington's and Poe's,
Banquo's, the Union and Confederate hosts',

[...] Read more

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Prospects

We have set out from here for the sublime
Pastures of summer shade and mountain stream;
I have no doubt we shall arrive on time.

Is all the green of that enameled prime
A snapshot recollection or a dream?
We have set out from here for the sublime

Without provisions, without one thin dime,
And yet, for all our clumsiness, I deem
It certain that we shall arrive on time.

No guidebook tells you if you'll have to climb
Or swim. However foolish we may seem,
We have set out from here for the sublime

And must get past the scene of an old crime
Before we falter and run out of steam,
Riddled by doubt that we'll arrive on time.

[...] Read more

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Peekaboo: Three Songs For The Nursery

The longer thou livest, the more fool thou.

I

Go hide! Go hide! But through the latticework
Of my upraised bone hands
I see athlete and statesman, priest and clerk
Step forth as deodands.


Risking more than they know of life and limb
In playing Peekaboo—
Whose happiest chances couldn’t be called “slim”—
I’ve tagged each: ICU

II

Cry; baby, cry!
You’ve got two reasons why.
The first is being born at all:

[...] Read more

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Sarabande On Attaining The Age Of Seventy-Seven

The harbingers are come. See, see their mark;
White is their colour; and behold my head.
-- George Herbert

Long gone the smoke-and-pepper childhood smell
Of the smoldering immolation of the year,
Leaf-strewn in scattered grandeur where it fell,
Golden and poxed with frost, tarnished and sere.

And I myself have whitened in the weathers
Of heaped-up Januaries as they bequeath
The annual rings and wrongs that wring my withers,
Sober my thoughts, and undermine my teeth.

The dramatis personae of our lives
Dwindle and wizen; familiar boyhood shames,
The tribulations one somehow survives,
Rise smokily from propitiatory flames

Of our forgetfulness until we find

[...] Read more

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Birdwatchers Of America

It’s all very well to dream of a dove that saves,
Picasso’s or the Pope’s,
The one that annually coos in Our Lady’s ear
Half the world’s hopes,
And the other one that shall cunningly engineer
The retirement of all businessmen to their graves,
And when this is brought about
Make us the loving brothers of every lout—


But in our part of the country a false dusk
Lingers for hours; it steams
From the soaked hay, wades in the cloudy woods,
Engendering other dreams.
Formless and soft beyond the fence it broods
Or rises as a faint and rotten musk
Out of a broken stalk.
There are some things of which we seldom talk;

[...] Read more

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