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George Hitchcock

Afternoon in the Canyon

The river sings in its alcoves of stone.
I cross its milky water on an old log—
beneath me waterskaters
dance in the mesh of roots.
Tatters of spume cling
to the bare twigs of willows.

*

The wind goes down.
Bluejays scream in the pines.
The drunken sun enters a dark mountainside,
its hair full of butterflies.
Old men gutting trout
huddle about a smokey fire.

*

I must fill my pockets with bright stones.

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Poem for Jean Varda

I apostrophize

panoplies & processions
caryatids with their sad hearts
& breasts of porphyry
all impossible carmines & ochres
nightingales in robes woven
of gelatin
agile prayers which dance in
the eyes of needles
flutes, elopements
the limbs of gazelles on lurid voyages

glass ladders, flagons, the riotous
disorder of stamens
nude pianos
flowers which walk on streams
bright hair
the wounds of alphabets

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Dawn

Clouds rise from their nests
with flapping wings, they whisper
of worn leather, bracken, long
horizons, and the manes of dark
horses. In the waking stream
the stones lie like chestnuts
in a glass bowl. I pass the bones
of an old harrow thrown on its side
in the ditch.

Now the sun appears.
It is a fish wrapped in straw.
Its scales fall on the sleeping
town with its eyeless graineries
and necklace of boxcars. Soon
the blue wind will flatten the roads
with a metallic palm, the glitter
of granite will blind the eyes.

But not yet. The beetle still

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The one whose Reproach I Cannot Evade

She sits in her glass garden
and awaits the guests -
The sailor with the blue tangerines
the fish clothed in languages
the dolphin with a revolver in its teeth.

Dusk enters from stage left:
its voice falls like dew on the arbor.
Tiny bells
sway in the catalpa tree.

What is it she hopes to catch in her net
of love? Petals? Conch-shells?
The night-moth? She does not speak.
Tonight, I tell her, no one comes;
you wait in vain.

Yet at eight precisely
the moon opens its theatric doors,
an arm rises from the fountain,

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Scattering Flowers

It is our best and prayerful judgment that they (air attacks) are a necessary part of the surest road to peace.
Lyndon B. Johnson

There is a dark tolling in the air,
an unbearable needle in the vein,
the horizon flaked with feathers of rust.
From the caves of drugged flowers
fireflies rise through the night:
they bear the sweet gospel of napalm.

Democracies of flame are declared
in the villages, the rice-fields
seethe with blistered reeds.
Children stand somnolent on their crutches.
Freedom, a dancing girl,
lifts her petticoats of gasoline,
and on the hot sands of the deserted beach
a wild horse struggles, choking
in the noose of diplomacy.

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