What did you think the color of learning was,
if not mica and hornblende flashing in a long-settled gray?
You look for a plane along which it will cleave
to admit the self, but it is you who are divided
always between resolution and doubt,
having read A small amount of fissile material
was smuggled across, remembering certain islands
long ago, the windblown passages between,
wild thyme on the offshore breeze from Lemnos
or the white slash of a coral runway at Tinian.
You open a book to the stories of changing forms
and see the guts of a mole exploded on the lawn,
a red-tailed hawk balanced, nonchalant, on the railing,
and the day's light cut on such a deep bias,
one February afternoon, with a thousand starlings
aligned in the branches of the silver pendant linden,
that it seems the whole earth will tip into a chasm of dark.
You write A secret lapis, shedding ... then stop.
Into what? The iridescent chatter of those birds,
the shoulder of the wind, any horizontal thing.
Alone in the silence, you write ... into crystalline shells,
as the walls rise up around you with their faint glitter.
Karl Kirchwey is the author of six books of poems, most recently Mount Lebanon, and of a translation of Paul Verlaine's first book of poems, as Poems Under Saturn. Professor of the Arts and Director of the Creative Writing Program at Bryn Mawr College, he is serving as Andrew Heiskell Arts Director at the American Academy in Rome from 2010-13.
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