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The days are handed off like bright batons.


A runner stutters into dark, the night
ahead. Ahead, dawn tucked beneath her arm,


someone else begins to hammer
the pulsing slope of mount grief,


while, in her wake, another navigates
the barberry thicket of what might


have been achieved. Who she was or will be
keeps her company the far side of the track,


winded, lurching forward, looking back.

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let us not think of them as barbarians

you cannot write these things down
you cannot write them down
you cannot write them down
says the singer of praises.
the warm draft of summer
the burn of stone on bare feet
the blood of my rivers--
you cannot write this down
you cannot create calligraphies of pain
says the singer of sorrows.

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Insult to the Brain

The Poet Bids Adieu to His Poems You are, as we know, turtles.The male has his moment,and is indifferent.The female fusses about in the sand,and is gone.The hatchlings are fully formed,no metamorphosis, no second chance.For the crippled and the unlucky,under the shrieking gulls,the sea is an infinity.from Upside DownStrange times, my dear,the executioner's walked off the job.The judge commuted the sentence to whatever the prisoner chooses,which is - can you believe it? a marriage proposal to the prosecutor,promptly accepted.In distant Madagascar a dodo rose from the sand and sang,though so far as we know these birds never sang before.At home the news briefs were equally distressing,the generals in their big hats and uniforms, and the CEOs in theirsconcluded a suicide pact - after breakfast, of course.The cleaners found the note in the afternoon.Such regrets, it reads, such regrets. The Queen and her minister, oldand accustomed to hedging, preferred exile.The ship sailed off at midnight, a sickle-blade moonunhooked from the cranes on the docks and followed her out.The Wall Street boys checked themselves in to the loony bin,they're out there on the lawn now,rolling joints and giggling at the cloudsand the coloured bits they pulled from their phones ...

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Braille Rainbow

Excerpt from Braille Rainbow

“The Check-Out King”

He died in his mid-twenties
(typically, nobody seemed to know what of).
Got himself safely underground
before the rest of us had had our first cancer scare.
But he was always slipping past the lens,
way over at the cropped edge of the class picture
or dead in the centre in an egg of glare.
He might be at the vortex of a scrum or rumble
or flopped down in the field beyond the goal posts,
oblivious to calls to return, watching
(perhaps) an ant traverse a blade of grass.
In those days no work meant you failed.
“Have you finished, Earl?” the teacher
asked when his head sank onto his arms.
“No.” “Have you started?” “No.”
Everyone, even she, laughed. Everyone
except Earl. He rode out humour
the way a pine tree rides out rain.
A cipher makes a tricky victim:
he may become a black hole or a mirror.
Our bully picked him out only when
he’d run through everyone else repeatedly.
Earl didn’t confront, didn’t retreat.
He stood there and one punch knocked him flat.
He lay for a while with his face to the sky
(so long that some of us
looked up too—just blue and fluffy clouds)
and then he got up and walked away
toward wherever he lived, getting
small slowly, with every few steps
bringing a hand to his face and
flinging a ribbon of blood down at the dust.

“Bill Had”

Two deaf parents who taught him sign language
which he forgot after they died.
Next to mine, the best beat-up old denim jacket
in the crew.
Small hands for such a big man.
Thick dark hair, greenish-brown eyes, and one of the handsomest
faces I’ve seen outside of movies.
A talent for mimicry.
An irritating habit of taking things too far.
An endearing one of apologizing when he did.
Small learning and large curiosity.
A pretty short attention span.
An unshakeable belief that women ejaculated
when they came.
Many girlfriends.
Dozens of friends, including ex-girlfriends.
A part-time DJing job where he met many of his friends
and girlfriends and scored high-quality drugs.
Inoperable colon cancer at age 28.
A cop costume so good it almost got him beaten up
by Halloween partyers who had flushed their dope
until he shared out his own which was better.
A filthy apartment piled with pizza boxes.
A grin no one could resist.
Nimble feet, with which he performed amusing untrained
tap, soft shoe, and jig.
Zero ambition.
Occasional mean moods but no cruel bone in his body.
A Jimmy Cagney routine in which while singing “Yankee
Doodle Dandy” he ran at a wall and up it and back-
flipped off of it, landing on his feet,
which never should have worked because Cagney
was a shrimp and Bill was linebacker-sized
but I saw it, many times, from 1981 to 1985,
during the long afternoons when the galleries
were empty.

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