THE FIRST DAY OF A SEARCH
We hunted a boy lost on the frozen lake.
While sunlight flattened and turned blue,
Marshgrass in rattling tussocks nosed the ice
Like giant muskrats whickering in their fur.
Numb in the wind and slipshod, we crossed over
Inlets and narrows, skirted the open flaws
Where water, heaving, slid beside and below
A thin crust perched, like weather, on its back.
Cautious and slow at first, we carried boards,
Ladders and carpets like our own islands
To the crackling edges and lay down on them
As though we'd come to sleep till the spring thaws;
But the cold rose up and tightened at our brows,
And when we walked again, parting at random,
Each held his life more carelessly in his hands,
Seeing the hard clouds blacken and spill forward.
Nothing for miles was taller than a boy.
This is the ice, we said, and there's the world.
To break through one is not to find the other.
He would have leaped aside, we said. But wept.
By snow like wavecrests in the reeds, we stopped
And, cupping our ears, heard only our own breath
Drifting from mouth to forehead where it curled
And closed above us like the shrivelling day.
All night, we called aloud. What answered was
Ice, or the darkness dreaming its own echoes,
Or landlocked water ageing below our feet.
One aimed a flashlight at the sky, and the flakes fell
To the cone's unwavering tip like a whirlpool.
Another fired a flare; it burst and shot
Petals and starfish down to dazzle us,
And we were white on both shores of our eyes.
Before an ugly dawn, one fell to his knees,
Clumsy with love and stupor, watching his light
Skid to the water and go splashing downward.
Staring through suddenly translucent ice,
He saw his own shape frozen under glass
With snails and ribbonweed in a solid garden
And, from his thrusting palms, - the light flashed out -
Saw cracks like lightning break across his face.
THE FAMINE OF REASON
Though language glitter when we eat,
Like knives and forks, and all our wares -
Cut-flowers and gossip, gilded chairs,
The mannerly hoisting of our meat -
Confuse for a time our deeper wars;
Though posture stiffen our belief
That what surrounds us is ourselves,
And lip-stained gloves and napkins come
Between us and the taste of grief,
O love, once turning face to face
Past these embellishments of grace,
We shall become our ancestors:
Like them, dependent for our lives
Upon the corners of our mouths,
On that frank matter in the eye
That utters friend or enemy,
Like two beasts meeting in a tree