Sunday, July 27, 2014

One Man at a Time by Tracy K. Smith


I take a man in my arms
And my eyes roll back,
Like a doll that needs
To be sat up. The world

Is dangerous. Look
What we do to one another,
As if nothing but having
Will sustain us. Not

The having, but the taking.
I want, I want. You,
Then me. The struggle
To give everything away.

Those times it’s not love
That resides there, is it,
But a lunatic colt,
Hoof to plank all night

Till the door gapes wide.
As though something
Deep in us must be tapped,
Rooted out. And so we try,

Slowly at first, like prowlers,
Until we arrive at certainty,
And that part of us quickens —
In panic? In joy? We fight back,

Eyes open, but blank, blind,
Choking on it, again and again,
Until it curls back
And we believe it is gone.

It’s the loneliest work there is.
We do it thinking it better
Than the loneliness even of war.
But  look at the wreckage.

There was one man I couldn’t resist.
He carried himself like the leader
Of a small  nation whose citizens
Whispered about his extravagant wife

And brewed their own beer
In basements hung with forbidden flags.
His hands were rough. Like the hands
Of a mechanic. When they touched me

I hummed and whirred like a radio
Tuned to disaster. When he bent down
To fasten his shoes, then kissed me
Quickly on his way back up,

Clarity settled in the room like dust
Or a layer of soot.

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