The Woman At The Washington Zoo

The saris go by me from the embassies.

Cloth from the moon. Cloth from another planet.
They look back at the leopard like the leopard.

And I. . . .
this print of mine, that has kept its color
Alive through so many cleanings; this dull null
Navy I wear to work, and wear from work, and so
To my bed, so to my grave, with no
Complaints, no comment: neither from my chief,
The Deputy Chief Assistant, nor his chief--
Only I complain. . . . this serviceable


The Window

She looks out in the blue morning
and sees a whole wonderful world
she looks out in the morning
and sees a whole world

she leans out of the window
and this is what she sees
a wet rose singing to the sun
with a chorus of red bees

she leans out of the window
and laughs for the window is high
she is in it like a bird on a perch
and they scoop the blue sky

she and the window scooping
the morning as if it were air
scooping a green wave of leaves
above a stone stair


The Trenches

Endless lanes sunken in the clay,
Bays, and traverses, fringed with wasted herbage,
Seed-pods of blue scabious, and some lingering blooms;
And the sky, seen as from a well,
Brilliant with frosty stars.
We stumble, cursing, on the slippery duck-boards.
Goaded like the damned by some invisible wrath,
A will stronger than weariness, stronger than animal fear,
Implacable and monotonous.

Here a shaft, slanting, and below
A dusty and flickering light from one feeble candle


The Sphinx

In a dim corner of my room for longer than
my fancy thinks
A beautiful and silent Sphinx has watched me
through the shifting gloom.

Inviolate and immobile she does not rise she
does not stir
For silver moons are naught to her and naught
to her the suns that reel.

Red follows grey across the air, the waves of
moonlight ebb and flow
But with the Dawn she does not go and in the
night-time she is there.

Dawn follows Dawn and Nights grow old and
all the while this curious cat


The Speed Of Light

So gradual in those summers was the going
of the age it seemed that the long days setting out
when the stars faded over the mountains were not
leaving us even as the birds woke in full song and the dew
glittered in the webs it appeared then that the clear morning
opening into the sky was something of ours
to have and keep and that the brightness we could not touch
and the air we could not hold had come to be there all the time
for us and would never be gone and that the axle


The Sleepout

Childhood sleeps in a verandah room
in an iron bed close to the wall
where the winter over the railing
swelled the blind on its timber boom

and splinters picked lint off warm linen
and the stars were out over the hill;
then one wall of the room was forest
and all things in there were to come.

Breathings climbed up on the verandah
when dark cattle rubbed at the corner
and sometimes dim towering rain stood
for forest, and the dry cave hunched woollen.

Inside the forest was lamplit


The Shadow of God

To Mohács
in the marshlands, still in the pouring rain,
August 29th, 1526, where those summoned
and hastily gathered died in thousands
in the space of a moment the chronicler
scribbles, in the safety of distance,
cruel panthers in a moment to hell's pit.
That day the guns chained wheel to wheel,
smoke and the cries of men and horses,
the knights shot from their saddles, armour
dragging them into the mire, the hooves
stamping them in, the infantry butchered,
in the space of a moment the swift


The Scapegoat

We have all of us read how the Israelites fled
From Egypt with Pharaoh in eager pursuit of 'em,
And Pharaoh's fierce troop were all put "in the soup"
When the waters rolled softly o'er every galoot of 'em.
The Jews were so glad when old Pharaoh was "had"
That they sounded their timbrels and capered like mad.
You see he was hated from Jordan to Cairo --
Whence comes the expression "to buck against faro".
For forty long years, 'midst perils and fears
In deserts with never a famine to follow by,


The Rebel Surprise Near Tamai

'Twas on the 22nd of March, in the year 1885,
That the Arabs rushed like a mountain torrent in full drive,
And quickly attacked General M'Neill's transport-zereba,
But in a short time they were forced to withdraw.

And in the suddenness of surprise the men were carried away,
Also camels, mules, and horses were thrown into wild disarray,
By thousands of the Arabs that in ambush lay,
But our brave British heroes held the enemy at bay.

There was a multitude of camels heaped upon one another,


The Rat Of Faith

A blue jay poses on a stake
meant to support an apple tree
newly planted. A strong wind
on this clear cold morning
barely ruffles his tail feathers.
When he turns his attention
toward me, I face his eyes
without blinking. A week ago
my wife called me to come see
this same bird chase a rat
into the thick leaves
of an orange tree. We came as
close as we could and watched
the rat dig his way into an orange,
claws working meticulously.
Then he feasted, face deep


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