Time period: 1966-1972

Poet: Paul Muldoon

Permanent URL: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/17m9m

Sources: James Simmons papers, 1945-1996 ; Frank Ormsby papers, circa 1967-2012 ; Paul Muldoon papers, 1939-2016 ; Ciaran Carson papers, circa 1970-2010

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This is not the nest

That has been pulling itself together

In the hedge's intestine.

It is the cup of a boy's hands,

Whereby something is lost

More than the necessary heat gone forever

And death only after beginning.

There is more to this pale blue flint

In this careful fist

Than a bird's nest having been discovered

And a bird not sitting again.

This is the start of the underhand,

The way that he has crossed

These four or five delicate fields of clover

To hunker by this crooked railing.

This is the breathless and the intent

Puncturing of the waste

And isolate egg and this the clean delivery

Of yolk out of the taut skin.

These his wrists, surprised and stained.

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I believed in those plains

Without grass or sky,

A levelled silence

Broken only by the credible woods,

Then the first soft thud

Of a horse by radio,

And already I could sense

This horse would carry

Not only the plans

Of that one's plot or counterplot

But your realer secrets.

Your intending to go

In your own hand or evidence

To prove you another spy

Infiltrating my lines.

If only you were as easily waylaid,

Predictable in your road,

As a horse by radio,

Its tittering in one distance

That clatters, thunders by,

Then thins and thins.

I believed in your riding all night

Lathered by your tour own sweat,

Your dressing as boys

Keeping in their shirts or jeans

Messages for my eyes only,

Whose latest are canc-

Elled to a word, that lost in codes,

Telling of their being delayed

By horses' thrown shoes.

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Taking, giving back their lives

By the strength of our bare hands,

By the silence of our knives,

We answer to no grey South

Nor blue North, not self-defence,

The lie of just wars, neither

Cold nor hot blood's difference

In their discharging of guns,

But that hillside of fresh graves.

Would this girl brought to our tents

From whose flesh we have removed

Shot that George, on his day-off,

Will use to weight fishing-lines,

Who died screaming for ether,

Yet protest our innocence?

George lit the lanterns, in danced

Those gigantic, yellow moths

That brushed right over her wounds,

Pinning themselves to our sleeves

Like medals given the brave.

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'Within forty-eight hours Washkansky was speaking;

within seventy-two he was eating scrambled eggs.'

An eye for an eye,

Tooth for a tooth, people are

Different in sames,

We will always have

Our pounds of flesh. Yet we are

Good at heart, there are

Things we consider

Black and white and right and wrong.

On a small kibbutz

There is much we hold

In common, our five-legged calves

And our blood-oranges,

Our hens eating their own eggs.

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Has it been only two years

Since the river went on fire?

Last year your father's heart wob-

Bled while he was dusting crops,

Too heavy for his light plane.

Was it three years ago, then,

The year I shot the wild duck

And we took her clutch of eggs,

Carefully, to our own bed?

They hatched out under our hear,

Their first passions being earth

And water, the sky that curved

Far over the huddling barns.

We taught the fields of kept corn

Good for both bread and porridge,

And as they were then of age,

The rightness of wearing clothes.

We hooked up their rubber shoes

For that sad day they waddled

Back into their rightful wild,

The heaven of river banks.

They had learned to speak our tongue,

Knew it was all for the best.

Was that not the year you lost

Another child, the oil slick

Again bloodied our own creek,

All innocents were set free,

Your father had learned to fly?

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He thanked his parents for keeping still

And left them sleeping, deaf and blind

After their heavy meal,

Then stole away where the moon was full

And the dogs gave no sound

He thanked the dogs for keeping still

And ran along the tops of the dark hills

That heaped like the sleeping anaconda

After its heavy meal,

To the bright square in the highest coil

That was the lady's window.

She thanked her parents for keeping still

And they ran together over a further hill

Like the lady's belly so hard and round

After its heavy meal,

Till they stood at the top of the waterfall,

Its deep pool where they drowned.

Let us thank waters for not keeping still

After their heavy meal.

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The girl alone in the wood's

Corner had just then filled her

Glass with tomato and crushed

Ice. She wore a man's shrunk head

Slung over either shoulder,

A child's head hung at her waist.

He would have raped and killed her

Had this happened in the past,

Not yet telling wrong wring from right.

Since the world had grown older

He approached and introduced

Himself as some more to eat,

Thinking still that wars were lost

Or won by hand-to-hand fights.

Though he had just then called her

Beautiful, they had just kissed,

She paused to bring back her dead

And his thin red line faltered.

The last war's end should have taught

The weakness of bright soldiers,

Those mushrooms at thigh and breast

Told of threat and counterthreat,

Yet they plunged helter-skelter

Through a young wood and laid waste

A cornfield. Then, this welter

Of steel and glass where they crashed

Through this heavy iron gate.

Their bodies are still smoulder-

Ing, they are like those old ghosts

Who skid past graveyards. Their heads,

Lifted clean off by the blast,

Lying here in the back seat

Like something dirty, hold our

Sadness in their eyes, who wished

For the explosion's heart, not

Pain's edge where we take shelter.

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