Rivers and Mountains
from Rivers and Mountains (1966)
On the secret map the assassins Cloistered, the Moon River was marked Near the eighteen peaks and the city Of humiliation and defeat—wan ending Of the trail among dry, papery leaves, Gray-brown quills like thoughts In the melodious but vast mass of today’s Writing through fields and swamps Marked, on the map, with little bunches of weeds. Certainly squirrels lived in the woods But devastation and dull sleep still Hung over the land, quelled The rioters turned out of sleep in the peace of prisons Singing on marble factory walls Deaf consolation of minor tunes that pack The air with heavy invisible rods Pent in some sand valley from Which only quiet walking ever instructs. The bird flew over and Sat—there was nothing else to do. Do not mistake its silence for pride or strength Or the waterfall for a harbor Full of light boats that is there Performing for thousands of people In clothes some with places to go Or games. Sometimes over the pillar Of square stones its impact Makes a light print. So going around cities To get to other places you found It all on paper but the land Was made of paper processed To look like ferns, mud or other Whose sea unrolled its magic Distances and then rolled them up Its secret was only a pocket After all but some corners are darker Than these moonless nights spent as on a raft In the seclusion of a melody heard As though through trees And you can never ignite their touch Long but there were homes Flung far out near the asperities Of a sharp, rocky pinnacle And other collective places Shadows of vineyards whose wine Tasted of the forest floor Fisheries and oyster beds Tides under the pole Seminaries of instruction, public Places for electric light And the major tax assessment area Wrinkled on the plan Of election to the public office Sixty-two years old bath and breakfast The formal traffic, shadows zTo make it not worth joining After the ox had pulled away the cart. Your plan was to separate the enemy into two groups With the razor-edged mountains between. It worked well on paper But their camp had grown To be the mountains and the map Carefully peeled away and not torn Was the light, a tender but tough bark On everything. Fortunately the war was solved In another way by isolating the two sections Of the evemy’s navy so that the mainland Warded away the big floating ships. Light bounced off the ends Of the small gray waves to tell Them in the observatory About the great drama that was being won To turn off the machinery And quietly move among the rustic landscape Scooping snow off the mountains rinsing The coarser ones that love had Slowly risen in the night to overflow Wetting pillow and petal Determined to place the letter On the unassassinated president’s desk So that a stamp could reproduce all this In detail, down to the last autumn leaf And the affliction of June ride Slowly out into the sun-blackened landscape.