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December 2018





George Amabile





to J. Michael Yates


What was all that

organized chaos but an intelligent

storm, words, marching down the page

like a biological imperative, and the bright

mischief, the challenge when you pushed

buttons, edges, grammar, thought,

your mind a keen wind, brisk

but not blustery, from the north, all day. 


We talked away the small hours,

our voices raiding and sacking

their own registers on the frontiers

of exhaustion, but as the sun came up

we walked out into the city, refreshed

as though we had dreamt and slept.


I watch a cloud-smothered ghost

of the sun inch down toward the edge of the lake

through a snowfall that will disappear

like the blizzard of syllables we thought

might change the world, that momentary

silver we take with us

into the mountains, into the starry night. 




News of the World


There are stories

that come to us wrapped

in the mist of rivers, rumours

of lost cities, valleys

teeming with gold

birds, or deep in the rain

forest a tribe that can read

the minds of animals. 


Is there really a creature

known only because we have seen

its long shadow, who swims

without stopping, for hundreds of years,

all the way to the sea, through the sea

and back, its movement remote

controlled by the pull of invisible

stars?  Someone

who ought to know tells me

this river I can watch

from my back-yard meanders

North, away from the cities,

for hundreds of miles and empties

into an Ocean that is mostly

ice, where the Earth’s magnetic

field guides the spirits

of water as they rise, weaving

sails of light in the midnight sky. 




After Sappho (Fragment 21)                                             


the one with violets in her lap

waits quietly for the Rites

of Summer to begin, for that moment

when she’ll braid all her flowers

into the brushed manes of the horses

and ride with her acolytes

across the river, through tall pines

and down to the clearing

where there will be flutes and cymbals,

dances and fires all through the night,

where she will raise her arms,

slip off her tunic and adorn the white

bull with a green wreathe

before the silver blade spills

the mystery of his leaping heart

into an alabaster cup she will raise

and empty before she sings, calling

wide wings down from the sky,

but now, in the westering sun, she waits,

by the water, with violets in her lap.


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