17 May 2007

James Baker Hall

[from James Baker Hall's The Total Light Process: New & Selected Poems, 2004]

During the Night

one of the seven sleepers
was taken by a slow, fluid elongation
of his features head first

through a hole in the wall
several feet above his pallet.

Like a forked tongue drawn back
into the maw. There was no
sound. This shows

that six men slept
through an entire night
in which their lives
were understood finally

as a dream. Toward dawn
the argument ensued

concerning the extent
to which his features
were distorted at the moment

of disappearance & the meaning
of that aspect of the event. This shows
that what lay inside the hole
was known to all.
They fully expected
to meet wickedness on the road
outside, shaped
as a man. They even believed

they would recognize him
as their lost friend
& with his wine sack
welcome him back.

This shows how the Mother draws,
up the flue of darkness.
What voice is this

trailing him like soot, wafting him
into the night like smoke?
In the circulation

of early light she appears
young. Having risen from a lover's sleep
she makes her way
with a clothes basket

to the river

Total Light Process: New & Selected Poems (Kentucky Voices)

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