We row a boat across the head of a sunflower.
It takes a long time.
Neither of us can see anything but the sunflower and the sky.
You say Shall we stop for a while, I’m tired.
We lay the oars in the bottom of the boat.
We lay back and doze in the afternoon sun.
We feel the sunflower swaying gently under us.
You say We could just stay here, it’s so nice.
I say, Maybe we could, yes, maybe we could.
We drift in and out of sleep.
The sunflower’s stem is drying out.
Soon its petals will wither and drop.
THE LOST WOMAN
What was she, twenty? Twenty-four?
Not much more.
I know I won’t find her.
No one knows who she was
or where she’s gone.
She might have cut her hair or gone grey,
a few wrinkles around her eyes and mouth.
She was in practical clothes, I remember that much.
As if she worked in a factory or the fields
that stretched for miles.
Her hair was matted.
The bruises would have healed,
perhaps left a faint discolouration.
One eye swollen shut (the left, if you must know).
Maybe she was lost, maybe she knew where she was.
Walking away? Yes, I’d think so. Walking towards? Perhaps.
What did she know that I can’t?
Oh yes, a little later she was sitting by the road.
A blackened grass verge.
She held a rag to the side of her face.
(The left, if you must know.)
The swelling had spread across her forehead.
From somewhere she pulled a smile.
A front tooth was broken.
We survive our traumas for a while
as our ancestors survived theirs.
We inherit trauma and hand it down.
That is our gift to our sons and daughters,
to our grandchildren and theirs.
The woman will never stop walking.
THE SHOUTING ABECEDARIAN OF POETS
(‘Life is an index’ – Samuel Johnson, 1755)
Ashbery Paz Armantrout Kostelnatz
Brodsky Auden Bunting Creeley Notley
Celan Olds Pasternak Stevenson Fox
Darusalla Doty Dove Dunn Curnow
Eliot Enzensberger Levertov
Fletcher Stein Heaney Kinsey Condrescu
Greinke Gluck Carver Sodergran Mort
Hughes Tomlinson Szymborska Frost Winans
Ishkhan Inada Clark Szirtes Snyder
James James Kaminsky Bernheim Katz Al-Haq
Koch Kumin Kiser Wong Bly Smith Duchamp
Larkin Lifshin Blok Donaghy Corso
Mayer Mayakovsky MacNeice Olson
Neruda Morgan Morgan Mandelstam
O’Hara Sweeney Robinson Kriesel
Petch Pessoa Plath Milosz Nagra Beck
Quasimodo Ratushinskaya Hajj
Rich Rumens Tate Bukowski Sankichi
Schuyler Sexton Zagajewski Fanthorpe Finch
Tzara Forsstrom Tsvetayeva Ginsberg
Ungaretti Zabuzhko Ekelof
Voss Voznesensky Armitage Coolidge
Wakoski Waldman Williamson Pound
Xavier Zephaniah Stern Simic
Yevtushenko Ravikovitch Holub
Zufofsky France Zucker Akhmatova
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