Monday, September 14, 2009

Fred Marchant's "The Salt Stronger"

"The Salt Stronger" by Fred Marchant, from The Looking House

I have seen the legislators
on their way,
the jacketless men
in mid-winter who will cast
their votes like stones for this war.

Men who have to cross the street
through slush
and over gutter, their cuffs
now vaguely blued with a salt
that dries in dots where it splashes,

and mingles with the finely
woven cloth
of the chalk-stripe suits,
the soi-distant practical men,
you can see them now tiptoeing,

now leaping, balletic, windsor-knotted,
and shaved,
they pass, they pass
the window of the Capitol Deil

wherein I am writing to my friend
in Baghdad,
he a "witness for peace,"
a poet who for years has wondered
what good poetry is or has been or does.

I compose today's answer from here,
I think of poetry
as a salt dug from a foreign mine
that arrives like a miracle in Bostone

as pellets to break underfoot
and melt
the dangerous plated ice
and cling to the acknowledged lawmakers,
to stay with them in their dreams,

to eat at the cloth and reach down
to the skin
and beyond the calf
into the shin. I think the soul
is equivalent to bone, and that conscience

must hide in the marrow,
float in the rich fluids
and wander the honeycomb of the brain,
or even the heart is where

the words attach, where they land
and settle,
take root after the long
passage through the body's by-ways.
Just think
, I write, of how some poetry rolls

off the tongue, then try to see the tongue
in the case
that faces me, a curious,
thick extension of cow-flesh
fresh from a butcher's block.

I think that if my tongue alone could talk
it would swear
in any court that poetry
tastes like the iodine in blood,
or the copper in spit, and makes a salt stronger than tears.

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