Readings in Contemporary Poetry

Sophie Cabot Black


Into your hands they hammered the idea
You would lose something if you turned back. No longer
Safe to want salvation, so close to dawn

And its impatience for everything
All of a sudden. It's not the loneliness
But the disappointed path back

Explaining. And if we ask too many questions
One of us will wander off, the careful language
Of hope, of revision, dissolving

Until it becomes the simple sound
Of feet moving over ground. I go over this part
Again. The place we learned

To slip in with the damp faith
Of bartenders, hoarding white lilies
And powders; the place my trembling mouth

Leaned into a mirror and prayed for fame;
The place where out of spent pastures comes
A muddy and expensive city; these places

Do not go away quietly or easily, perhaps
Will not even kill. How we come to hate
Our story and end up walking one

Behind the other, toward the hillside
And the ordinary eyes of horses where there are signs
They have been staring too long into the face

Of winter.

copyright 1994