Robert Hill Long The 2River View, 6.2 (Winter 2002)

Where Deliverance Comes From

I will lift up my eyes to the oaks where a thousand
starlings bitch and jubilate and connive. And down
to the boulevard fragrant with two-ton metal predators.
Racing each other’s dioxide stink. Digesting each human
in their idiot stomachs. And I will say: Why me?

Why again? As though the oaks would lean down
and hand me the answer etched in tannic acid.
As though the ground should raise its grass dress
to show me what I’m made of. So I will be grateful
for being a witness: a pile of dirt with eyes. A stunned blink.

And a mouth, such a mouth. Lips that once were fat
kiss-pillows, now thinning, hardening. Throat
that was full of the hum and lull and wail of Hendrix
now dry with gloat and derision. A faucet whose water
is red with rust. Why shouldn’t I want to look away?

The world waits for us with its maw open. We flee in herds,
armored against it, along boulevards. And from what?
Back where we switched on the escape ignition
there’s a yard where a girl makes a dandelion tiara.
Where a boy lies down and sings to ants.

Everywhere we go abandons them. And drives us
faster toward the mouth that will shell,
crack, and swallow us in heart-sized morsels.
Look past the singing oaks and shaved hills.
That huge yellow mane, see? Those long yellow teeth.

No choice, then, but to shrug, and go, and try to sing.
Like the starlings, happy that it’s grown overcast.
No choice but to stand it until you’re plucked and bitten.
Like this mushroom, Agaricus campestris, I lean down
to pluck, to bite. Is that a maggot in the pink gills?

It falls in my palm—helpless as me before the size
of the sun—a squirm, half question, half exclamation.
How to atone for nearly eating what was not eating you?
The mushroom is full of tunnels. I aim the small white
life into one. And lay the mushroom on the ground.

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2River All is well.