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Kenneth Patchen

(13 December 1911 - 8 January 1972 / Ohio)

Irkalla's White Caves


I believe that a young woman
Is standing in a circle of lions
In the other side of the sky.

In a little while I must carry her the flowers
Which only fade here; and she will not cry
If my hands are not very full.

±

Fiery antlers toss within the forests of heaven
And ocean’s plaintive towns
Echo the tread of celestial feet.
O the beautiful eyes stare down…
What have we done that we are blessèd?
What have we died that we hasten to God?

±

And all the animals are asleep again
In their separate caves.
Hairy bellies distended with their kill.
Culture blubbering in and out
Like the breath of a stranded fish.
Crucifixion in wax. The test-tube messiahs.
Immaculate fornication under the smoking walls
Of a dead world.
I dig for my death
in this thousand-watt dungheap.
There isn’t even enough clean air.
To die in.
O blood-bearded destroyer!

In other times...
(soundless barges float
down the rivers of death)
In another heart
These crimes may not flower…
What have we done that we are blessèd?
What have we damned that we are blinded?

±

Now, with my seven-holed head open
On the air whence comes a fabulous mariner
To take his place among the spheres—
The air which is God
And the mariner who is sheep—I fold
Upon myself like a bird over flames. Then
All my nightbound juices sing. Snails
Pop out of unexpected places and the long
light lances of waterbulls plunge
into the green crotch of my native land.
Eyes peer out of the seaweed that gently sways
Above the towers and salt gates of a lost world.

±

On the other side of the sky
A young woman is standing
In a circle of lions—
The young woman who is dream
And the lions which are death.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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