Robert Duncan

(January 7, 1919 – February 3, 1988)

Styx


And a tenth part of Okeanos is given to dark night
a tithe of the pure water under earth
so that the clear fountains pour from rock face,
tears stream from the caverns and clefts,
down-running, carving woundrous ways in basalt resistance,
cutting deep as they go into layers of time-layerd
Gaia where She sleeps—


the cold water, the black rushing gleam, the
moving down-rush, wash, gush out over
bed-rock, toiling the boulders in flood,
purling in deeps, broad flashing in falls—


And a tenth part of bright clear Okeanos
his circulations— mists, rains, sheets, sheathes—
lies in poisonous depths, the black water.


Styx this carver of caverns beneath us is.
Styx this black water, this down-pouring.


The well is deep. From its stillness
the words our voices speak echo.
Resonance follows resonance.
Waves of this sounding come up to us.


We draw the black water, pure and cold.
The light of day is not as bright
as this crystal flowing.


Three thousand years we have recited its virtue
out of Hesiod.
Is it twenty-five thousand
since the ice withdrew from the lands and we
came forth from the realm of caverns where
the river beneath the earth we knew
we go back to.
Styx pouring down in the spring from its glacial remove,
from the black ice.


Fifty million years—from the beginning of what we are—
we knew the depth of this well to be.


Fifty million years deep —but our knowing deepens
—time deepens—
this still water


we thirst for in dreams we dread.

Submitted: Saturday, April 17, 2010

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