Kent Johnson


                                                                This earth will grow cold one day,
                                                                not like a block of ice
                                                                or a dead cloud even
                                                                but like an empty walnut it will roll along
                                                                        in pitch-black space . . .

                                                                You must grieve for this right now...

                                                                           -from "On Living," by Nazim Hikmet

                                                                your country's over. And though you're still here,
                                                                you will surely go.

                                                                For I have seen few snowmen outlast the snows.

                                                                           -from Gabriel Gudding's "Dear Eagles,"
                                                                           The Canary (#3)

I want to say that I have been reading the poem addressed to you,
the one soaring above all the others in the yellow canaried wood.
(You know how to trim your feathers to the fickle wind, O eagles!)
Before I had read the poem about you, I was whistling a tune about
snow, and holding a steak over my swollen eye (never read Lorca in
El Falangista Bar), thinking that my own poem was the bestest
in the whole diorama, a falcon to the little caged birds, opening their
little beaks to sing their beautiful, wind-up songs for their keepers.

Jeepers, I saw the title, "Dear Eagles," and first I thought it said
"Dear Faggots" (hard to read with one eye!), and I laughed like a cop
jilted by his blonde, took a swig of my breakfast beer, and behind my
steak saw the image of a saint all tied up, pierced by seventeen arrows,
his compassionate bovine eyes rolled ecstatically toward the sky. Oh,
maybe he was imagining me reading the poem about soaring You, as I
held a piece of Him against my battered, hallucinating eye. And then I read.
And then I read again.

And then I put down the flesh, and opened my third breakfast beer, and I
cried, cried heavily like Nazim Hikmet (grieving communist bard!), at the beauty
and the sadness of eagles, gone anon for always from the blackened walnut of
the world, world circling a collapsing sun, with no daughters or sons, or alcohol,
or any blue cars that drive, with poet faggots like me, and Nazim, and Gabriel,
through the stars. Nothing. Nothing there at all. I love you, eagles, though you will
surely go. And as I go down to my urn-shaped boat, to go speeding all lonesome
away, softly beat, please, your weird, snowman wings, over my silly pain.