Day on Kind Continent


                                                           All day

All day the light wind blew on the house
Where my baby was asleep, and I read
The Gilgamesh at the open window,
Thinking matchless deeds for him.
The soldiers came at noon to build
Bridges, their hammers came to my house,
“Cold voices, “ I thought, “in air.”
And my baby slept silent all day,
And my wife sang fever songs all day.

The soldiers were burning a hillside
For roads.  The air shook for all
The birdless, rising heat. Being the kind
Of man I am, I could not hate them.
With the light wind, smoke blew on my house.

At three o’clock my wife began trombone
Practice in the bedroom.  The baby’s fists
Fell open and closed, but he could not scream,
Being so kind.  I listened – the distance
That lay between my window and the hillside
Moving off, moving off. Her playing
Was effortless and beautiful, surrounding
The small house.

Soon I fell asleep, the setting sun in my palm
Saying, “As if, as if,” as if I were a child-
Dreamer with a wish just before sleep.  My
Wife fell asleep, too, her lovely mouth pressed
About the trombone’s mouth.  My son
Fell asleep to her breathing’s song.

The soldiers were putting out the fires,
As if to say “Thank you.”  Gilgamesh, “two-thirds
God and one-third man,” was putting out the sun,
Moved by the kindness that moves the birds.


The Dream

We are going to another valley,
Wrapped in ribbons, along the grass river,
To find pasture in the valley
For our simple sheep.

The kind currents in the water
The currants of the cool jars
And in my mind’s orchard of wind
We are going to another valley.

Light follows the obedient sheep,
Wherever they are led, by pressing
Fragrant hands in the warm wool.
Light is deity of the service trees.

That the hawk tilts and glides
Is a truth, that the hawk wants to kill
My lamb is no truth, as
We are going to another valley.

As watch to the East, I stood,
Seeing rain as distant as sky
Over a valley.  I went up unhurt
And came down unhurt.

A god spends the night blessing
A barren woman, and a boy
Is born at Random , in grass.
To say we are going to another valley

Is a good and simple truth.
The sheep need pasture, sun, and shade.
We neither shear them nor burn them,
Nor do we eat them, being kind.

They tend to themselves, and gently ask
That we tend to ourselves, and we
Exchange small gifts when a season turns.
The sky is clear and very patient overhead.

            -- Published in The New Yorker magazine, September 25, 1965

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