The Human Being

                              for Daniel, with Rachel

In this workshop
Which has all the tools
You could ever want
I am going to make
A human being.

I am going to start
With skin,
A bag to fill up
With life.

I want this skin
To know no boundaries.
It must know only skin
And prickle with the life
Of other skins,
The pain and wondrous pleasure.
And yet it must be
Thick, thicker than an elephant's,
A skin for work,
A skin for battle.

The bones,
I will find them
In this bamboo forest,
Long flutes
That invite the wind.

A marrow of darkness,
Of black holes and black powder,
A coal to fire the blood
Will pack these bones.

My human being
Will wield them
And music will come
From that weapon.

Eyes for the human being
Must be chipped from obsidian.
They must reflect hiroshimas and holocausts,
Witness births so momentous
All become parents in their presence,
Foresee freedoms awesome and unnamed.

Eyes that give back vision
To the world.

These scraps will do
For a brain.
A brain is the least of my problems.
The human being will be born
Pure readiness,
And it will be life
That either harnesses
Or lays it waste.

I will fill the skull
With transparency,
The clarity of my first memory,
Clouds in the high wind
Challenging imagination,
Speechless peace.

Now I will make a heart.
I will make a heart
From the simplest materials
In this shop,
Using the simplest tools.

This heart is made out of labor,
Mechanic and carpenter,
Farmer and handyman
Who worked here before me.
I also go into that heart,
A piece of me.

This heart is a shell
Filled with the roar
Of the world.
It is a fist, a generous hand.
I will not make it
To last forever,
But I will arm this heart
With the knowledge of its role,
The power of its example.

It will serve the human being

My human being
Coming to life
Before me
Must be equipped
To enforce life,
Nurture and summon it forth
From almost nothing,
Virtually everything.

I will fashion its sex
From the toughest and most tender
Of things,
Erect and deep things,
Wise things that inhabit the sun.

And so the human being
Is ready,
Unfinished but ready,
Singular yet plural,
Perfect and flawed.

Now he must make
The world.

                                    -- New York, July 30, 1981

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