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To one who was prisoner here As he sings in his sleep in his home, His mane streaming over the pillows, The white threads oftime Mixed with the hair ofhis temples, His grave-grass risen without him: Now, in the green ofthat sleep, Let him start the air ofthe island From the tangled gate ofjute string That hangs from the battered grandstand Where hope comes from animal blood And the hooves ofghosts become flowers That a captive may run as in Heaven: Let him strip the dead shirt from his chest And, sighing like all saved men, Take his nude child in his arms. Drinkingfrom aHelmet I I climbed out, tired of waiting For my foxhole to turn in the earth On its side or its back for a grave, And got in line Somewhere in the roaring of dust. Every tree on the island was nowhere, Blasted away. II In the middle of combat, a graveyard Was advancing after the troops With laths and balls of string; Grass already tinged it with order. Between the new graves and the foxholes A green water-truck stalled out. I moved up on it, behind The hill that cut off the firing. Drinking from a Helmut / I 85 III My turn, and I shoved forward A helmet I picked from the ground, Not daring to take mine off Where somebody else may have come Loose from the steel of his head. IV Keeping the foxhole doubled In my body and begging For water, safety, and air, I drew water out of the truckside As if dreaming the helmet full. In my hands, the sun Came on in a feathery light. V In midair, water trimming To my skinny dog-faced look Showed my life's first all-out beard Growing wildly, escaping from childhood, Like the beards of the dead, all now Underfoot beginning to grow. Selected ripples wove through it, Knocked loose with a touch from all sides Of a brain killed early that morning, Most likely, and now In its absence holding My sealed, sunny image from harm, Weighing down my hands, Shipping at the edges, Too heavy on one side, then the other. VI I drank, with the timing of rust. A vast military wedding Somewhere advanced one step. Helmets / I86 VII All around, equipment drifting in light, Men drinking like cattle and bushes, Cans, leather, canvas and rifles, Grass pouring down from the sun And up from the ground. Grass: and the summer advances Invisibly into the tropics. Wind, and the summer shivers Through many men standing or lying In the GI gardener's hand Spreading and turning green All over the hill. VIII At the middle of water Bright circles dawned inward and outward Like oak rings surviving the tree As its soul, or like The concentric gold spirit of time. I kept trembling forward through something Just born of me. IX My nearly dead power to pray Like an army increased and assembled, As when, in a harvest of sparks, The helmet leapt from the furnace And clamped itself On the heads of a billion men. Some words directed to Heaven Went through all the strings of the graveyard Like a message that someone sneaked in, Tapping a telegraph key At dead of night, then running For his life. Drinking from a Helmut / I87 x I swayed, as if kissed in the brain. Above the shelled palm-stumps I saw How the tops of huge trees might be moved In a place in my own country I never had seen in my life. In the closed dazzle of my mouth I fought with a word in the water To call on the dead to strain Their muscles to get up and go there. I felt the difference between Sweat and tears when they rise, Both trying to melt the brow down. XI On even the first day of death The dead cannot rise up, But their last thought hovers somewhere For whoever finds it. My uninjured face floated strangely In the rings of a bodiless tree. Among them, also, a final Idea lived, waiting As in Ariel's limbed, growing jail. XII I stood as though I possessed A cool, trembling man Exactly my size, swallowed whole. Leather swung at his waist, Web-cord, buckles, and metal, Crouching over the dead Where they waited for all their hands To be connected like grass-roots. XIII In the brown half-life of my beard The hair stood...


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MARC Record
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