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Prairie Schooner 80.3 (2006) 56-59

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Assent, and: Bodies


Wind wraps around the fingered
branches like trapped fish line.

The same old clumsy
mistake, jerking response. [End Page 56]

If we were counting on wisdom
or competence or maturity

to save us we had best
remember how to pray –

and not forget when prayer begins
to save, and claim its wisdom as our own again,

plunge again into the same old
passionate play. God I love this song,

the part where the singer
admits drink has cost his wife

and car but finds this more reason
to drink. We've invented reason and drink

because being
is harder, naked,

fouled thread-of-ourselves
on a wind-wound branch

with its crimson bud
that may yet blossom.

No reason not to blossom
except we choke off

what starts to happen of its own.
It calls only for our assent,

the simplest, most elusive prayer.
We hoard this secret ingredient [End Page 57]

beauty lacks. Sap
oozes from the sliced

branch, hooked worm dangles
its damned entreaty

with the clumsiness and failure
of a bad country song.

The sun's chorus is blue, blue
stained glass behind the tangled

cames of branches. Higher branches
bloom for birds and caterpillars,

and for this brief passage we're
open, neither wise nor competent,

but held simply,
one among many

precious, not quite
so broken things. [End Page 58]


Take my eyes, bark of pine,
sway of needles, slight

cloud beyond this tall, straight
trunk. I would hear

the sound of living things
again. Insect, osprey.

Carpet of fallen needles,
soften my walk – thick,

new socks on a stainless rug,
stained body crossing,

re-crossing carefully
until this too is soiled, taken

for granted. I would bring
this brokenness among living

bodies, reach for the soft
flesh folds that untie,

a bathrobe slipped.
We walk into each other,

like multiplying like
to its proper strangeness.

Robert J. Oberg is the founder and director of the Olney Street Group, an independent poetry workshop. His poems have appeared in Cottonwood, Connecticut River Review, and others.



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