his ping-pong twang


John Berryman, at the Guggenheim
with Robert Lowell
(twins of the groundswell
‘60s – gyrfalcons of the time)

relates a cutting parable
to illustrate poetic
speech.  Paternalistic
hot-shot banker plunks edible

& butler-polished gift-apple
into tot’s trick-or-treat
bag... You big shit!
yells kid – you crushed the crap

out of my cookie! (Guggenheim
giggles).  Jokes take place
in Minneapolis – this
much-derided mini-apple (rhymes

with Big).  Poet’s last home.
Dust-devils & tornadoes
fill his Oklahoma shoes.
His ping-pong twang off spiral womb

booms (sepulcher-recording)
up the ascending ramp
of modern art (Duchamp
is, Mr. Bones).  & there be something

weird ‘bout Henry – year-long
yearning in the yearling
lurching at spring –
light from Evening Star (so long!)


glancing toward Morning Star
across a black-iced
Mississippi (nice
Minnesota teeth, or solar flare).

The holm oak is an evergreen.
Turned inside-out, grief
lifted underleaf –
a pale moss-light, Nativity scene.

Like that Natasha veering toward
her lonesome labyrinth,
whose airy terebinth
fills sails of summer shade –

whose fluttering eyelids well up
with incomparable
change.  As in the parable
of viceroy in treetop –

evanescent black-&-yellow
wings’ twin semaphore
your sign-lingo, your
promise of new life (tomb-slow,

lentissimo).  The snarky raven
& the tremulous dove –
the starlings’ chatter-trove
amid bare, barren limbs... Olympian

Zeus rattling his thunder-oak
will never leave this winter
harbor – mangy splinter,
tuneful cove – spooky light-spoke.


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