Summer 1986 • Vol. VIII No. 3 Poetry |

Snake, Rock: A Poem I Cannot Write

I turn it over in my headAs a boy turns over rocks a hundred timesTo find the snake. I chip it as a manChips a rock at odd angles for the gem.I get neither reptile nor ruby, merely a glimpseOf snake, a fossil—a place the poem just leftOr lay so long it lithographs the stone, A eulogy: how simple to leave it there,A poem—sure—but not the one about my fatherDying. The dying part is easy: he phones meAt work to rasp what Mother claims is love,A word we never use. The setting's wrong;I am neither poet nor professor, but reporterDoing markets on deadline, barrows and gilts, Up a quarter, or down. I put the phoneOn hold, punch another lineTo hear the rasp a mother has to translate,And then hang up, a wrong numberIn the hour of numbers. It delays meOnly a minute, and I return to the marketsWith a peace I will not know again: Somewhere here lies the poem, repleteWith symbol, metaphor, and irony—Everything but place, and time maybe:This is the best I can do. Don't hopeFor an

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