Fall 1992 • Vol. XIV No. 4 PoetryOctober 1, 1992 |

Paradise

I don't know the names of flowers, or the various songs of birds, what to call the water falling from the sky all week, sleet or hail, the histories of high achievement while my great-grandfathers were hidden among the cotton, slaves. (I know what to call asphalt slick with rain, but not the parts of that plant that shredded their fingers.) Thou bringest home all things day scattered, but let the lost, this once, bury the lost. So much stolen that was free for the asking. . . . Let the mutilated days sort out their own. Swallow, swallow, when shall I be like the swallow, singing the rape of my voice, but singing past the rape, something my own to sing? And not to live by white men's myths (not to reject those too-clear eyes, but not to long for them, or see through their blue distances all colors but my own), or drown in that exhaustion of hyacinth and narcissus mown down. I don't know the names of flowers, though I can mimic those who do, the open secret of a man who doesn't look l

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