The Body is More Than Its Malignancy
        Thom Ward

    What if I just lie here and hold out my bowl
    where the world begins its moan and clatter?

    Wait, I 'll trade this place for a goatskin
    and set off fast on stiff red stilts!
            Anthony Piccione

and my desk is home to a wooden duck
a friend of mine, a friend of yours
carved years back. Though I don't hunt,
I'm not particularly fond of ducks.
And our friend, who's good with pine and blade,
has never said he's fond of ducks, or if
on certain autumn nights, sitting at his kitchen
table in his house in the woods, he feels
a sudden urge to hunt. There's much I don't know
about pine and blades, men and ducks, the work
of exacting, unpredictable time. But I do know
he's dying faster than he thought, present
to each moment's uncharted edge. You say,
The o's in October have always been lonely
and the consonants are exhausted from hoisting
their arms. Our friend says, Every poem
will find its own abiding images and so itís best
to step aside, get out of the way. But what
is the abiding image for a man dying faster
than we thought? How do we step aside,
get out of the way? Tonight this wooded duck
will open its pine wings and fly over fields
and woods, drumlins and creeks,
through each of the o's in October.
Astonished by such flight, we'll attempt
to find solace in what's lonely and exhausted,
in what the imagination unveils
as I dreamt up my desk and this wooden duck
carved by our friend, dreamt he was good
with pine and blade, though not the work
of exacting, unpredictable time. That I did not
dream up, nor the man dying faster
than we thought, each moment's
uncharted edge. Once, near the end of class,
he announced, to no one in particular,
Surely you don't think you'll get through
this life without the burden of weeping.
And though they had little relevance
to the chapter under discussion, to narrative
and plot, sentence rhythm, point of view,
those words, it seemed, were sleek and generous,
hard to step aside from, get out of the way. Now
so many Octobers later, the branches gnarled
with new exhaustions and the old loneliness,
I wonder if it's wrong to imagine all the things
this poem imagines, things which cannot slow
his dying, abate our grief. Unless, of course,
the act itself helps us remember his challenge
to name and forget, to trust some portion
of silence so that we might also lie down
where the world begins its moan and clatter,
and while baffling about a quirky faith, pick up
our necessary burden and set off fast on stiff red stilts.

Thom Ward is the author of "Small Boat With Oars of a Different Size" (Carnegie Mellon University Press) and an editor of BOA Editions Ltd.


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