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A Wreath of Poets



The Wake


Seven days in state, His corpse relaxes:
The fine bones take on outlines of snowclouds,
roses grow in His face, at rest the longer He lies dead.
And an old white owl floats in the sunset,
stringing behind him miles by the millions —
alone for a moment, away from his home in the world.
A sculptor who never wastes his eye
— someone who never met Him,
caught up in the concrete corners of the century,
sets up ice-blocks in a gallery
in exact configuration of the ice He lies on.
Seven days the universe's ice has melted.
The layered floods foundered the bridge to the Kaaba
and no one could bow down, then, in commemoration.
But He lay, still silent, in the tiny blue-domed tomb,
the ancient breath of death just lifting from His hands.






They lit the spent garlands to a blaze
in the stone circle
and, but for the applause of the flames,
all was still.
Then, one by one, approaching the fire
with wands of sandalwood in our hands,
we tossed them in,
and tried to let fall
our most infamous desires.
  We have prayed to give them up.
They will burn, now hotter
and harder to ignore — but, like a fire,
they can consume their fuel and leave...
who knows where they go?
Dark as the shadow of an ego,
the sky makes ready to loose the stars
and let them fall,
while garlands
once star-fresh on the tomb
have become coals
  throbbing like a blue heart
  in the circle of the Asian night.
  Under the trees' thirsting limbs
  it is sung: "Godman, Godman"...
May my heart, this time, approach
the threshold of that word.
— Alice Duncan


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