I’m reading Paul Zweig. This is the fifth poem in the third (“Eternity’s Woods”) section of his Selected and Last Poems, followed by my response. See here for details on this experiment in responsive reading.
Prayer Against Too Much
by Paul Zweig
White flowers thickening around each house,
Where people eat, touch, talk . . .
[Remainder of poem removed 10-21-05]
* * * *
Triptych: Against Moderation
Where the buck took a hunter’s bullet & lay down
in the laurel, a dozen chipmunks are calling
in unison – mallets on a xylophone
all striking the same, middle bar.
Too much moderation seems a dangerous thing.
We are only ever saved by what exceeds us.
When old fields fall to subdivisions,
the kinds of thoughts that need an unbroken span of sky
vanish along with the hiccup of the Henslow’s sparrow,
the wind in the grass.
A few house lots hazarded in the forest
& the wolves begin to forget how to lope,
halt in the middle of a howl –
a freight train wailing through the gap two hundred years later.
All it lacks is the shiver – such a small thing.
It hardly seems reasonable to demand the return
of thousands of acres of wildness
just for that.
We sit at the crossing, engine idling.
On the next to last boxcar, neat black letters
spell out an immoderate & wholly inarguable projection:
NATURE WILL WIN.
Then the flashing orange light receding into the distance.
If you pray, pray for the physicians
who cannot heal themselves.
Pray for the shaman to remove poison everywhere he presses his mouth.
On the loading dock behind the hospital,
the same cherry has been burning at the end
of one cigarette or another for hours now.
Each new arrival joins the huddle
hurriedly, as if to confer over some desperate case,
bending pursed lips as close as necessary
to suck a spark from the middle
of a column of ash.