I’ve been reading Paul Zweig, and responding to his poems with poems of my own. This is the eighteenth poem in the third (“Eternity’s Woods”) section of Zweig’s Selected and Last Poems, followed by my response. See here for details on this experiment in responsive reading. I’ll remove Zweig’s poems after a week or two to prevent egregious copyright infringement.
I’ve had a difficult time resuming this exercise in the New Year, and not for lack of trying. In fact, several of my most successful posts began as responses to this poem, but quickly turned into something else.
by Paul Zweig
The upswept brush of winter oak
Vibrates in the wind, expectant, bridelike.
Who am I?
An insect, startled, still sleeping
By the fire.
A bird clings to the telephone wire
Behind the house; an exultant questioning
Booms at its feet. When we die,
We hug the living to us as we never did;
We notice their creased skin, their quick eyes
That slide away, seeing more than they intended.
Who is that moving beside you,
So at ease, so colorless?
What can that dark flutter
Of his say to you, his voice thinned
To pass death’s membrane?
* * * *
Sein Sinn ist Zwiesplat. An der Kreuzung zweier
Herzwege steht kein Tempel für Apoll.
It was late. The lamplight gelled around you
like pine sap thickening into amber.
You were forgetting how to read, losing words
in the exact reverse order of how you learned them decades before,
until the book open on your lap seemed
as blankly comforting as a glass of milk.
Death had come, but not for the reasons usually alleged.
He found himself enchanted by your bones,
which were light as piccolos, & your skull’s smile
faintly visible under the skin
like a subliminal advertisement for eternal spring.
The clock stopped in mid-tick.
Your eyes took on a faraway look.
Was I supposed to run after you? I was tired.
My trademark guitar had long since gone electric –
an axe, as they say.
The kind with back-to-back blades:
one for the kindling, one for the icy air.