Fish tales

This entry is part 42 of 42 in the series Antiphony: Paul Zweig


I have been reading Paul Zweig, and responding to his poems with poems of my own. On Sunday, I mistakenly wrote that the eponymous “Eternity’s Woods” was the last poem in that section of Zweig’s Selected and Last Poems, forgetting that there was one more (and hoping, I guess, to make an end of it). Oddly, my poem in answer to “Eternity’s Woods” seems to anticipate the forgotten final poem, which follows. See here for details on this experiment in responsive reading.

The End Circulates in the Wide Space of Summer
by Paul Zweig

We hardly speak.
You have been here so long
You are like another leg or arm.
We trot across the ice,
Approach the book, and enter it.

[Remainder of poem removed to avoid violating copyright]

* * * *

The Fish Swims Under the Mountain of the World

Sunrise, & the wren’s song bubbles
up from his feet. He dances on the wall
as the ridge turns crimson. Watching from
the window, I feel the heaviness in my chest
lifting like a field stone flipped by the plow,
turning its unmarked cheek toward the harrow.
This world was never a text. With the spring
plowing, arrowheads swim to the surface
of the field adjoining the large sinkhole
down in the valley where an underground stream
briefly exposes itself to view. You can follow it
back under the bedrock in growing darkness,
hunching farther & farther over until you’re down
on all fours & the water meets the ceiling
with a final gurgle. I think of this whenever
the sky in a poem shivers under the knife
of a wing. Some hide is forever being flensed.
Practiced fingers turn the outside in,
or pull & sever a slick fish-shape from
the mother of flint. What flesh did those stone
points seek, so near the valley’s own gullet?
The hunters left no record on the cave walls
that hundred-year floods wouldn’t have erased,
but elsewhere, a few pecked images remain:
dream creatures carved on riverside cliffs, or
on the spines of ridges hundreds of miles long,
these sinuous swimmers. Yesterday morning,
I walked the ridge crest as far as the gap
& stood watching the sun shimmering on the river
& glancing off the windshields of trucks
in the quarry beyond, back-lighting
their plumes of yellow dust. In a month
& a half, this view will vanish behind
a screen of leaves, & by midsummer,
the field next to the cave will be thick
with the rustle of corn, product of 8,000 years
of continuous editing. I come home to
the blank page with my gaze full of distances,
thinking of a fish buried under a hill
so the Three Sisters – Squash & Beans & Corn –
can sing their names into memory another year,
the pattern of scales replicated in the grain.
I too used to garden that way,
& could again. It’s spring. The first
mayflies are rising. Something leaps.

Series Navigation← Woods and water

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