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Archaic Figure
Amy Clampitt

Headless in East Berlin, no goddess
but a named mere girl (Ornithe, ``Little Bird'')
out of the rubble, six centuries underneath
the plinth of what we quaintly call

Our Time, informs the foaming underside
of linden boulevards in bloom, sweet hide
laid open onto—sterile as an operating table,
past the closed incision of the Wall—

the treeless reach of Alexanderplatz,
paved counterpart of the interior flatland,
halfway across the globe, we'd left behind:
projection, factor, yield, the quantifiable

latitude; malls, runways, blacktop; tressed
cornsilk and alfalfa, drawn milk of the humdrum
nurture there were those of us who ran away from
toward another, earlier, bonier

one, another middle of the earth, yearned-for stepmotherland of
H÷lderlin and Goethe:
sunlight and grief, the cypress and the
crucifix, the vivid poverty

of terraced slopes, of bread, wine, olives,
fig and pomegranate shade we stumbled into,
strolling the sad northern drizzle, in
the uprooted Turks' quasi-bazaar,

as here, among uprooted artifacts, we've come
upon this shape's just-lifted pleats, her
chitoned stillness the cold chrism of a time
that saw—or so to us it seems—

with unexpected clarity to the black core
of what we are, of everything we were to be,
have since become. Who stands there headless.
Barbar, she would have called us all.

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