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La Brea
Richard Kenney


It is very early now, no light yet, nor
sensation, apart from simple motions of walking:
discomfort in the chill air, the stiff walk
quick across cold floorboards, razor,
brushed lather and warm tap water off
my cheeks—the feel of bare wool on wrists
and throat—the hiss of the stove, and white coffee.
Alone in this house, I wonder if tabula rasa
ever existed at all. Lake Champlain looks flat,
black by starlight; even the sheaved winds
are flat as feathers on a sleeping raven's wing—
Later, forecast rains will toss down Smuggler's Notch
in silver skirtveils, hiss across the flatiron
lake like drops on a woodstove, into the night—


and hideous broom-flaps here, unfolding condors
knuckled to the vague bed rail, and hung door-
jamb anthropoid with clothes—In this appalling
light even physical objects fail, conform to older
recollection, night's La Brea, the glossy oil-pools. . . .
By breakfast all grotesques have quit their roaring,
pawing at the sky for light and release, followed
their immense tracks down sinkholes of their own
muddling until the only evidence
of dreams is gone, erratic haloes ravens
figured, just askim the water, rings, rings,
and love, your slender unstockinged feet scarcely
and always rough the nap of a newswept carpet
still, and this is not tranquility, not yet—

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