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Prophet Bird

by Alfred Corn

“They found the earth mute and passionless and left.”

                            —Frank O’Hara

Your legend is still green with us, and avid
To demonstrate how you once scaled a mountain
Of orange-crates and “knocked them down,” how simply
Lifting and lighting became the Promethean blaze. . . .
Now files of ants descend on their current
Windfall, gaining focus and perhaps a better grasp
Of the unlikely but all too portable whole,
Which you discarded in favor of newer stages,
Reluctant to lock up a plan next to its migrant
Double, the planetary warning, color of dried blood—
That impasse, too, was more than beginning
To dim and accept a kinder remnant of
Intention: the leaves turn when they fall.
We have our wishes for you still, the few
That find a rough-hewn, vine-covered lodging
For their chattels under the foothills near
Healing, variably heated springs. The ayes
And your hardly won singlings-out of praise
Befriend you for now, knowing you, enkindled
Early starling, first befriended them.


Alfred Corn’s new book of poems, The Various Light, is coming out this fall from Viking Penguin. (1980)

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