You Could Pick It Up

By Patricia Goedicke 1931–2006 Patricia Goedicke
You could pick it up by the loose flap of a roof
and all the houses would come up together
in the same pattern attached, inseparable

white cubes, olive trees, flowers
dangling from your hand
a few donkey hooves might stick out

flailing the air for balance,
but the old women would cling like sea urchins
and no children would fall.

Even though it is small,
the people are Greek, and it sits
like an oyster in the middle of the Aegean

still it is tough, it reminds you
of wagon trains, prairie schooners
drawn up in circles by night

you could swing it around your head
and still nothing would happen,
it would stay

solid, the white walls
rising up out of the sea
the pillared crown of the temple...

For twenty-six hundred years
it has endured everything, but now
we who have forgotten everything,

we whose homes have all gone
to super highways, belt cities, long thin lines
our glittering buses snort into the main square,

the spider web with sticky fingers
glues itself to the town,
slowly it begins to revolve, faster and faster

tighter and tighter it is wound
till the young men cannot stand it,
they pack up and leave town

the sky is full of children
with wild eyes and huge faces
falling to the ground.

“You Could Pick It Up” from The The Tongues We Speak by Patricia Goedicke, published by Milkweed Editions, 1989. Used by permission of Milkweed Editions.

Source: The Tongues We Speak (Milkweed Editions, 1989)

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Poet Patricia Goedicke 1931–2006

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern


Patricia Goedicke's poetry has been described in the Times Literary Supplement by David Kirby as "intensely emotional, intensely physical." "More than any contemporary woman poet, perhaps, she exhibits a Whitmanesque exuberance," claims Small Press Review contributor Hans Ostrom. According to Peter Schjeldahl in the New York Times Book Review, Goedicke "bears down hard on the language, frequently producing exact ambiguities of . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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