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cruel, cruel summer

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either the postagestamp-bright inflorescence of wild mustard
or the drab tassel of prairie smoke, waving its dirty garments

either the low breeze through the cracked window
or houseflies and drawn blinds to spare us the calid sun

one day commands the next to lie down, to scatter:      we're done
with allegiance, devotion, the malicious idea of what's eternal

picture the terrain sunk, return of the inland sea, your spectacle
your metaphor, the scope of this twiggy dominion pulled under

crest and crest, wave and cloud, the thunder blast and burst of swells
this is the sum of us:      brief sneezeweed, brief yellow blaze put out

so little, your departure, one plunk upon the earth's surface,
one drop to bind the dust, a little mud, a field of mud

the swale gradually submerged, gradually forgotten
and that is all that is to be borne of your empirical trope:

first, a congregated light, the brilliance of a meadowland in bloom
and then the image must fail, as we must fail, as we

graceless creatures that we are, unmake and befoul our beds
don't tell me deluge.      don't tell me heat, too damned much heat

Source: Poetry (January 2008)

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This poem originally appeared in the January 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

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cruel, cruel summer

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