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The Second Trying

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If I could only get hold of the whole of you,   
How could I ever get hold of the whole of you,   
Even more than the most beloved idols,   
More than mountains quarried whole,   
          More than mines   
          Of burning coal,   
Let’s say mines of extinguished coal   
And the breath of day like a fiery furnace.   

If one could get hold of you for all the years,   
How could one get hold of you from all the years,   
How could one lengthen a single arm,   
Like a single branch of an African river,   
As one sees in a dream the Bay of Storms,   
As one sees in a dream a ship that went down,   
The way one imagines a cushion of clouds,   
Lily-clouds as the body’s cushion,   
But though you will it, they will not convey you,   
Do not believe that they will convey you.   

If one could get hold of all-of-the-whole-of-you,   
If one could get hold of you like metal,   
Say like pillars of copper,   
Say like a pillar of purple copper   
(That pillar I remembered last summer)—
And the bottom of the ocean I have never seen,   
And the bottom of the ocean that I can see   
With its thousand heavy thickets of air,   
A thousand and one laden breaths.   

If one could only get hold of the-whole-of-you-now,   
How could you ever be for me what I myself am?   


Source: Poetry (April 2009)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

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The Second Trying

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