keep bumping up against
the glacier's high, invasive walls,
whose blackened snout
comes down to eat
the ground underneath their feet.
Which is the way now?
What else but hunched despair's
narrowing valleys, this gathering
feeling of everything
It's an old notion, nearly sensed
from way back when: somehow,
this exorbitant venture of theirs
—Life—isn't working out.
She's a brooder, this one,
on her rock, who once or twice, or thrice
(no words for numbers yet),
has laid a child to earth. They take
the tiny body from your arms and it goes
down into a cold mouth we make
ourselves, digging out the shape.
eats, the earth eats, and having set
her haunches on a rock, she ponders the light:
it's dawn, or dusk, no language for
origins or ends, and yet the sun
is moving, and in her blood she knows
always their dwindling journey has been far
too brutal: something's not right.
This big-boned figure who
subsists chiefly on cattails she prises
from the numb gray sand
of a half-frozen pond
prefers of course
the soft and steamy organs of horse
or aurochs, when those are in hand—
not often enough.
Not often enough, days
warmly warm, all the way through,
when the wished sun rises
up in your chest with the blaze
of honey on the tongue, for you the ache
and sting of it, sweet beyond
any sounds a mouth might make.
The Oldest Word for Dawn
Alfred A. Knopf