The solitary molar of a streetwalker
whose body had gone unclaimed
had a gold filling.
All the rest were gone,
as if by tacit agreement.
This one the morgue attendant claimed for himself,
flogged it, and had himself a night out on the proceeds.
Because, so he said,
only dust should revert to dust.
O that we might be our ancestors' ancestors.
A clump of slime in a warm bog.
Life and death, fertilizing and parturition
Would all be functions of our silent juices.
An algal leaf or a sand dune,
Shaped by the wind and basal and heavyset.
Even a dragonfly's head or a gull's wing
Would be too evolved and suffer too much.
Contemptible are the lovers, the mockers,
All despair, yearning, and hope.
We are such painfully plague-ridden gods,
And yet we think of God a lot.
The soft bay. The dark forest dreams.
The stars, snowball blossom big and heavy.
Panthers lope silently among the trees.
Everything is strand. Forever calls the sea—
The Paris Review Winter 2011
Translation copyright © 2011 by Michael Hofmann
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission