Poetry: Contents Page | clivejames.com
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Contents Page

The jungle, from the floor to the canopy,
Clogs and entwines
Its every rung and level with rank growth.
The python dines
Among an epiphytic gaudery
And hungry vines.
On the mizzled hair of the two-toed sloth
Moss has designs.
Yet all that climbing tonnage is content-free.
The top limbs sway as though to write in air,
But can’t remember what they scribble there.

Through the savanna’s heat-glaze the herds pause,
Ripple and shiver,
Or graze hypnotically, or drop their young,
Which may deliver
Their wet thin steps into the lion’s jaws.
By pool or river
They stoop at evening side by side among
The surface quiver
Of their reflexions as the light withdraws:
A fable set down in invisible ink;
They print their shadows on the pool they drink.

Even the perfect pictures in the shale’s
Slow-motion traps,
The filamentous feathers, which one or two
Sharp hammer taps
Release, the fish in their meticulous scales,
The precise maps
Of leaves, did not direct this rendezvous.
They’re simply gaps
In time, and have no part in these details.
The weird wiwaxias, worms and arthropods
Were empty of intention as stone gods.

Once, though, a figure had the thought to crawl
Out of the day
Into a cave’s dark reach, its first invoker,
And there to splay
His hand against the tallow-glimmered wall,
And pause to spray
His mouth’s cargo of spittle and red ochre
On the array
Of his five fingers, clear, indelible:
Author and content of the space displayed,
The maker’s hand becoming what it made.