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Five Poems

The Glacier

You’ll know that summer’s ended. The last

Of the white roses, pressed into a book,

Already stains the pages, and the writing

Disappears into sepia. It was a story

Of bicycles and a garish headband.

There might even have been a glacier

Blinding in midsummer sunlight

And a white linen spread at the foot of the glacier.

Darker and busy, autumn is easier.

Peopled with the quickness of one by one,

Each awaiting judgment and the bare thorn

Of his peculiar fate, the season crowds

Nearly all the whiteness out of the world.

The glacier is gone, boys and girls, deep into your book.


Three Deer

Where the trees blackened, I saw,

Quickly, three deer lean into goldenness.

It seems, although wildfires rage

Out of control, this world remembers

Some portion of its first purposes:

Superfluous beauty; the sharp pangs

Of immediacy at the edges of death;

And color, needless but more precious

Than our human love. Where the trees

Agreed in terrific nightfall, three deer

Maneuvered genesis into plain

View, into a child’s paint-box

Of happy excellence. This world

Dreams itself an animal leaning

Into the next world disappearing.


Other Constellations

A dove spoke out of his spinning globe of air,

And the pain eased, and the wind shifted

Starlight away from the rooftree onto

A brightening window. This world

Is the white shadow of unsuspected

Constellations. To the east of Orion,

The centurion’s servant rises out of bed,

And his shadow eases the pain of glaciers

And of the suffering communities

Of roof men and river men. A dove

In a spinning globe of air announces

Christmas to the magma in each of us.

Starlight fills those windows we mistook

For eyes. The night sky is our burning book.



There is no poem

Except the early morning

Dream of a poem gleaming

Severally in the water light

Of trees blackened by rain

A phosphorescence of nothing

As of a fire leaving only

Slave quarters standing

And the plinths of gods

Too foolish to seek the exits

Gates of horn and ivory

Smoldering at either end of this

Long affair we’ve had

In a narrow room a dark interval

Between gods as though we’d once

Even once believed in them

And every soul a plinth and the first

Letters of a name inscribed

On the mist of a dream this

Early morning gleaming



These are memories, not options,

As with the sad bread of the classics

Or, closer to home, a bird’s nest

Fallen to the street and windblown

Into pieces. Emptiness makes

So many different noises. Music

Is tucked up into every tree.

I hear a Roman bird, marking

Time. I hear a Greek, sobbing

With atoms. And there is nothing

To choose, the havoc of memory—

So aimless, so confined by

Lad & girl love—having long since

Exhausted the choices. Flaw

And flow, flaw and flow. A tall child

Soaked through by dewfall stares

Into the trees. The broken

Home was late beginning, and then

An empty nest of perfections.


Donald Revell is the author of sixteen collections of poetry, most recently of White Campion and The English Boat (both Alice James Books), as well as six volumes of translations from the French, including Apollinaire’s Alcools (Wesleyan), Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell, Laforgue’s Last Verses, and Verlaine’s Songs without Words (all Omnidawn). Winner of the PEN USA Translation Award and two-time winner of the PEN USA Award for Poetry, he has also won the Academy of American Poets’ Lenore Marshall Prize.