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Oysterville Anthem
I am caught between             another firmament
speak to me, xylem-bower
oh the vertical                  like death so majestic


now that everything is
a poem,                              unraveling—
the gorse the ferns        the provisioning moss
collected                          as a sign water makes
                       when we dip into the well


crowded out our hearts         emit pain-vesicles
that rouse us from sleep

Wachet auf

the smell of the shoal              the smell
of the taste of that water

limping into the school
where the little boats                            are tied
                                  in their polymer masks


everything so clear      salt        could touch it—

a school for time’s pitted       mouth or month

I want to share it with my lover
the arum’s                    seasonal calefaction
wasted here                         unspilt, in lily-vault


remember when we lifted
the medicine                       from its blue casque

you couldn’t      pay for it, then
I offered you credit                              now
my ledger is a new sky     & you are, as they say

to the pulse     held back    by its flesh-lanthorn


the dead, the sea           the village, the donkey
:     four bows

I prefer the storm against the apple’s
schist & twill
where once a gate, always             a livid bruise
                       I was meant for this theft

& repair          the contagious motes, as music’s
                                         taut-drawn bow


temper the soul’s glass          as a hunger-track

(& lift             as waste)
striven’s fetal gurney              I am     “bereft”
in search of my broken psalm, succor me

at continent’s edge

I have never caught
this threshing garment’s         immaculate music


                                  a turn toward
the three-chamber’d heart, the colorless blood

I can’t even begin to know         what “loss” is
(I who am lost)

the passion’s cyclorama              envelops me
I am not pretending
to be anything             I’m not (is the pity of it)


dwell in efference    as a moon   might genuflect
beneath the little
closet of faith

set the grand table           with psalms
                                   with pomegranates
—compel every guest

to some                                  manner of being


what would you pay, to drink that milk
what would you harvest      (& from what field)

would you be                  a face to the bees

attracted (as they are) by the color of
your hair, your vest               your plaited eye


tamper with what                  music seconded
                             —the wind’s pale flag
wrapping the cello               in its syllabic debt

yes I can
repair        the ages

eternal around                    the bay’s plainchant


the guest                       debrides his solitude
(peeling away     what the lightning     prepared)
                                   —the pilgrim press

incandescent                  hunger’s sine-hyphen


disappoint can’t tell         how the story feels
(its severed intentions)
what the flag lends          the book, & its army

propose      a master plan
I played a minor fourth      in the thorn-pageant

snarls         of brush unpicked
from the lamb
                            quiver, in their continence


train the musical ear
to unhear      the abetting spume      None, & I
                          as Agent:
vary the blood
that thickens     beneath the canning jar’s lid

o you little
sweet miracles                 of breath & motion


I am hardly in the world
anymore     except as a name      a photograph
friend, photograph
                     my helpless name
with each                    of your nine fingers

            (common to bats & other mammals)


the green muscle of the bog lichens’ amplitude
the fir’s bare bone

& could you               like it,
prescience whispers

substituted for the canon’s       impact algorithm


the little watches       kept by the first daughters
our dwelling-stores
                                     & therefore combustible

prescient            in two nations
the past is tidal, I could attach   to any    surface


this is my way of being    in the toleration-world
its apical bell
modulating               the hives’ tick & splay

I want to endure my own
breath                                   (alongside others’)
tapping into the prayerlight

strum the bay                        thick with baptism


my God, it feels
so strange     to write from inside     acceptance
                                  of the organism
prose would have us
cry out                              (a sluice-like mercy)

touch me         where the quince grows thickest
where the grebe lifts
indefinably                   from the surrender-grid


the humped middens      burling with gray scows
clear into the commercial

flesh-clock beneath
                           a hiding-sky, meat-    plaque
to my winter passage

warm ash in my beard
in the blue lesson
nothing be lost     now     but the grace of praise


witness the light witnessing
                                            —depth & distance
the dead go on ensilvering the plate
& as if
                       we are surrounded by apothegm

you can’t ban the living      from their dead
                       but neither can the sea
give up its evidence                   before its time
                                       a justice-palace

inverted                    in the land’s moist jaw


I would lay my body down         a naked dusk

build me a house
                            in which the wind may dwell
next to its birth-     token, call it terror

or something yet more ungainly

the sea, miscast, anoints     the perishable body


sedum-smell                             the outcropping
                       above the tidal bouquet
you are not a target,
                          she said (except when you are)

the banquet set out beneath the white pines
                                   startled me
I was waiting, then,                            for night


I want an organ that speaks             to science
                                                in the sea’s voice

the bitter fruit floating to the surface
                                   of the memory pool
stains my belly          silent, like a tree’s growth

            tined as a birch, & almost
indescribably absorbed
                               in the sky’s calcite lectern


through the eyelid’s lily-flesh
the red pulse                     inflects, not as verb
            but as verb’s shadow, wake

nobody is “native” here
                       but on a highest ground
              enlaced with precedent we approach

there is nothing in this world that does not
speak                                     to some pale god


breath’s                 unpassioning antecedent
               from which struck, flame
childless         blinks upon
            what is litany vs.   what is        /stutter/

a mosaic, stitched by weather
drying as salt         on the forest’s sleek mensa

it may be a swallow                that nests
in the corner of your eye


                                   —char mixed with silver

the laughter is behind you
                               & your half-written name
o song o distal subsidence
something our bones met     the mind’s
nerve-gill       -calyx

percussive                       into the spectral hum

G. C. Waldrep’s most recent books are feast gently (Tupelo) and the long poem Testament (BOA Editions). Other recent work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, New England Review, Yale Review, Iowa Review, Colorado Review, New American Writing, Conjunctions, etc. Waldrep lives in Lewisburg, PA, where he teaches at Bucknell University and edits the journal West Branch.