Conjunctions:40 40x40

Four Poems
The following appears with three additional Swensen poems in Conjunctions:40.
The Invention of the Night-Watch

Is defined as that which walks                it’s in all the books-Psalms,
                                     the ones with all the pictures
of men walking at night.      A legion of staves, and etched
onto the leaves: what here I have witnessed

some blind world of the blind
beneath a torch
held in a sheaf
on which said eye and yes.
                       On which said light is fixed,
                                                 while in the molten light they stood

                       on corners all night long as the bell-bearers stalked abroad
and what you thought was a tolling of the hours you were counting was
in fact an encoded reporting of events: theft, murder, fire, wolf, circle
is worthy of attention, is

and thus were we eaten. 1385.     There’s a light that lists toward each en
                                                       route to heaven and we follow the folding
                                                       screens. Between seven and sixteen 
                                                       bodies a night were collected off the
                                                       streets of Paris from the thirteenth
                                                       through the seventeenth centuries and
                                                       several more from the Seine.
                                                       Who counted in his sleep
counted his sleep;
who took a walk after dark, I have a friend
in the world

Cole Swensen's latest books include a collection of poetry, Art in Time (Nightboat Books), and a volume of critical essays, Noise that Stays Noise (University of Michigan Press). She has won the Iowa Poetry Prize, the SF State Poetry Center Book Award, and the National Poetry Series and has been a finalist for the National Book Award. Also a translator, she divides her time between Paris and Providence, Rhode Island.