A Protocol for Touch (Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry, 7) by CONSTANCE MERRITT

By CONSTANCE MERRITT

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How the wild bird still would tremble. How winter never was. Page 72 Undersong How much to buy a suicide? What discount if I tried but failed?  Yet, still truth's hum, its marathon Along these tangled avenues? Stop the blues, the beat of reds and greens?  Solace Page 73 And shock of almost any touch; voices. The heart's insistent undersong: how live?  how live?  I'd listen Even if you whispered, strain my ears to hear The way I silence other voices.  I told you of the child.

Some mornings the ground was strewn with flowers torn From their stalks by wind; the world was quiet then.  What happened then?  For me there was no pleasure, And I was still and very much afraid.  Yes, as more and more you stayed. Nothing clean or simple about that split.  Too soon to sort it out.  Who among us can afford To speak the languageany languagerightly? As if it weren't enough to bear one heart Eternally divided in its chambers.  Between us burns a sword of fire, A rusted turnstile glinting in the sun.

Page 43 The Faithful Son after Elizabeth Bishop's "The Prodigal" The cold unyielding silence of the house Cumbered his movement and racked his breath, so that, Left to himself, he'd have slept out with the cows, And left them to their colloquies with ghosts. At first, he'd hoped with diligence to heal Evenings, after the long days' chores, had sat, Bone-sore on a straight-backed chair, the perfect host, But they would not be moved; his presence cloyed. Still, if, after he'd cleared the evening meal And stoked the fire, he took his hat and coat Meaning to walk, his mother would avoid His eyes; the old man accuse him of a whore, When, in truth, he'd only wanted air.

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