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S E P T E M B E R   1 9 9 5

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BONE KEY

by Richard Wilbur






Hear Richard Wilbur read this poem (in RealAudio):

RA 28.8, RA 14.4

(For help, see a note about the audio.)

"He used to call his body Brother Ass. . . . "
--Saint Bonaventure, Life of Saint Francis


You would think that here, at least,
In dens by night, on tawny sands by day,
Poor Brother Ass would be a kingly beast.
So does the casuarina seem to say,

Whose kindred haziness
Of head is flattering to a bloodshot eye;
So too the palm's blown shadows, which caress
Anointed brows and bodies where they lie,

And Angel's Trumpets, which
Proclaim a musky scent in fleshly tones.
Yet in this island soil that's only rich
In rock and coral and Calusa bones,

It's hardihood that thrives,
As when a screw pine that the gale has downed,
Shooting new prop-roots from its trunk, survives
In bristling disarray by change of ground,

Or the white mangrove, nursed
In sea-soaked earth and air, contrives to expel
From leafstalk glands the salt with which it's cursed,
Or crotons, scorched as by the flames of Hell,

Protectively attire
Their leaves in leather, and so move to and fro
In the hot drafts that stir the sun's harsh fire,
Like Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego.


COMPULSIONS

The Reader's tyrannous desires compel
The weary, bored Pornographer to tell
Again, and then once more, and then anew,
The shameful things that lustful monsters do
To a blameless victim--chained, or drugged, or tied--
With whom the Reader feels identified.


Copyright © 1995 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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