The Power of Helplessness

John, we used the language as if we made it.

by Peter Davison
Voracious ocean, eelgrass, headstones, glow
of ancient brick, the nosing of a car
whose headlights peer for meaning by the roadside;
hair that grows gray, loves that leap up and fail;
the helplessness of madmen, sanity
that inhales history into its lungs:
heavy existence galls this one-eyed Odin
to weigh his words but not to waive his deeds.
His friends go mad and die, but he retains
command: an Austerlitz—platoons of fourteen lines
that wheel and flank like armies. They take losses
only to be replaced. New squads advance
to form his new divisions. Poetry’s Napoleon
bloodies a Drang nach Osten toward his peace.