The Wind at Your Back
A beginning but not a beginning—
when beginnings are ends.
And so you climb,
painstaking, the flank of hills—the detritus
the rock has cast from itself—until at last,
what do you find?
A height that bewilders
the sense of scale, a distance out of all
proportion, and swallows diving, sweeping
about, curious as to intrusions
or simply marking another presence
along the cliff face.
You are no farther
than the base of the rock, where it rises
out of its skirt of debris vertical,
vertiginous, a wall to your effort.
Here, where it begins, you can go no further—
yet sensing to what end you undertook
the climb, you delight in the swallows
and soaring sky, and the wind at your back.
The War Between the States
near Appomattox Court House
I hadn’t realized
the War had never ended.
Styron, Dickey and Morris,
southerners all, plus
me, Yankee carpetbagger,
Tales of Lee and Jackson grew
maudlin with whiskey and why,
till Dickey’s wife put
an end to it next morning,
icy with fury.
All the big monuments here
are for wars we fight at home.
Which is why the Shrine
in Melbourne was surprising
my first Anzac Day.
Even the Second World War
is an afterthought in braille.
Lest we forget makes
no sense if we never learn.
There are no heroes.
Abed, my father moaned for
the shipmates he couldn’t save.