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You brought us to the end of this world – everything

left behind       We followed as one man

stretching his hand as far as it reaches

An unbroken beak scavenging the horizon

like the eye’s cutting blade

We shook the hard red dust of village earth

from our clothes, silently staining

the liquid flesh of rivers wherever we touched it

We thrust the seed of our tongue

harvesting in Greek the lips of barbarian women

A city full of foreign smells will press your name

sweetly between her legs forever

Men’s eyes became inextinguishable mirrors                

of your face       They do not forget Alexander

Those who might not remember – you know

well – we quickly dispatched, like paid killers

to places no one recollects

You won a whole world openly sharing

the booty of justice, a friend of love

you butchered – who can say

how all the pieces join

in the cracked mosaic of a man’s life?

Now we must return  You cut

the knot and tightened the bonds of others

But what binds us here?

General, however far you go you cannot

outrun the scything chariot of the future

always driving us deeper

into the thick mud of a clouding memory

We brought you so far

as far as the desert of the thorn

the indifferent, blinding rose

of history –

the end is always small

One day the tongue writhes in vain

nailed to the tip of a broken lance

Here our words refuse to go on


 (Portland ’73 / New York ’80)

Translated by David Mason and the author