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Lunch with Herbert

What is it to be in the presence of another?
To share air? We are friends because in each of us
there are inner parliaments on fire.
You’ve trimmed your fat—did you know
cannibals invented the fork?
We are fragments of a plural yet to be auditioned.
We see the world as men embedded in the petrification of a crisis.
Before our gaze: rungs of the ladder upon which
angels and devils scamper up and down.
Why is that angel carrying a skinned horse?
How can that devil climb and, at the same time, give birth?
The suicidal tension in the library where all the books
lie open to each other. Merge
but do not violate. Be vital with erosion,
self-aware in global space strafed by
daily annihilate news.
Consider the cubistic flexion of the knobs on
any spoken word, near-thoughts
like clustering fireflies damned up in eyes.
To acknowledge my friend by allowing him to enter
summation’s temenos and not be cleaved there
or cried upon. The cost of honest unity
suspended over
the subconscious rage of others.

[29 April 07 / NYC]—
Clayton Eshleman’s most recent books are: An Alchemist with One Eye on Fire (poems, Black Widow Press, 2006); The Complete Poetry of Cesar Vallejo (translation, University of California Press, 2007); Reciprocal Distillations (poems on art and artists, Hot Whiskey Press, 2007), and Archaic Design (essays, notes, prose poems, interviews, Black Widow Press, 2007). Every June he and his wife Caryl lead a tour, sponsored by the Ringling School of Design in Sarasota, to the Ice Age painted caves in southwestern France. The Eshlemans continue to live in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where Clayton is Professor Emeritus at Eastern Michigan University.

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