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T. BIRCH

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Leap*


1.

Oe called it a leap

that moment when you
change without any foreknowledge
of changing

2.

I have leapt

all of my life, even
in childhood it was there
as a firm soft presence, warm and electrical
it would fire me

make me do things outside
my reality

of Church and God and parental
authority

like when I hit my brother
for his foul mouth

or became sexual

it was always a jump beyond
what I thought myself
capable

beyond past beliefs of myself

3.

it might appear bodily
in one reflex motion

or not
who can say, for it comes out
of nowhere

a new response which is unplanned,
unfamiliar

4.

it was a leap

when Oe tried to define
death for a child, his own little boy
of nineteen

death as a transition
from one place
in a life

to another place, after which some
will survive

but he failed
as his son Eeyore showed

but death isnt
our word

5.

my daughter jumps at me with all her ferocity
exposed

it is very physical
just like my son, who hugs his father
with passion and strength
and frequently

but his mother, reluctantly
(I think he's ashamed)

6.

Oe called him Eeyore
but that's not his name, he's real

as real as my son
but damaged, not whole

he was born with a growth
on his skull

like a second head
it held its own brain tissue
until surgery

that was a leap too

7.

Blake liked to leap -
read his poetry

and see
it's all there - his body
exultant

leaping to God
or its closest facsimile

I'm not sure what Blake saw
when he sang:

That man should Labour & sorrow & learn & forget, & return
To the dark valley whence he came to begin his labours anew

but Oe did
he saw a prophecy of what hed become

I only see death

8.

my definition
of death hasn't formed
yet

it isn't the corpses of my grandparents
carefully arrayed for a last view

though mother made me kiss her
grandfather his white

hair and white skin
made me think of a ghost but he was real
in the flesh

without a soul, she said
it was in heaven

years ago now I
know how

he abused his own daughters
and composed music
sweet tender
flowers

to his Protestant God
of the Germans

9.

think of how many people you know
the ones who have talked
to you

then imagine a million
as the multiple of that number
if you can

imagine a million
for I cant

so make it less, make it a thousand
times, a small city of people
is in that number

then think of how well you
could know them

and that is one possible example

10.

but not the only one

for what we all feel when it happens -
our movement toward something

unknown; and delicious

recklessness
and its consequence

spectacular in its excess


*(Oe Kenzaburo, 1994 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature) 



Copyright 2003 T. Birch





 

 

 
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