Singing the body: Heaney, Komunyakaa, Plath, Whitman

The Tollund Man in Springtime

My heavy head. Bronze buffed. Ear to the ground.
My eye at turf level. Its snailskin lid.
My cushioned cheek and brow. My phantom hand
And arm and leg and shoulder that felt pillowed
As fleshily as when the bog pith weighed
To mould me to itself and it to me
Between when I was buried and unburied.
Between what happened and was meant to be.
On show for years while all that lay in wait
Still waited. Disembodied. Far renowned.
Faith placed in me, me faithless as a stone
The harrow turned up when the crop was sown.
Out in the Danish night I’d hear soft wind
And remember moony water in a rut.




I love how it swells 
into a temple where it is 
held prisoner, where the god 
of blame resides. I love 
slopes & peaks, the secret 
paths that make me selfish. 
I love my crooked feet 
shaped by vanity & work 
shoes made to outlast 
belief. The hardness 
coupling milk it can’t 
fashion. I love the lips, 
salt & honeycomb on the tongue. 
The hair holding off rain 
& snow. The white moons 
on my fingernails. I love 
how everything begs 
blood into song & prayer 
inside an egg. A ghost 
hums through my bones 
like Pan’s midnight flute 
shaping internal laws 
beside a troubled river. 
I love this body 
made to weather the storm 
in the brain, raised 
out of the deep smell 
of fish & water hyacinth, 
out of rapture & the first 
regret. I love my big hands. 
I love it clear down to the soft 
quick motor of each breath, 
the liver’s ten kinds of desire 
& the kidney’s lust for sugar. 
This skin, this sac of dung 
& joy, this spleen floating 
like a compass needle inside 
nighttime, always divining 
West Africa’s dusty horizon. 
I love the birthmark 
posed like a fighting cock 
on my right shoulder blade. 
I love this body, this 
solo & ragtime jubilee 
behind the left nipple, 
because I know I was born 
to wear out at least 
one hundred angels.



The Colossus

I shall never get you put together entirely,
Pieced, glued, and properly jointed.
Mule-bray, pig-grunt and bawdy cackles
Proceed from your great lips.
It’s worse than a barnyard.
Perhaps you consider yourself an oracle,
Mouthpiece of the dead, or of some god or other.
Thirty years now I have labored
To dredge the silt from your throat.
I am none the wiser.
Scaling little ladders with glue pots and pails of lysol
I crawl like an ant in mourning
Over the weedy acres of your brow
To mend the immense skull plates and clear
The bald, white tumuli of your eyes.
A blue sky out of the Oresteia
Arches above us. O father, all by yourself
You are pithy and historical as the Roman Forum.
I open my lunch on a hill of black cypress.
Your fluted bones and acanthine hair are littered
In their old anarchy to the horizon-line.
It would take more than a lightning-stroke
To create such a ruin.
Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
Of your left ear, out of the wind,
Counting the red stars and those of plum-color.
The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
My hours are married to shadow.
No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
On the blank stones of the landing.



Song of Myself

The smoke of my own breath,
Echoes, ripples, buzz’d whispers, love-root, silk-thread, crotch and vine,
My respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the pass-
ing of blood and air through my lungs,
The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore and 
dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn,
The sound of the belch’d words of my voice loos’d to the eddies 
of the wind,
A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms,
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs 
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields 
and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from 
bed and meeting the sun.



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