Fifteen Hundred Butternut II Or To my Grandmother
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They took your breasts in the autumn Ashen days, lonesome smoke smell of leaves and righteous fire.
They took your womb in the springtime Our season of malignant rebirth, of cancer growth, of quiet fear.
They took your tree in the winter, Mighty oak that had stood watching over your kitchen, sheltering generations.
Shadeless, naked, the house persists. Frozen, thick-skied spring of the North looking on as they carted off the limbs Piece by ancient piece Pronouncing them diseased, useless.
Forbade you to burn them for warmth.
* * *
You crazy Greek Word after tumbling word after tumbling word Nick
Man of two poles Body hung on a hook Fast talking and bushy-browed
Of planks and equations Sex and explosions, you spoke Dark eyes fixed on my wide nineteen-year-old blues.
On Aristotle, the war, you said "Listen, listen"; asked did I know of Sartre, Treads on a tank, and love
Seven mile sanctuary Unholy the cross your back bore The cracks in the rank, rot-beige
Skin-smoothed walls Hot smoke in the courtyard Cold cough in winter
In the drizzled square You are unshaven, your ashes, like snow, Fall to the earth.
Remember how later you Asked me where was that nice blond you liked With the French name and the kind ears
I heard you fell, you Fragile ghost of a man and I say I'm sorry
Sorry I never said I never said, "Nick, hey Nick, it's me."