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SHIBBOLETH
As though a certain thing being said
          might cause a raffish creek run small,
deflect this long too sistent rain
          or winds which overbear the tall
battered poplars be muted into fall,
then ease . . . as though what’s laid
          low be made upright by what’s spoken.
There is no more to it than that, which young
we learned was almost rule of thumb.
          Those books we cut our teeth on told
as much and more. Patching up the broken
          as new as good, no sweat at all.
               In any beginning somewhere a word
or words, sufficient to wake a most numb
          limb or dull tongue back to its absurd
potent capacity, could roll the cold
stone from the cavern mouth or admit
travellers to redeemed lands, their ritual passage
               oh handsomely sung.
Of course, when young it was not long
          before we also met the tale
about that traveller got cast
          away by some outrageous gale
on shores which were incalculably bale
fired, battening, deprived,
          depraved. He was soon commanded by
the Old Man of the Sea and could not find
to unspeak that unspeakable.
          Honestly, I cannot recall
just what he did – Freudian lapse, I suppose,
          bound up with whatever for male
               role-playing is implicit. Responsible
then, but quite naturally culpable
          I am and am not? Perhaps I shall
and I should inextricably must moil
faithless together as I fear. I fear,
trading in guilty words which are my trade of sorts,
          their intention dear
as though, as though . . .
                                                                       23. 3. 77
Editor's note
Shibboleth : first publication
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