Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2016  Vol. 15 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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back T.R. HUMMER

In Utah

I used to go out before sunup in February, breasting the vicious
wind that came down from the High Uintas—
Such cold that I grew a beard to protect me, and prayed
to the Mormon ravens to enfold me in their ragged nests—
Laboring up the foothill along East 100th Street, from the flat
where I lived underground like a character from Dostoyevsky
To the Abattoir of Knowledge where I taught poetry to the young
who desired to partake in metrics at seven in the morning
Before they were sent the world over carrying Truth and Beauty
to people in Tonga, etc.—was I complicit in that, since I read them Keats?
So many young men in neckties, beardless, assembled in the classroom’s
natural supernatural darkness, waiting to learn metaphor and rhyme,
That in my confusion I studied again the Book of Enoch to learn
how angels behave when they come among us, I turned
Once more to Swedenborg and Blake. But the young men grew restive
when I spent three classes reading Jerusalem aloud,
They refused to write 500 lines of visionary strophes,
they complained to the Dean of Cattle, and I was reprimanded,
And returned to ordinary poets: Snyder and Brooks and Stern,
wheezing uphill in the razored wind with a raven on my shoulder
To protect me from anarchists, pit bulls, motorbikes, and Bible salesmen,
believing nothing in the nest of my soul that could not be enjambed,
And I came each day to the Abattoir and took up the hammer again
to crush the skull of each animal in turn, but precisely and tenderly.  

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