blackbirdonline journalSpring 2010  Vol. 9  No. 1
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     Chacun animal vit dans l’immanence comme l’eau dans l’eau.
          —Georges Bataille

After the garden, the man and woman
squatted in a field of thorns.

See, they had become like us,
although they didn’t know it yet,
knowing good and evil, which meant also

a whole bestiary of pain,
which was new to them, and so
in the infancy of their wanting

thirst and hunger, famine and drought
lacked at first their proper names,
settling slowly on their tongues
like sand blown through the teeth.

It took some time before they saw
that certain things were missing:
the beasts of the field fled from them,
the evening thrush was still.

And something else as well, a thing
that had no name was missing too,
which had been everywhere before.

They began to speak of a before,
arranging stones to track the days,
circling them in the dry grass,
counting backward in their grief
to the first stone, day after day,
until there were too many stones to count,
and they built a house out of their grief.

What had gone? It was not in the sky,
or in the root, or in the wilted throat.
Before, it had been everywhere.

Above, the sky was blue and hard.
The leaves cracked in the wind.
They searched and searched the field in vain.

Only by digging an O in the earth,
carving and carving the shape of their grief,

did they find at last what they had lost,
and draw it up, and call it by its name.

Before, it had been everywhere.
Like nothing, it could not be
conceived. Now, in the sterile earth,
the man and woman made it into a thing.

And they saw that it was useful
for calling back the world,
the wild ass, the ox.
Later they found it could call forth
the green plants of the field as well.

But as with all the things that are
both intimate and necessary, they saw
how it could swallow and withhold:
the gourd dropped in the well.
The sea which never speaks.

We can imagine how the first echo
must have terrified them,
their own voices in the well
calling back to them, their words
the only things that would return.

And so they kept the words,
and made themselves a song about the whole,
their small, round world, held out to hold
a place for everything that’s lost.  end

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