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“The Rings of Saturn,” “The Old Faith,” and “The Man in the Mirror”

The Rings of Saturn


A rare, bright, Sunday morning in January, no one
On the streets, an early seaside glare,
The kind of blue-lit morning you settle in
To read The Rings of Saturn, taking in
The bare-limb landscapes, the nothing layers
Crenellating slowly to the harbor, the ground
Going out from under you, and if you stand there
Long enough to sense the tide going out,
Folding back in the dolphin-wind of the half-
Dark water (like a bedsheet in a house
You woke in once as a child), you’ll sense the light
Shining out of itself. Or you sense the words
And pictures pulling you in, one gray
Scale at a time, with the coastline curves,
Meadows, and pastures, a perfect harvest
Behind the tree line. Then, a bridge,
Railway, something of an odd maritime
Cloud, and the feeling, intermittent, of
Reawakening into life, into a smoky
Rain—though you could walk out into
This cold light, with the banks of
Moss and trees, and not know where
To turn, or why, at this given moment,
You feel how little time remains.


The Old Faith


Memory as raw as a weathered  
Tooth, which, if it weren’t  
Smoothed, like carved stone  
From water, we could feel it  
As elegant as a waver. Or, loosened,  
As frail flight, or like day lilies,  
However flawed, gathering at the  
Side of the road, bright- 
Faced, spring-pointed, pastoral, still.  
Or, as weeping-eyed Latin  
Turned in the mouth: Recordatio or  
Animus, un-drowned, into sunlight, or  
Sadness, like a wing’s blur that at any  
Distance becomes a passing forget-the- 
Moment’s moment, like a harvest  
At dusk, sky the color of doves,  
White-crowned, common-collared,  
Hitting the horizon at the high 
Dust distance in the heart. If only  
The fracture of that shadow could be  
Imprinted, fine as powder, like a white 
Tree, in winter, on a hill. If only  
Everything forgotten blossomed again, 
Took heart, looked alive, like a feeling
Or thought, buried within, to
Coil and echo into the future.


The Man in the Mirror


Maybe it was December, and I was at  
My brown desk for an hour writing  
About debts and forgiveness, pen-to- 
Paper brushstrokes like painting  
A low-tide seascape on a plank of wood, 
The hills gold as hay with long fences. 
It was raining in the city, carving  
Tongue-and-groove marks in the amicable 
Ground. I’d get up, time and again, to  
Find my way to the window where  
The clouds left a white glow, and, quietly, I
could see my body in a kind of outline in the 
Glass, staring at the sap-wood and bark 
Dissolving, as if the pull of the earth  
Was adjusting to the early dark.  
There was nothing, on this side of the room, 
To say between the reflection and me,  
Though one of us was dying,  
Turning into the next new  
Sweetness you might find hung on  
A clothes-line strung across the air.  
I could see how slumped that line  
Was, close to the ground.

David Biespiel is the author of twelve books, most recently "A Place of Exodus" and "Republic Café". 

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