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Published: Mon Jul 1 2013
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Coda: Journey

So now these flies making a helmet
on the skull of a dead raccoon

at the road’s verge, this recurring
dream of years that fall away, the pearl

white moon with its barrenness
and beauty, what opens for us its manifold

arms, earth with its argument of mud,
loam bed carrying us forever,

sky garden and fertile stars so far away
we know they are a map. Or soon

the wind enclosing us in decades,
this long marriage of summer evenings

and flocks of birds, the birches
whispering of sacrifice and sorrow,

the grass a caress against our legs.
And suddenly the smell from the lowlands

of the first decay, primitive and ancient,
original death with its blackened trees

and drying rivers, nothing human here
except the surgery of hours, one slicing into

the body of the next, days of soot
and the quiet story of bootprints

in snow, a few frail years before
our lips are sewn tight and lamplight

grows so dull around us we sense
that we are drifting out to sea.

Doug Ramspeck is the author of four poetry collections, the most recent of which, Mechanical Fireflies (2011), won the Barrow Street Press Book Prize. His first book, Black Tupelo Country (2009), was awarded the John Ciardi Prize. His poems have appeared in Slate, AGNI, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere. In 2009 he received an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award. He directs the Writing Center and teaches creative writing at The Ohio State University at Lima. (updated 5/2013)

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