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Authors: J.D. McClatchy

Plundered Hearts

BOOK: Plundered Hearts
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Copyright © 2014 by J. D. McClatchy

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC, New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, Penguin Random House companies.

Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House LLC.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
McClatchy, J. D., 1945–
  [Poems. Selections]
  Plundered Hearts : New and Selected Poems / By J. D. McClatchy.
  —First Edition.
      pages cm
  “Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York.”
  ISBN 978-0-385-35151-5 (Hardcover)—ISBN 978-0-385-35152-2 (eBook)
  I. Title.
  PS3563.A26123A6   2014
  8112.54—dc23                  2013023979

Jacket painting:
by Vincent Desiderio, 2008. Image courtesy of Marlborough Gallery.
Jacket design by Chip Kidd

First Edition


Chip Kidd





Arranged around the lamp’s mercury glass globe,

    They reach out for or defend against

The attention that wood or bronze or resin

    Shakily command at this late stage

Of reproduction. After all, none is like

    My own one of a kind, its rigging

Of creases, its scuffed half-moons and bitten nails,

    Its quivering index and moiré

Pattern of skin loosely draped over the bones—

    Liver spots carelessly spilled on it,

Along with whatever dings or oily stains

    The insincere handshake and backslap,

The dog’s tongue or jock’s package have left behind.

    Those on this table are innocent.

The pair unscrewed from a side chapel’s martyr

    Still holding crazed flakes of their own thumbs,

The pharaoh’s fist implacably denying

    The idea there are more gods than one,

A factory glove mold, the madam’s ring holder,

    A mannequin’s milk-white come-hither,

The miniature ecstatic’s stigmata,

    Someone’s smartly cuffed, celluloid brooch,

A Buddha’s gilded fingertips joined and poised,

    Like a conductor’s, at last to re-

lease the final, tremulous, resolving chord—

    Each frozen in a single gesture,

Pleading, threatening, clinging, shielding, the sorry

    Travelling company called Fierce Desire,

These here on the left knowing only too well

    What those on the right have been up to.

Patiently assembled on their glass senate

    Floor, forever in session, the

Have it over and over again (despite

    Gloria Vanderbilt’s birthday gift,

A rough-cut back-country tobaccoed pine paw

    That flatly refuses to take sides).

And of living hands, how many have I held,

    As it were, for keeps—say, wordlessly,

After the promise that bodies can make, held

    While staring at his sweetly shut eyes.

What, time and again, was I holding onto,

    As if it had been for dear life’s sake?

Looking back, I guess I am glad they let go.

    Theirs are not the hands that haunt me now.

The one that does belonged to a blustery,

    Timid soul at home in dull routines,

Forfeiting glamour and curiosity,

    A life sustained by its denials.

I reached for it, only because B-movies

    Demand one pick it up off the sheet,

A shrivelled, damp, and fetid wedge still clutching

    Nothing but a bed railing of air,

Its slackened tendons stiff and crusted with scabs

    And knots of scar tissue abutting

Deep-sunk hematomas, from which the knucklebones

    Jutted like cairns, nails cracked and yellow.

Though dead for hours, it was not yet cold.

    I didn’t know what to do with it.

So I held onto it without wanting to,

    Fearful of letting it go too soon.

It was what—now for the last time—I

    It was a hand. It was my mother’s.

1. On the Stream

How swift you rushed along,

Your torrent so wild, so bright.

How quiet you have become.

No farewell words tonight.

A hard, unyielding crust

Hides you where you stand.

Cold and motionless you lie

There, on your bed of sand.

On your surface I scratch

With a sharp stone’s edge

The name of my beloved,

The day, the hour, the pledge:

The day when first we met,

The day I left in spring,

Name and numbers inside

The shape of a broken ring.

And in this brook, my heart,

Do you see yourself portrayed?

See beneath its frozen crust

The turbulent cascade?

2. The Gray Head

The frost had left a white

Covering on my head.

I thought I had grown old.

At last! I joyfully said.

It melted soon enough.

Again my hair was black.

I am left here with my youth.

The grave I seek draws back.

Between the dusk and dawnlight

Many heads turned gray.

Imagine! Mine has not,

Having come now all this way.

BOOK: Plundered Hearts
8.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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