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Jacket 20 — December 2002   |   # 20  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |

Lawrence Joseph

Stop Me If I’ve Told You

That year, too, was finished.
Yellow fog vanished

in the lane of spring mistletoe,
Byron’s Pool, Newton’s rooms.

Emphatically, emphatically she said no
the second from the last time.

Her hair was light, bright red and beautiful.
She cried, I said don’t.

While, drugged, I increased
to a very high power,

several billion dollars of bombs
dropped on Cambodia, Jerolds,

on Jesus Green, declared
he intended to be great.

R. A. H. Prince, at High Table,
observed Lewis’ subtle depiction

of Eliot’s eyes in the famous portrait
that hung in Hall, insisted

every American owned a car.
Stop me if I’ve told you about

the treatise on evil in the University Library,
purple rhododendrons

burst apart in midnight sun,
Paris, Thonon-les-Bains, Geneva in April,

my sensitivity, and my luck.
Home in November after my second Michaelmas

to find — myself. Myself
an abstraction; myself

drives to see the great factories,
wills his desire not to accumulate

in the brain, remembers
the Angelus’ cadences

on the Shrine of the Little Flower’s chimes.
Have I told you about

the Pillar of Families and the Hope
of the Sick, instants

of awareness, my own words
I should not comprehend?

July, in the village Ajaltoun
in the mountain in Lebanon

on the feast of Saint Elias,
while Beirut’s heavy moon

and tin and cardboard houses
revolved behind my eyes,

I danced one step forward
and, then, one step to the side,

knelt, rose straightbacked,
upright in the beginnings

of some strange knowledge
I thought was true.

I vowed discipline. I vowed love.
I read all the books, believed

my irony my nostalgia reversed —
I believed it. January

in Cambridge, a new year,
I waken at dawn to walk

to the old Gasworks outside the city
toward familiar smells.

This poem first appeared in Pequod magazine
and was collected in Curriculum Vitae,
University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988, ISBN 0-8229-5401-X

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