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Inn

By Fred Pollack

I have a desk, and light,
and meals, and know
that such a bare assertion of the case
would once have hinted at imprisonment
and called for pity, which
has gone out of the world, like hate.
The window looks onto a bay.
Fish have returned, and gulls,
while some swift tree reoccupies
the peaks, accompanied by animals.
Are words, I wonder, more or less
inert, now that they show
mere undistinguished life among
these other lives; is thought
a species of hysteria that proves
only a failure to assimilate
the return of silence and of space?

The dead were always the great critics,
determining the taste of the unborn.
The after- and before-life seemed,
however crowded, less so than the cities
where they were the major employer,
whatever someone hoped to serve or earn.
And the cities in turn relied
on convict labor to illuminate
the endlessly unrolling scroll
whose burden was the myth of personal fate.
Why am I thinking
of prisons, those particularly dark buildings?
Last night a bear sighed
audibly in the foyer.
Those neighbors on the hill across the water
are dogs becoming wolves again,
their moon-cries neither hungry nor forlorn.

I go downstairs with vague
atavistic or premature
hopes of an audience, but mostly wanting
voices. Perhaps, as trade revives
over millennia, layer on layer
of grand hotel will encrust this place.
Yet hopefully, when the stranger,
however ugly or unsure,
enters, the woman
stirring the hard- and collectively-won
soup will look upon him still
as precious, only humbly
to be approached, addressed, or touched,
as she herself is viewed; the big
competent hunters make
an automatic place for him,
as if exclusion were itself the plague.

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