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Readings by Henry Walters

"Triptych in Pieces," "Now the One, Now the Other," "Milkman" - Henry Walters

Triptych in Pieces

A chord's, let's say, one dosado

          on three imperfect pitches, do-mi-sol,

                    matched to miss & marry so.


A pitch, let's say, 's one frequent sound

          ahum in the three dimensions, up & down

                    & straight ahead in circling round.


& let's say time's one tempo poured

          out on the piecemeal immaculate parquet floor

                    of was & is & will be in accord.


Now the One, Now the Other

No doubt I too will fall under the prediction

& someday soon will say, "That little time 

I spent with birds," in the vague unforgivable way


An elder speaks of an old self in his bed.

& no doubt now, defensive, I should say, "Elder,

I have slept with a hawk on my hand, & bled


Where her talons hit, & still fed her flesh from it,

& watched her eyes watching for movement in the grass,

& saw the grass move there." & true enough,


There is something of birds in me, & true enough,

My eyes will never be yellow & hard as the hawk's.

Do you mark how life gets filled, the crevices


Between—now the one, now the other—where some spirit hides,

Where that hunted thing prays not to be heard?




Not till this old-fashioned morning, Son House singing

through fifty pushups, fifty situps, some pain-

ful stretches into lower registers


that can’t be reached, on a skipping record,
Got a letter this morn—, Got a letter this morn—,
not till I rifled every kitchen cupboard


& poked through sacks of nothing but dry goods,
& the fridge the same, no eggs, no meat, no greens,
& I, who have never been poor, sat down, tired,


not till then did I think about the milkman,
a real man to my parents’ generation
but myth to mine, who’d come in the dawn & leave


two bottles on the stoop beside the door,
uncapped, they said, & frothy, &, sometimes, warm,
narrow-necked bottles that flared out like the bell


of a gramophone, like the mouths of changeling twins
you found each morning, unswaddled, unexplained,
& take in full, & put out empty, & think


no more about than mail arriving twice,
or papers by evening, or kids after school, or sun
going up & down by everybody’s watch.


But now your bottle floats up into mind, 
milkman, minstrel, waylaid messenger,
without a message, without milk, without


even a sun to slip slow through your glass,
& you say, Hush—I thought I heard her call
my name, & suddenly your being gone


delivers me a second time into the world,
brimful, & fuller, maybe, than before, 
having had no taste of what there’d be to lack.


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