Eleanor Wilner

E
Eleanor Wilner
Ars Poetica
To grasp, like Prometheus, the fire — without
the power to give it away ...
— Betty Adcock At first a silhouette on the horizon, then
turning solid, like Schiller coming up the path to meet
the adorable sisters, and they, pretending not to watch,
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Encounter in the Local Pub
Unlike Francis Bacon, we no longer believe in the little patterns we make of the chaos of history.
—Overheard remark As he looked up from his glass, its quickly melting ice,
into the bisected glowing demonic eyes of the goat,
he sensed that something fundamental had shifted,

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What loves, takes away
If the nose of the pig in the market of Firenze
has lost its matte patina, and shines, brassy,
even in the half light; if the mosaic saint
on the tiles of the Basilica floor is half gone,
worn by the gravity of solid soles, the passing
of piety; if the arms of Venus have reentered
the rubble, taken by time, her perennial lover,
mutilating even the memory of beauty;
and if
the mother, hiding with her child from
the death squads of brutality,
if she, trying to keep the child
quiet, to keep them from being found out,
holds her hand over his mouth, holds him
against her, tighter and tighter, until he stops
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Bailing Out-A Poem for the 1970s
Whose woods these are I think I know ... The landings had gone wrong; white silk,
like shrouds, covered the woods.
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Facing into It
for Larry Levis So it is here, then, after so long, and after all—
as the light turns in the leaves in the old golden
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The Girl with Bees in Her Hair
came in an envelope with no return address;
she was small, wore wrinkled dress of figured
cotton, full from neck to ankles, with a button
of bone at the throat, a collar of torn lace.
She was standing before a monumental house—
on the scale you see in certain English films:
urns, curved drives, stone lions, and an entrance far
too vast for any home. She was not of that place,
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The Last Man
for Vivian Schatz Here, in our familiar streets, the day
is brisk with winter’s business.
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The Messenger
The messenger runs, not carrying the news
of victory, or defeat; the messenger, unresting,
has always been running, the wind before and behind him,
across the turning back of earth, leaving
his tracks across the plains, his ropes
hanging from the ledges of mountains;
for centuries, millennia, he has been running
carrying whatever it is that cannot be
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Reading the Bible Backwards
All around the altar, huge lianas
curled, unfurled the dark green
of their leaves to complement the red
of blood spilled there—a kind of Christmas
decoration, overhung with heavy vines
and over them, the stars.
When the angels came, messengers like birds
but with the oiled flesh of men, they hung
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"Wreck" and "rise above"
Because of the first, the fear of wreck,
which they taught us to fear (though we learned
at once, and easily),
because of the wreck
that was expected (and metal given velocity
and heft to assure it)—
we became adepts in
rise above: how many versions: the church
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Bat Cave
The cave looked much like any other
from a little distance but
as we approached, came almost
to its mouth, we saw its walls within
that slanted up into a dome
were beating like a wild black lung—
it was plastered and hung with
the pulsing bodies of bats, the organ
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Ex Libris
By the stream, where the ground is soft
and gives, under the slightest pressure—even
the fly would leave its footprint here
and the paw of the shrew the crescent
of its claws like the strokes of a chisel
in clay; where the lightest chill, lighter
than the least rumor of winter, sets the reeds
to a kind of speaking, and a single drop of rain
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High Noon at Los Alamos
To turn a stone
with its white squirming
underneath, to pry the disc
from the sun’s eclipse—white heat
coiling in the blinded eye: to these malign
necessities we come
from the dim time of dinosaurs
who crawled like breathing lava
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Hunting Manual
The unicorn is an easy prey: its horn
in the maiden’s lap is an obvious
twist, a tamed figure—like the hawk
that once roamed free, but sits now, fat and hooded,
squawking on the hunter’s wrist. It’s easy
to catch what no longer captures
the mind, long since woven in,
a faded tapestry on a crumbling wall
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Without Regret
Nights, by the light of whatever would burn:
tallow, tinder and the silken rope
of wick that burns slow, slow
we wove the baskets from the long gold strands
of wheat that were another silk: worm soul
spun the one, yellow seed in the dark soil, the other.

The fields lay fallow, swollen with frost,
expectant winter. Mud clung to the edges
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Magnificat
When he had suckled there, he began
to grow: first, he was an infant in her arms,
but soon, drinking and drinking at the sweet
milk she could not keep from filling her,
from pouring into his ravenous mouth,
and filling again, miraculous pitcher, mercy
feeding its own extinction . . . soon he was
huge, towering above her, the landscape,
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