The Things I Cannot Do

How strange that we have to
make these public declarations
of our secrets. But we do.
– Ted Hughes

The gutter that runs behind the town,
once river soiled just by Marin-balluk blood,
or blood they spilled, that snakes
along behind the town, boosting sloops
at sleep above its arsenic, waters the stiff
myth of impotence that mediates a birth.

There is always something, they say,
that somebody in the room knows. Fondless
speculation fills the colder mouths. Some gas
lights an unfixed soul along a final way,
the unproductive hunger gnawing scattered
on its rising places, wounded by its own folly.
Nature organises nature, in lines, coils, fangs.

And there it is. Fear has blooded
the furtive resummoned face of the babe.
One long determined look, determined
who knows how, conjures yet the old terrors.
No boast of love’s unearthly pedigree
can pretend my heritage, or it away.
And I can hold these things, but not at bay.

8 comments

  1. Mark,

    The last line is still awesome, no matter how many times I read this.

    I feel like such a dunderhead for not remembering the first version
    more specifically. The first stanza is a forceful opening to the poem.
    I don’t recall the same impact when I read it previously. I’m wondering
    if the tribal reference is new; it works wonders to set the tone of the poem.
    From beginning to end “The Things I Cannot Do” has a hold on the reader.
    Top shelf all the way.

    Sarah
    .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sarah …thank you for taking time with this one … again! You diligently review every post, so don’t ever give yourself grief … it’s the poem’s job to become a memory, not the reader’s to make it one!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Mark

    A poem rich in eloquent language is one that engages and haunts the reader. I think history leaves its mark on a place, the suffering of a people, their fear and their struggle. The hunger transcends time and one can still feel its presence, something that also is passed on from generation to generation. And as you aptly, beautifully state it in the following lines, nature has its way of arranging that spirit of turmoil and decay in its own way, visibly in the deterioration of the land, the growth of weeds and the general feeling such a place echoes or conveys –

    There is always something, they say,
    that somebody in the room knows. Fondless
    speculation fills the colder mouths. Some gas
    lights an unfixed soul along a final way,
    the unproductive hunger gnawing scattered
    on its rising places, wounded by its own folly.
    Nature organises nature, in lines, coils, fangs.

    And there it is. Fear has blooded
    the furtive resummoned face of the babe.
    One long determined look, determined
    Thank you for sharing this intense
    in all its raw beauty and its longing to be said, heard.

    Thank you for sharing,
    much enjoyed
    Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

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