Long Struggle and Float
A. F. Moritz

Each man or woman exists one day. Next morning,
rising up, is gone. Is a sense of having come
across an air of dimness
from another one. It takes that one’s place,
wakes in that one’s bed with that one’s things
and has to grasp them on the riddling
evidence, the skeletal scattered records
lying mute around it.

                                       But why? They lie
inside me, too––unless the fits there
are my own. But what is “my own”? What is
this place I live in with all this,
should I pick it up, where else is there? By noon,
no longer newborn, this one has moved around
and learned the space’s furniture and width
and now night is coming. Little’s been thrown away yet
or put in order, when a memory flickers.

Before waking––weren’t there shreds
and patterns in the dark thickness,
pictures brighter than day? Cities grew there,
and untouched forests. There were smothering passages
deep underground, a crumbling of sand, the creep
of mud along someone’s ribs and into his throat.
Was that me? In streets of mildewed towers,
palaces and huge stores, narrow-fronted, thousands
of stories high––streets always turning
into other streets, down which something walked
naked, searching for a way back, coming out
onto airy cliffs over regions of that city
unknown before. Lost, someone pressed forward,
face to the cool moist sun, drenched in splendor,
vaguely ashamed. It vanished and there was me.

But what was that? A well or a mine you own
but never use––where is it? Or maybe a shadow
shining through the night from yesterday
of who was here or what you were.

And so each person has thirty thousand lives
and each one scrabbles for a purchase
in the flotsam of images: a long struggle and float
of a day’s length. Then night comes and a little
civilization ends, its collapse almost unnoted,
though later some of its crumbs
turn up again and astonish like a dream.

A. F. Moritz has written more than twenty books of poetry, most recently The Sparrow and As Far As You Know. His many honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, and an Ingram Merrill Fellowship. He currently serves as the sixth poet laureate of the City of Toronto, and as the Goldring Professor of the Arts and Society at Victoria College, University of Toronto.

Read A. F. Moritz interviewed by Lauren Peat.


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