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The Exploration of Space for the Twentieth Century Poet

November 11, 1990


To get into it properly,

he grows a tree

on the earlobe

and swings from it gently

through the inner ear

and apple-fall of its own darkness.

He tells himself at night in bed

when one lost and lingering word

curls spinelessly

along the ear's kingdom of the vague

like a mosquito itching for interpretation

that a snake preys within

the hollow sound of silence.

That through its forked tongue

as if to mime a kiss

he must hiss out the nuisance,

its poet's drum

roaring through all of conscience

like a leeching gnat or bully.

That for the sake of truth

he will hold his tongue, survive

is molting breath. And worm the apple

through the long fall and endless ground

of his imagination. He tells himself,

for Christ's sake,

the rumor of a serpent

was God's own dying


From "Womb Weary" (Birch Lane Press: $14.95, cloth; $8.95, paper). Director of the Graduate Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, James Ragan is the author of "In the Talking Hours" and co-editor of "The Collected Poems of Yevgeny Yevtushenko." copyright 1990 by James Ragan. Reprinted by permission of the publisher .

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