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Conjuring Roethke by JAMES TATE

July 14, 1991

Prickle a lamb,

giggle a yam,

beat a chrysanthemum

out of its head

with a red feather.

Dream of a pencil

or three airmail stamps

under your pillow.

Thank the good fairy

you're not dead.

The heat's on,

the window's gone,

the ceiling is sorry

it hurt you.

But this is not air

holding your hand,

nor weasels beneath

your dirt rug.

I think the corks

are out of breath,

the bottles begin

laughing a zoo.

I wish you were here.

The calendar is red,

a candle closes

the room.

If this is the life

we are all leaving

it's half as bad.

Hello again mad turnip.

Let's tango together

down to the clear

glad river.

From "Selected Poems" (Wesleyan/University Press of New England: $27.50, cloth; $14.95, paper; 239 pp.) 1991 by James Tate. Reprinted with permission.

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