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At 59, By BENJAMIN SALTMAN

August 02, 1992

Once I lived with the grasshopper's clubbed legs

and tireless mouth, now I walk high off the

ground

above vague feet. How many years ago

did attenuation begin? Like taffy,

I stretched and stretched, passionate as ever

but from a distance. I tilted my head back

and saw the curve of my nostrils loom darkly

like beer drifting toward water at night.

Now I try a stroll, nonchalant,

my legs wavering, slick

and transparent with, to my surprise,

malevolent stingers at their tips.

Strange how lethal the feet become, crackling quietly,

hard at the edges, the nails discolored

by miles and time.

At night in bed under a helmet of light

I read longingly the book of moss

and of the slick inner thighs of twigs.

I smell damp cornsilk, brown, decaying in

my hands.

I lengthen toward sleep.

From "The Book of Moss" (Garden Street Press: $7.95; 55 pp.). 1992 by Benjamin Saltman. Reprinted by permission. Benjamin Saltman was born in Pittsburgh in 1927. He began writing poetry when he was 38. Since 1967 he has taught verse writing and contemporary American literature at California State University, Northridge. This is his sixth book of poetry, and it is really something.

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