Speaking of a Mammal

So in the ruins of Cracow man turned wolf.
Collecting amber on the Baltic coasts was forgotten,
brief stripe of the lighthouse on wobbling skiff hulls,
glow of a breast when his wife’s nightshirt slipped
like a line of contested territory in her sleep,
the cold faucet water in the morning that was the sign
of society as much as anything else. And here was Crusoe,
Fridayless, wheedling away his weekend under acrid cloud
in the cannoned-out cellars and spent brickwork, hoping to beat
rats to the last stashes of hardened bread. Every tree
in the wind sounded to him like a panzer’s tread
busting a skull. Heroism was gone, unless
there was patriotism in squatting out survival, as was music,
unless the rush of crumbling hotels and theaters
reverting in an avalanche to their charred ordinates
struck some chord in heaven. Afraid to light a fire,
like Peter he rolled scrap grain between his palms
and watched the darting sparrows of the spring
migration begin to find new roosts among gray beams
and the torn ribs of the rafters. Birdsong. Blending days,
last light. The mantle of Adam began to feel heavy.
And if he should see another darting the alleys, another
uprising veteran he might’ve sworn to die for months ago
in the gaslamped offices of the underground, he knew his duty.
The new salute: walk away.  The password they each
memorized by one consent: homo homini lupis.


2 thoughts on “Speaking of a Mammal

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