History

By Robert Lowell

History has to live with what was here,
clutching and close to fumbling all we had–
it is so dull and gruesome how we die,
unlike writing, life never finishes.
Abel was finished; death is not remote,
a flash-in-the-pan electrifies the skeptic,
his cows crowding like skulls against high-voltage wire,
his baby crying all night like a new machine.
As in our Bibles, white-faced, predatory,
the beautiful, mist-drunken hunter’s moon ascends–
a child could give it a face: two holes, two holes,
my eyes, my mouth, between them a skull’s no-nose–
O there’s a terrifying innocence in my face
drenched with the silver salvage of the mornfrost.

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