• Paul Kane


The Wind at Your Back

                               Shiprock, New Mexico


A beginning but not a beginning—

when beginnings are ends.

                                  And so you climb,

painstaking, the flank of hills—the detritus

the rock has cast from itself—until at last,

what do you find?

                              A height that bewilders

the sense of scale, a distance out of all

proportion, and swallows diving, sweeping

about, curious as to intrusions

or simply marking another presence

along the cliff face.

                              You are no farther

than the base of the rock, where it rises

out of its skirt of debris vertical,

vertiginous, a wall to your effort.

Here, where it begins, you can go no further—

yet sensing to what end you undertook

the climb, you delight in the swallows

and soaring sky, and the wind at your back.




The War Between the States


At Hampton-Sydney

          near Appomattox Court House

I hadn’t realized

          the War had never ended.

                        Styron, Dickey and Morris,


southerners all, plus

          me, Yankee carpetbagger,

civil civilian.

          Tales of Lee and Jackson grew

                        maudlin with whiskey and why,


till Dickey’s wife put

          an end to it next morning,

icy with fury.

          All the big monuments here

                        are for wars we fight at home.


Which is why the Shrine

          in Melbourne was surprising

my first Anzac Day.

          Even the Second World War

                        is an afterthought in braille.


Lest we forget makes

          no sense if we never learn.

There are no heroes.

          Abed, my father moaned for

                        the shipmates he couldn’t save.