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About this Poem 

“This poem is partly an ode to the Sumerian scribe in the title, and also an elegy, occasioned by encountering margin notes in a book—written by a departed loved one. ‘Boustrophedon’ is defined in Webster's as ‘the writing of alternate lines in opposite directions (as from left to right and from right to left).’”

—David Wojahn

For the Scribe Gar.Una of Uruk, 3,000 B. C.

—author of the earliest known signature

That arrow & life were homonyms. That his name
       Predates all others, incised sunbaked on a slab
              Of Eupratian clay. Stylus a broken reed, though it

Carries somehow the bedazzled opalescent mojo
     Of transfiguration. The hand which holds it edges right
              & reaching the margin circles back, right to left

& east to west, boustrophedon, so that inscription
      Is a form of weaving. What matters that the context
               Is grain, is cattle & goat, chamber pot & sandal,

Three & twenty spear-shafts hewn of cedar,
      Flagons of unguents for the Temple Stores.
               Enumerate, enumerate. Life & arrow,

Our endless numbered days enfeathered
      So to fly relentless in unpitying sun.
               The one whom I loved is dead. The one

Whom I loved is clay. Enumerate, enumerate,
      Life & arrow. They are all gone now, the days
               We shared. Gone eighteen years, six months,

Seven days, eleven hours. & thus I open
     The Major English Romantic Poets & keep vigil,
               For her hand her hand lives on in concord

Peerless with William Blake, The Proverbs of Hell
     Decoded. So he took me thro’ a stable
            (vision of materialism) and thro’ a church and down

Into a church vault, at the end of which (Mill of Abstraction)
     we did come to a cave; down the winding cavern
              we groped our tedious way
(Materialism = Locke

+ Newton)…. I have also the Bible of Hell, which
     the world shall have, whether they will or no. (Creation +
               Fall—the Angel embraces the Fire).

Blue ink, green ink, pencil. Kentish Town, the ‘80s,
      Window open & the pewter light ensilvering
              The Heath. I watch the book upon her desk, pages

A-tremble in the evening wind. She is out somewhere
      In the leather jacket; she is out somewhere
              To score. Blue ink, green ink, the Angel

Embraces fire. Guide my hand now, o scribe,
      Let me speak of her as though she might stand
              Before me still. Enumerate, enumerate—

The fog transfiguring, the chastening light. Guide my hand,
     O scribe, so that I might see her from this window
             We have hewn of stylus, of keyboard & character.

Guide my hand so that she may walk below, emerging
     Corporeal, parting the Tube Station crowd,
              Jacket, worn boots, her scarf that is forged

Of electrum, her scarf that is molten, her scarf
     That is flame. Below me she stands. Arrow
             & life.
Guide my hand, o scribe.

Instruct me to affix her here, that she may,
     for a moment, raise her head toward me,
            So that in this bless`ed gesture I may linger.
 

Copyright @ 2014 byDavid Wojahn. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright @ 2014 byDavid Wojahn. Used with permission of the author.

David Wojahn

David Wojahn

Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on August 22, 1953, David Wojahn was educated at the University of Minnesota and the University of Arizona.

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2
poem
. . . 

& how, o spirits, shall I invoke you, who cannot count himself
    among the chosen?
My writings & keenings are interior & treated by appropriate
    prescription drugs,

to whom my conversion is incomplete, for some days I devote myself
    solely to my dead
& in my error I do seek them
poem
A nurse gathers up the afterbirth. My mother
    *
had been howling but now could sleep.
    *
By this time I am gone—also gathered up
    *
& wheeled out. Above my jaundiced face the nurses hover.
    *
Outside, a scab commands a city bus. The picketers battle cops
    *
& ten thousand Soviet conscripts