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Anthony Hecht

Anthony Hecht

Courtesy of Helen Hecht.

Long-Distance Vision

How small they look, those men way in the distance.
Somehow they seem scarcely to move at all,
And when they do it is slowly,
Almost unwillingly. I bend my head
To my writing, look up half an hour later,
And there they are, as if

Engaged in boring discussion, fixed in a world
Almost eventless, where it is somehow always
Three in the afternoon,
The best part of the day already wasted,
And nothing to do till it’s time for the first drink
Of the uneventful evening.

I know, of course, binoculars would reveal
They are actually doing something—one doubles over,
(Is it with pain or laughter?)
Another hangs his jacket on the handle
Of his bicycle, tucks in his Versace sportshirt
And furtively checks his fly.

But the naked eyesight smoothes and simplifies,
And they stand as if awaiting the command
Of a photographer
Who, having lined them up in a formal group,
Will tell them to hold even stiller than they seem
Till he’s ready to dismiss them.

In much the same way, from a palace window,
The king might have viewed a tiny, soundless crowd
On a far hill assembled,
Failing to see what a painter would have recorded:
A little crystal vase with one carnation
At the foot of the cross.

The End of the Weekend

A dying firelight slides along the quirt
Of the cast-iron cowboy where he leans
Against my father’s books. The lariat
Whirls into darkness. My girl, in skin-tight jeans,
Fingers a page of Captain Marryat,
Inviting insolent shadows to her shirt.

We rise together to the second floor.
Outside, across the lake, an endless wind
Whips at the headstones of the dead and wails
In the trees for all who have and have not sinned.
She rubs against me and I feel her nails.
Although we are alone, I lock the door.

The eventual shapes of all our formless prayers,
This dark, this cabin of loose imaginings,
Wind, lake, lip, everything awaits
The slow unloosening of her underthings.
And then the noise. Something is dropped. It grates
Against the attic beams.
I climb the stairs,

Armed with a belt.
A long magnesium strip
Of moonlight from the dormer cuts a path
Among the shattered skeletons of mice.
A great black presence beats its wings in wrath.
Above the boneyard burn its golden eyes.
Some small grey fur is pulsing in its grip.