Intimations of Age (1970)

Their older sisters bolted from my timid torch
on legs as lithe; and now these
fawns, these flowers in my dream-
pasture of lust, glowing more fiercely
as my sun declines, they nestle
close without fear, their brittle fingers
liberated on my distanced flesh, and call
me Uncle.

                         And the sisters, el
dorado’s dancehall nymphs ten years ago, now
heave into the station of the mind
trailing children and talking quite openly
of intra-uterine devices.
(The days are fingers, turning me
to their own blank eyes. My tongue
exaggerates the memory, and then
the stone’s sound shakes the well.)
And at the barricades the Afro-
printed rebels, discovering by rote
(a quickening treason of self-knowledge)
300 years of misplaced blackness, vicariously
warm against each other in their chain-
gang chants of Africa and anarchy; while I
retreat to verandahs and rum, and turn

to other roots, which grow like morning
details to myopic urgency:
a father, never close, now
slipping through the gaps of silence
into testiness and recollection, as I
assume his role and watch my son’s
fierce love batten on my terror of the road
that darkens into dream;
a mother-in-law, warming herself at the flame
of my last gift to her, whose twelvemonth legs
amaze themselves with puppet steps.

Like a chrysalis despairing
of the light I turn again, to find
my woman naked between dresses, belly
breasts and limbs two harvests old,
pouting at the mirror’s indifference.
My cosmos pivots on the fulcrum
of her deeply furrowed groin. Oyster-
tight, her gum-chewed nipple is
the only granule in this swelling darkness.