The Dam


No sound but that of the shovel’s
thrust and scrape. Dark river-sand
coarse and blunt like crystals
razes the blade to a flashing
and sheathing of silver. He
dumps the sand in the bags.

Bent in work, buckles of sweat
gleam across his shoulders; he is grasped
by day’s calloused and fathering palm,
the scent of fennel and peppermint.
His sand-bags pile the river, bags
flat, lined up, lying like drunks
or the dead.
He fills them with mysteries
or dread, hauls them backwards.
through the sand, plunges beneath the water,
bags sighing and wheezing till
all weight is lost, shape
is fitted to a dark stack
where water is a drumming silence.

A wall in the water, his neat
centuries of levelled alluvia,
the green reassurance of crops.
He climbs up the groove in the bank,
sees the water whirl at the wall
a silver concentration. A bag
moves, lightened in the flow.
He sees a hawk, winged psalm of the heat, soar,
sees the horse break through bushes
on the other bank, black, massive
(though he has seen it before).
Drinks from the river,
trapping him in eyes
deep matter resting.
Then is gone in a spume,
galloping downstream, its dark coat
dazzling with the gloss
of light, the exuberant rider.

Utterly still.
He stands, blurred by time.
Something eludes him.
He shakes an awkwardness;
time flows, and is flesh again
fitting itself to the shape of digging.

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