Two poems from Jonathan Weinert’s A Slow Green Sleep
followed by a note on the author
When we were dead, our vexed
tongues hung limp.
You’d made your done face, more or less,
and that was it.
We slept a slow green sleep.
And then the grass grew bronze and stiff
and all we knew was grass
and the ways through grass
and the small strange laws of sleep.
There the ferns grew like hair on the heads of the old dead.
The young dead ate their jam of fig and white cheese.
We wrote our odes and told our jokes
and laughed or rolled our hard white eyes.
You’d think we’d grow as tired of this as we had in life.
But when the weird bell called
and the halls of the dead were filled with the smells
of pine and moss, then how
we loved our deaths the more
and kept on in the ways of death
and left the chance of new life to the ones
who weren’t yet done with time.
We were. We’d get in bed there,
in the grass town of the dead,
left leg to right leg, sex to sex,
and let death flow from chest to chest,
a cold sweet air we had no need to breathe,
and hold it there in a deep green swoon
while the earth filled up with dust
and passed through an age of dust
on its way to the last days of dust.
One hundred fifteen in the shade, all day. Burn holes
lace the rose leaves; tomatoes blacken on their stakes.
The citizens of Denver, Phoenix, Santa Fe,
pent inside their malls like spiders under glass,
refuse to read the mortal edicts of the heat.
The landscape bides its own destruction. In a pit,
some thousand bones of hominins and wildebeests
lie twinned together, casual and intimate,
beside the faintest tracing of a dried-up pool.
The same old news: the earth could shrug us lightly off.
Two thousand acres burn toward Colorado Springs.
We humans love the wrongest things: eternity,
our histories, our brains. Indifferent tides will crush
the cordillera in a million years, before
the whole thing ices up, erasing us. Love that.
Jonathan Weinert is the author of In the Mode of Disappearance, winner of the Nightboat Poetry Prize, and Thirteen Small Apostrophes, a chapbook. He is co-editor of Until Everything Is Continuous Again: American Poets on the Recent Work of W.S. Merwin. Jonathan contributed to Renga for Obama, a linked poem sponsored by Harvard Review in honor of the 44th president. He lives in Stow, Massachusetts, on the edge of Heath Hen Meadow.