BACHMANN’S WARBLER (DECONSTRUCTION OF A POET)

BACHMANN’S WARBLER (DECONSTRUCTION OF A POET)
TARA BERGIN writing after RECONSTRUCTION OF A POET by ZBIGNIEW HERBERT

Who counts the money?
Who sits behind a shield
and tells me the phone isn’t safe?
Who has her lunch at one?
Who shows me what I’ve done
and makes me poorer – richer –
whatever I want?
Who demands my number and my key?
Who is always warning me?

Students –
Who is the nice lady in the bank?
Is she Death? Is she Love?
What feeling is she? What state might she be?
Let’s think of a different word for melancholy.

Can we? Shall we?

O Students –
I must address you from my death-bed
from my death-chair, from my death-desk.
I must stand at the window,
and address you thus:
don’t refuse to taste the sweet –
to taste the salt –
don’t refuse it always.

If I was the cause of your unhappiness
I cannot apologise.
I was – of course – the cause of mine.
I said ‘yes’. I said ‘yes’ several times.
Remember this: ‘yes’ is not always the right answer.
But it might be. How will we know?

Oh –
I have struck –
twenty-one times –
the lighthouse in the Florida Keys;
I have been shot by the plume hunter;
I have not made a nest for ninety-five years;
I am on the verge of extinction;
I have begun my decline –

And can you hear me,
O Students of the heart’s revolution?

It’s true I lack the black patch on my throat;
it’s true I have a whitish eye-ring;
it’s true my eyes are swollen:

I am disappearing!

And when I am gone,
my feathers will be guarded
from academic scrutiny.
But even so,
I will be used and abandoned;
and exposed to ridicule.

Students –
I speak to you from my lowest ebb;
from my deepest speechlessness;
from my furthest silence.
I dream of babies and despair.
I try to kiss the postman but he slams the door.
Well, why ring the bell so loudly?

I speak to you in a voice
no one has heard for decades.
I speak to you through lips
of salt and sugar.

Now, answer me:
Who changes the currency?
Who stamps the receipts?
Who says the gesture of authenticity
is also an aesthetic gesture?
Who?

Bachmann’s Warbler (Deconstruction of a Poet)

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