The sedge is wither’d from the lake,
                                        And no birds sing.—John Keats

The whole time you work away—
both the sober Soldat

and the fantastic La Belle Dame avec Merci—
the sudarium is safely locked away

in Oviedo. Throughout your land,
there is blood on the ground

and trouble at the heart of the tree.
You hang a framed print of sowers

and another of gleaners (Millet’s,
Van Gogh’s, or another’s) on your wall.

A few of the prison reforms
you wrestled into implementation

in Madrid, will take root
in the rest of the world:

prisoners, allowed home visits;
the ball and chain cruelty

will be relegated to cartoons.
You and like-minded others

try to get out the word: “Freedom
has to be plucked from yourself

in silence and in darkness.”
You and some of the others

will soon seek solace
by ambling flea markets,

will come to the tasting of salt
on the bread of other lands,

will come to know too well
that—between the dream

and the physical routine
of the day—a barrage of obedient

and rewarded representatives
of those who consider

themselves “more
gifted in taking charge”

will be happy to barge in
and seize the fleece, the day,

the middle of the night,
the bull by the horns.


Scott Hightower’s third collection of poems, Part of the Bargain, received the 2004 Hayden Carruth Award. His translations from Spanish poetry have garnered a Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. Besides teaching at NYU, he has contributed reviews to Fogged Clarity, The Brooklyn Rail, and Coldfront Magazine. A native of central Texas, Hightower lives in New York City and sojourns in Spain.

Poet’s Recommendations:

The Poetics of Reverie: Childhood, Language, and the Cosmos by Gaston Bachelard.

The Immoralist by André Gide.

Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian Oxford by Linda Dowling.

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