(In the field behind his town lived the sky-stone.
One night he curled around it
curved where it curved lay in its coolness
fitted his hips to the damp place it met the earth.
They said the ground under the stone
was like other ground. They said the stone
had been a star that came un-stuck so long ago
all the trees it crushed came back, their twirling
seed-puffs rolled off the crushed trees,
rooted, and grew. They said the stone
was twice as big at first but wore down
over time the way windows are worn soft, beaten away by rain).
But no ground is like other ground
Six kids in a warehouse, green arms of trees and the floor covered in salt for dancing—it’s like
oozing on the floor of the sea, they said, when the juice evaporated. Who did they say it to?
Who quivered? Have you ever had a dream without yourself in it?
The names for tools had all changed: now you had to hit a nail with a bangest, and weld with a
blow-flame, and know the lengths of level planks with a slam-box.
Legs and arms in deep prayer under all the flailing branches in the galaxy. They flew kites in the
ware, they squawked. All veering inside fire, minds like mazes.
I had no jaw, hands, voice, skin, muscle, no gaze, no silky veins spread under—only nearness
but no sorrow and also no quills, no swimming because of suns which dried up oceans or
which-have-you when oceans dry up, leaving only crumbs and exiles.
It was now I realized I must stop saying “I,” it was become an addiction and made no sense but
pronouns in general are truly sordid creatures scuttling about among feet. Forgot to say “feet”
are called “ribbons” now, ironically.
List of bans for tonight: (who posts it unknown) no stars, no rum, no window-smashing, no
kissing, no squid, no lying on lambskin rugs, no crying, no voracious guzzling: a pox on junk.
If I am not in the vastness of this sleep-country who is? In the night someone woke up sweating.
Who-knows-who-it-was, the kids didn’t know, they being just foxes without families, no one
watching all those little limbs to see that none go splitting out against the flaming blue moon,
none to be awake when they slept to watch so no one goes up-gazed.
All things being equal, they is not.
Do you remember when we were green and supple
I told you stories, my sapling, my brother-sister,
those nights not-sleeping on our bedrolls
made of boiled wool and moss
and I told you of the cloud-maker, ghost
in the cloud-house who made the night-
white wisps and noon-heavy layers,
who drifted in our door—I translated
for you what the cloud-maker said,
the billowing stories that dissolved you,
once, what was the one, do you
remember, that drifted you, laughing,
We read a book, later, about two
brothers from a far country,
one who died of a cough, the other
soon after in a fire, and both woke, and
both rode to a valley of orange blossoms
and cherry blossoms on a white horse
and found kindness, and found kindness,
and joined the orchard workers’ rebellion
against unjust taxes and were killed
in battle by the landowners’ arrows—
was that, do you remember, the book
singed so we never knew its ending,
or did they wake up again, elsewhere?
My friend once didn’t thank me
for pointing out five poems in his sheaf
where he’d used the word pith. That book
about the never-breaking branch—
dark, in every poem, or nearly. Today
I saw bear in mine all over. One with
actual bears, or at least people
resembling bears, galumphing
down the street, and rivers
that bear you up, and then the bearers,
human, of a coffin, but nothing about
what anyone can bear or not bear, nothing
about what can be borne, though there is
one poem skeleton called “Rainbears,”
which are not real and never were.
Shaggyblue, skywater soaked, nothing un-
bearable to them, no sorrow, no rage,
they would be strong as gods.
I was this kind of bear or god, nothing
couldn’t be borne, I thought.
No insult, no grief, no binding
lash. When everyone went indoors,
I was dripping fog in the field,
endlessly strong, endlessly crushed. But I’m not
now, any kind of shabby martyr.
There are unbearable things.
Most things are unbearable.
Being inside when I want to be outside,
interminable fear of doing or saying
the wrong thing, disdain, modernist couches,
many people, not being able to say this is—
when it is— unbearable.
Miller Oberman is a former Ruth Lilly Fellow as well as a 2016 winner of the 92nd St Y’s Boston Review/ Discovery Prize. His translation of selections from the “Old English Rune Poem” won Poetry’s John Frederick Nims Memorial Prize For Translation in 2013. Miller has recent and forthcoming poems and translations in London Review of Books, Harvard Review, Tin House, Poetry, and The Nation, and The Unstill Ones, his collection of poems and Old English translations is forthcoming in 2017 from the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets.