Daniel Tobin

November 24, 2018 Tobin Daniel


(Simone Weil, 1943-1909)

Arjuna, among all things I am the seed. There is no creature, living or un-living,
that would be without me.

Bhagavad Gita, “Eleventh Discourse”


Yes, Ravidat, to follow the rabbit down its winding hole
Below the limestone cliffs near Montingnac—Perigord Noir
With its oak forests where the river flows breakneck ahead

From ancient cluzeaux and lookout huts clotted for refuge
Against Rome, this parcel scorched for Aquitaine, its singers
Accorded to war, that exceeding music, to descend again

Into the whisper chamber, stone veil, womb of the species
And this time bring her with you, this scion, our secular saint,
While above the latest conqueror clamors with its cavalcade.

In this commodious cave, in the hall of bulls, aurochs rear
Parietal among dun horses, a great-horned stag, its antlers
Flaring like ganglia along the swelled boss—axial, synaptic—

Pigments blotted, swabbed, tube-sprayed in the tallow light.
So the galleries unfold, brede-like, in their earthen basilica,
Shaft, passageway, apse and nave: rhino, bison, feline, bear…

There, among the graven lattices and symbols, a thousand
Thousand overlapping and entangled, there in the darkness
Where the first imaginers lifted their long-flown scaffolds,

A bird-headed man floats, stick figure, as though he’d risen,
One beside one of his woolly extinctions—the vision, first
Inkling glimmer— a primal sprout out of the monkey mind.

Above, new gods engrave their crooked crosses, yellow stars.
Let her sit awhile underground, alone, in silence with silence.
Let her lift her hand, once, to feel the Root-less at the root.

Daniel Tobin is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Belated Heavens (winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry), The Net, and From Nothing, as well as the critical studies Passage to the Center and Awake in America: On Irish-American Poetry.  He is the editor of The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Light in Hand: Selected Early Poems of Lola RidgePoet’s Work, Poet’s Play and The Collected Early Poems of Lola Ridge (Spring 2017). His awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.