Cabbages Across from the Manitou Islands

By William Olsen

The earth is the subconscious of the subconscious.
—Bachelard

1.
Half a block inland and safe from genius gulls
local and alone in their dishwater droves,
up out of reach from beach inland-eaten

by gutless waves,
opposite the passage from two fresh green-furred
ursine islands, one lighthouse-flicker lit, one not,

safe from shark-toothed sails and trolling trolls,
unseen by one old crow
patrolling a fire-log-charcoal-pitted shore,

innocent, green, unschooled, dimwitted, featureless,
foregrounded by the imponderable plumpness
of the crimson motherships, summer’s end’s tomatoes,

encephalitic, all intelligence,
stupidly, yet astonishingly so,

2.
formation in a deer-protected pen,
each shaped of give and take, the tight-leafed both,
oblivious to the bee, the gnat, the moth,

earless, eyeless, tearless, softheaded clones,
sunlit, windblasted, morning-tear-misted,
unlobotomizable,

sauerkraut helmets un-shovel-hacked,
inmates of drizzle from glacial clouds,
or funereally suited in fog-shroud,

unmonitored yet reconnoitered, so far inside
themselves they don’t come back to the same
seek and hide

but leaf out lowly, frugally, loyally,
reality’s verities: cloddish nobilities,

3.
ordinary fames
loudspeakered by this papery voice, admittedly:

fondly, sanely and madly,
with or without outlook,

writing the dung book
on life before utility, before soup, salt, spoon,

giving their redolent all,
outdazzled by streetlight, starlight, even matchstick,

penned yet hardly bound,
not yet lost not yet found,

outwitted by worm and ant and mosquito,
dawn, dusk, day, night, a dim, edible glow—


William Olsen has published six collections of poetry, most recently TechnoRage (Northwestern). His poetry has won fellowships from the Guggenheim, NEA, and Breadloaf. He lives in Kalamazoo.

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