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BOOKS & THE CULTURE Tied to the Earth Spiders type out a chapter on free will in the shade. Dark city perennials, eight agile legs apiece, How they ignore us, we who cannot learn their narratives. Bluejays the color of moderate heat scream past Like matadors, swinging the capes of their wings, Their jet stream a riveting phrase in all the unlike air. But spiders do not care. Left amid the grazing violences of the everyday, They prefer the more pastoral seductions… The lingerie of Queen Anne’s lace draped casually over stems, The heavy breathing of snared prey, the ground Stretched out beneath, round as a plate. Nearby, the neighbor’s mutt hops out a thank-you note For decent meals routinely served, For his own continuing story with its submerged plot Hovering like a dog-catcher just beyond the retreating dark. He’s even managed to make friends with the wet cat Who’s hunched into a cliff on the hood of a car. Such equanimity makes us forget To question who we are. Insurance Each passing bird’s a bit of punctuation thrown through the air, And here is morning, old grammarian, descending a stair. Let the ocean nibble at its edges. Let the great parentheses of trees press it into shape. To understand chaos, be chaos. Brightness gets out of its white chair. We know what can undo us, and we keep it where We can see it, but what of the distance That darkens and fills with the second thoughts of starlight, That hangs over us every night its opulent alternatives. Broken necklace of light, protect us from our unadorned nature, From the slow crumbling insurance of belief, From the diminutions that revise us and revise us, Describing the one true gesture that we know, The one that says, as the ocean repeated a minute ago, Build up an argument for your life phrase by phrase. Love is in the rewrites. Be slow. Vickie Karp, May 1995 if CKIE KARP LIVES in New York City and is a senior writer for public television. She has written two documentaries on poets, “Marianne Moore: A Place for the Genuine” for PBS and “Would You Kindly Direct Me to Hell: The Infamous Dorothy Parker” and a play, “Driving to the Interior,” about the friendship of Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop. Her poetry has most recently appeared in The New Yorker and the New Republic and is forthcoming in The Yale Review and The Paris Review. perception of worlds within worlds, simultaneous realities. I hear ken towards her careful, urgent images as too many citizens claim that peculiarly destitute condition of the late 20th Centurybeing “too busy.” What veil does this notion throw over our lives? Do we still gaze off to the side? Perhaps poetry wants to help us give up the word “busy.” “Being chaos” just a little while could let us know that one thing will still be one thing, when we come to doing it. In the meantime, exclamations and semicolons, wing and feather, passing overhead. Quiet clues, spun in the gutter. -NAOMI SHIHAB NYE, SAN ANTONIO 14 MAY 19, 1995