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A mistake

Mervyn Taylor

A mistake

—for Robert Hass

I realized as he walked away I had

misspelled the name of the poet

as he did mine.

He had undertaken the job as caretaker

of his country's eloquence, in charge

of its rhythms, its superstitions

in the year of the most stars pitched,

most children abused, the highest

incidence of hurricanes, till the alphabet

spun like a wheel, the hardest hit

being the Caribbean where he went

measuring the leap of flying fish

as they lodged like straws in tree trunks.

It was the year when Haiti's fire

went out and the ash of the cane smudged

the face of an island as far away as

Trinidad, the pitch hardening on nights

never so cold before. I dreamt I was

floating in the Gowanus where Brooklyn

runs out to sea.

This northern California sea-writer

cursing the sadness of the anemone

saw the mistaken 'a' in his name

as I spotted the 'i' in mine.

We had played a kind of hangman

they still play in the Americas,

early in the morning, as soon as

the sun comes up over the wreckage.

—Mervyn Taylor (Voices carry)