The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Robert Vivian



         The pulse in my neck, the pulse everywhere, in Cavafy’s poems, in the chain mail letter of a simple plea for world peace, the pulse of the slow sap in the maple tree outside the window, tree semen, tree cum of a bark grooved kind, the pulse beating down this very page and the fingertips that write it, oh, the pulse, the pulse, and as one scientist said the least important function of the heart is pumping blood (but still so sacred, so cherished and grateful), all the world a pulse, a heartbeat and heart throb, pulsus venarum, “beating from the blood in the veins,” this headlong sentence a throb, a pulse, and how the word throb fills the whole mouth, fills the wound, the womb, tongue to all corners and steady patter of blood-rain, my life a pulse, my breathing which is not mine though I claim it with my mother tongue to say what is keen-most inside me, inside of everyone, even stone and flower, even inside a terrorist’s bomb, the pulse that aches, that throbs, the pulse that rages, that staggers, that lusts after and lusts for and every preposition in the kingdom of desire, the pulse of the early morning erection and the pulse of a slug crawling over a slag heap, petal pulse, pulse of living page and living book and each word shimmering image of what may be true and beautiful, what may be essential, root rot and phi slamma jamma, the come hither pulse, the goodbye pulse, the pulse inside the finger touching a lover’s skin, the pulse and squeal of delight for we are made of synapses after all, the pulse of a porch swing and mid-stroke in the act of lovemaking, the gravedigger’s pulse and the pulse of a fly rod between false cast and back cast, the whisper pulse, the sobbing pulse, the pulse of many nations and the pulse of a beggar on the Danube arrayed in Gypsy colors, tongue and temple pulse, and how will you feel and honor the many splendored pulse and the pulse of a shot of vodka in this new century of mayhem and melting icecaps, martyrdom and digital madness as I pulse these very words or they pulse me, heart-blown words your cry, my cry, under-the-skin where the truth and mercy and mystery live holding hands in the dark of my blood, my pulse I give to you, these timpani words, this quasi crazy poem and essay trying so hard to be it is splitting open at the seams even now as the popcorn goes wild, sunlight creeping over the page until it almost blinds me and bears and births me, love of rhythm and dance floor and marriage bed and broken church where the least of us is calling out for tenderness, for courage, calling out for love, calling out with a strangled voice pulsing with feeling and open arms ready to take in the sky, the ocean, all your precious and shattered ones, the winners and the losers arm in arm coming down the home stretch and crazed with feeling of ever after, ever willingness, ever tender more here I come and my naked breast straining for the tape, for the windblown caress and cottonwood spore, firefly, least ash of yon towering bon fire, the spark that lights the way in this dark and tumbling world, brief beat of brightness glowing, glowing until it fades into the blackest ink of all.




ROBERT VIVIAN is the author of The Tall Grass Trilogy, Water And Abandon and two meditative essay collections, Cold Snap As Yearning and The Least Cricket Of Evening. His first poetry book is called Mystery My Country--and he's co-written a second called Traversings with the poet Richard Jackson. He teaches at Alma College and as a core faculty member at The Vermont College Of Fine Arts.



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