The Last Hour by Christian Wiman


Lean and sane

in the last hour

of a long fast

or fiercer discipline

he could touch dust

into a sudden

surge of limbs

and speak leaves

in the night air

above him, inhabit

quiet so wholly

he heard roots

inch into the unfeeling

earth, rings increasing

inside of that tree.

Without moving,

hardly breathing,

he could call

out of the long darkness

walls around him,

a house whose each room

he knew, its hoard

of silences, solitudes,

doors opening

onto the wide fields

through which he moved,

breathing deeply,

unbewildered by the dead

with their hands of wind,

their faces of cloud.

Stilled and gifted

in the last hour

before the first light,

in the dark place

of his own making,

he could feel rocks

relax alive

beside him, gather

from a moon-raveled

river the pearl

curves and blue

fluency of a girl

his hands once knew.


He could let her go.

He let it all go,

desire and grief

and raw need

going out of him

moment by moment

into the mild

immaculate night,

love by love

into a last

passion of pure

attention, nerves,



 Light carved

out of the darkness

a muscled trunk,

each clenched limb

and the difficult tips

of a plain mesquite

taking shape

over the hard ground

where they found him,

his eyes wide

and his whole body

hungering upward,

as if he could hear

and bear the bird

singing unseen

deep in those leaves.