2007: C. Dale Young, “Recitativo”

As an arrow flies through the air, some
will say it swims because it bends and flexes
from side to side, like a fish does, like a fish swims.
But is that true? True, but not exact.
It isn’t enough to say the arrow swims.
It isn’t enough to say the arrow quivers.

Remember the spine of the arrow is wood.
It cannot be aluminum because such things
were not yet known in that world — the spine
limber enough to avoid the drawn bow’s shattering.
Know that the arrow does not serve the bow.
Know that the bow does not serve the arrow.

Not powder blue, but powdery and blue.
Not bound to a tree, but hands strung up to a tree.
Distinctions like these are, in fact, important
when the time comes for you to recount the story.
It isn’t enough to say the arrows flew.
It isn’t enough to say the arrows pierced.

The Turkey doesn’t fly nor does it swim.
But its feathers are essential for the arrow
to meet its target. The air is a swarm of arrows
and, for less than a minute, it could be called beautiful.
Know that the arrow, now arrows, will strike the flesh.
Know that the arrows, now arrow, will meet the target.

This is an old story, powdery lens of time having made
the light of it softer, almost as sweet as this music.
You must tell it. You will tell it. The man’s head refuses
to slump. It cocks to one side, the eyes refusing to shut.
It isn’t enough to say they killed the man.
It is never enough to say he became a Saint.

Commissioned for the Phi Beta Kappa Initiation Ceremony, 2007, Eta of Ohio, Ohio Wesleyan University