how softly, how tentatively
one enters such a space,
not knowing whether the dust
of each moment has already been stirred
past recognition, whether each
impression may be a last glimpse
of something sacred. the foot falters.
the breath comes shallow.
we know the feeling, half waiting
for the unobtrusive tremor of some
foundation stone, far beneath us,
as it finally crumbles and caves.
smallpox for the americans.
opium for the coastal chinese.
the rolling swells of portugese tongues
breaking gently and irrevocably
upon ten thousand shores.
it was like that with us, wasn’t it?
awe mixed with death mixed with
fate, mystery, wonder. it always was.


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