The Collected Poems1957They are always with us, the thin people
Meager of dimension as the gray peopleOn a movie-screen.They
Are unreal, we say:It was only in a movie, it was only
In a war making evil headlines when weWere small that they famished and
Grew so lean and would not roundOut their stalky limbs again though peace
Plumped the bellies of the miceUnder the meanest table.
It was during the long hunger-battleThey found their talent to persevere
In thinness, to come, later,Into our bad dreams, their menace
Not guns, not abuses,But a thin silence.
Wrapped in flea-ridded donkey skins,Empty of complaint, forever
Drinking vinegar from tin cups: they woreThe insufferable nimbus of the lot-drawn
Scapegoat.But so thin,So weedy a race could not remain in dreams,
Could not remain outlandish victimsIn the contracted country of the head
Any more than the old woman in her mud hut couldKeep from cutting fat meat
Out of the side of the generous moon when itSet foot nightly in her yard
Until her knife had paredThe moon to a rind of little light.
Now the thin people do not obliterateThemselves as the dawn
Grayness blues, reddens, and the outlineOf the world comes clear and fills with color.
They persist in the sunlit room: the wallpaperFrieze of cabbage-roses and cornflowers pales
Under their thin-lipped smiles,Their withering kingship.
How they prop each other up!We own no wilderness rich and deep enough
For stronghold against their stiffBattalions.See, how the tree boles flatten
And lose their good brownsIf the thin people simply stand in the forest,
Making the world go thin as a wasp's nestAnd grayer; not even moving their bones.
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