Carol Ann Duffy - BEFORE

Before the ox treads on your tongue,
say what is;
                   how the numerous greens of this garden
lean in, numinous. When it rains,
you should be part, yearning with all five sense, too aware.
But your soul is; your soul,
                                         which after keeping yourself to yourself
for a matter of time,
                                   took up residence,
and wanders the garden now; invisibly green.

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Before the thistle hooks to your lip,
utter a verb;
                      the white flowers you planted pine with love
for the gloaming; the gloaming itself
seems in love
                      with its name.
The hour when things come as close to you
                                                                       as they dare,
brushing your lips with their nouns.

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Before the sear of the sun, the smear of the moon,
are the same to you,
                                   what’s to be said?
The sun on the lake and the moon on the lake
are major, minor, music
                                        as light,
and words modest, shy, shying away;
bats skimming the water’s skin.

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Before a stone stoppers your mouth,
                                                            describe
how this evening’s sky is slowly
                                                    yawning
                                                                   the stars;
and colour withdraws, joy
                                         In reverse; wiser.

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Before the yellowy, bell-embellished air cannot be
breathed, heard, seen, tell
                                          the time;
a moment reaching for only you
                                                       over the fields;
trembling the wine in your glass.

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Before just moss
reads the braille of your dates,
fill in the hyphen-space;
                                        linking the nothing before
to the nothing that waits.

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Before a spade shovels the latin dark,
allow that the priest of a tree
would have heard your wedding vows,
had you knelt.

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Before God is eternally not,
say your prayers; credit
their sweetly human powers.

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Before the chrism’s thumbed on your brow,
say what you meant to say before.

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Before before the ox treads on your tongue.

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