Progressive Reggae O brother stay strongest None but a no good woman tries to fool you A good one understands it’s not her place to rule You, as equals share You know what sharing’s like: She’ll wake up coughing In the middle of the night And ask if you’re all right Stay strongest, brother. Not even necessary to shed a tear; Just the unstable moisture of confusion only Condensing Trembling a strong voice To catch or whimper Is enough . . . The first drop of the torrent and the flood Not after ever to be denied (Weakness in a man, brother) Neither by myth, plain lie, Historical necessity nor convoluted Faith No faith camouflage for weakness Weathered board and even dumb stone speaks Even to the most unsophisticated sensors The high water mark is evidence enough Visible in your structures of relations The line that remains gauges weakness Inadequate plans Endurance perhaps, like a campaign scar But strength is not the same thing as endurance Which speaks to weakness first in private, Confidently carrying its pleas to higher courts As the flood rises where the rich folks live. Each house its own nilometer, The high water mark is what speaks Relief for survival, not pride; Thankfulness for endurance, not praise Testament to struggle and shameful evidence of weaknesses Covers every stone on the planet like graffiti Darkly whistling boasts of terrified Senior Classes Gone down the drain long ago. The high water mark is etched in every rock Humility of uncountable forgotten Pharaohs Monuments to the weakness of man. Embarrassment A bathtub ring coloring our new mutual cleanliness Trust that! Experience too clear to be denied Floating about us, granulated Dead moons of Saturn Gleaming and telling. Oh brother! No one, please, Mishear me. No one Must take their pleasure in offense Of what I say to tell my brother Brother, always stay strongest. Unless the lamb must be called chauvinist To fear the shepherd’s pie, This is just an old ram’s bleating Brother, stay strongest always For even once you fight away the fever Which comes like a gift with freight charges, No strength of protest, Strategy, disgust, or plan . . . No plea ever will move The soft cooling weight of her hand Loving, Concerned until governing, From your brow You don’t need consultations with gypsies, Bump-readers, or the Corps of Engineers You just look for the high water sign and the old folks They will tell you about it As old Joseph did learn to tell dreams And the scales at the grain elevator: Too much one thing, too little somewhat else. The lines across an old man’s forehead Are lines from a young woman’s hand Imprinted there. It’s only natural She herself old, her palm shines (giving, golden, open) Smooth as glass.