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By Ed Roberson

I expected something up out of the water
not the shadow in the wave that rose

to fill the wave then splash a breath
off the abutting air      then disappear.

I didn't see any of this         only
the dark wave.         Even the size of a whale

I don't see        what I look directly at.
I didn't see the pronghorn antelope,

speed they pointed out equal our car's,
but never having seen distance so large

I couldn't pin in it      point to antler
and saw in parallax instead       the world

entire a still brown arc of leap      so like
a first look at the milky way       each stone

a star I saw but could not see.
I didn't see

the Nazca earth drawings looking at a line
like a path      the vision on it   my not looking up.

& trying to see from on the ground looking
from a plane thousands of feet above

maybe I saw only what the unenlightened
marking out the lines could see from there

because I never saw the figures
until shown from books.

I've told folk half the truth      that I was there I was
but embarrassed      never told      I missed my chance

until I saw:       without embarrassment
this country miss its chance   looking at color

and not see what it looked directly at,
without embarrassment

act      and not see that done
on its own hands      not see its own bright blood.

Ed Roberson, "I Don’t See" from Just In: Word of Navigational Changes: New and Selected Work. Copyright © 1998 by Ed Roberson. Reprinted by permission of Ed Roberson.

Source: Just In: Word of Navigational Challenges (Talisman House, 1998)

  • Nature

Poet Bio

Ed Roberson
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Ed Roberson studied painting in his youth and was educated at the University of Pittsburgh. His extensive travels inform his work, which is also influenced by spirituals and the blues, and by visual art, such as the mixed-media collages of Romare Bearden. Roberson lives in Chicago, where he has taught at the University of Chicago, Columbia College, and Northwestern University. See More By This Poet

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