The Principles of Concealment

The Principles of Concealment

If you’re caught in the open
???In an exposed position, alone,
??????Disarmed, and certain you may be
Attacked at any moment, you should settle quickly
???All your differences with whatever lies
??????Around you, forcing yourself to agree
With rocks and bushes, trees and wild grass,
???Horses, cows, or sheep, even debris
??????To find out what you have in common. You no longer
Want to seem what you are, but something
???Harmless and familiar: in a landscape
?????Given to greenness and the cold pastels
Of stubble and field stone,
???Protective coloration may be too much
??????To hope for, beyond your powers
Like the beatitudes of browsing
???And those conspicuously alarming colors
??????That declare you’re poisonous
Or taste terrible – all may be doomed
???To fail with an enemy equipped to kill
??????From a distance. Your shape betrays you,
And you should try to break it
???With disruptive patterns: if an enemy sees you,
??????Not as a whole, but as a head distinct
From a torso, as legs or arms
???By themselves – he may ignore you
??????And let you have your moment
In the sun as an abstraction gone
???To pieces, as a surface mottled and dappled
??????Ambiguously by intercepted light
Like a man cancelled. But all these efforts
???Will come to nothing if you move: one gesture
??????May catch all eyes. If you stand
Still then, or stay seated
???If you’re sitting down, or go on lying
??????Down if you’re lying, an easy solution
May occur to you, cheek to cheek
???With the hard facts of inorganic life:
??????That you have no enemy,
That no one is hunting you,
???That all your precautions were a waste
??????Of attention better given to more rewarding
Evasions and pursuits. If so,
???And you take your place again
??????As a distinct departure
From your foreground and background,
??You should know it’s possible
??????For you to feel, after all,
At the first step, at the first crack
???Out of the box, that lethal impact,
??????That private personal blow marking your loss
Of the light of day, the companionship
???Of the night, and the creature comforts of home
??????As you become a member
Of that other civilization spreading itself
???Around you, ready and able and still
?????Called the natural world.

'Principles of Concealment' from The House of Song: poems (University of illinois Press, 2002) copyright? 2002 by David Wagoner, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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