William Butler Yeats |
An old man cocked his car upon a bridge;
He and his friend, their faces to the South,
Had trod the uneven road.
Their hoots were soiled,
Their Connemara cloth worn out of shape;
They had kept a steady pace as though their beds,
Despite a dwindling and late-risen moon,
Were distant still.
An old man cocked his ear.
What made that Sound?
A rat or water-hen
Splashed, or an otter slid into the stream.
We are on the bridge; that shadow is the tower,
And the light proves that he is reading still.
He has found, after the manner of his kind,
Mere images; chosen this place to live in
Because, it may be, of the candle-light
From the far tower where Milton's Platonist
Sat late, or Shelley's visionary prince:
The lonely light that Samuel Palmer engraved,
An image of mysterious wisdom won by toil;
And now he seeks in book or manuscript
What he shall never find.
Why should not you
Who know it all ring at his door, and speak
Just truth enough to show that his whole life
Will scarcely find for him a broken crust
Of all those truths that are your daily bread;
And when you have spoken take the roads again?
He wrote of me in that extravagant style
He had learnt from pater, and to round his tale
Said I was dead; and dead I choose to be.
Sing me the changes of the moon once more;
True song, though speech: "mine author sung it me.
Twenty-and-eight the phases of the moon,
The full and the moon's dark and all the crescents,
Twenty-and-eight, and yet but six-and-twenty
The cradles that a man must needs be rocked in:
For there's no human life at the full or the dark.
From the first crescent to the half, the dream
But summons to adventure and the man
Is always happy like a bird or a beast;
But while the moon is rounding towards the full
He follows whatever whim's most difficult
Among whims not impossible, and though scarred.
As with the cat-o'-nine-tails of the mind,
His body moulded from within his body
Eleven pass, and then
Athene takes Achilles by the hair,
Hector is in the dust, Nietzsche is born,
Because the hero's crescent is the twelfth.
And yet, twice born, twice buried, grow he must,
Before the full moon, helpless as a worm.
The thirteenth moon but sets the soul at war
In its own being, and when that war's begun
There is no muscle in the arm; and after,
Under the frenzy of the fourteenth moon,
The soul begins to tremble into stillness,
To die into the labyrinth of itself!
Sing out the song; sing to the end, and sing
The strange reward of all that discipline.
All thought becomes an image and the soul
Becomes a body: that body and that soul
Too perfect at the full to lie in a cradle,
Too lonely for the traffic of the world:
Body and soul cast out and cast away
Beyond the visible world.
All dreams of the soul
End in a beautiful man's or woman's body.
Robartes, Have you not always known it?
The song will have it
That those that we have loved got their long fingers
From death, and wounds, or on Sinai's top,
Or from some bloody whip in their own hands.
They ran from cradle to cradle till at last
Their beauty dropped out of the loneliness
Of body and soul.
The lover's heart knows that.
It must be that the terror in their eyes
Is memory or foreknowledge of the hour
When all is fed with light and heaven is bare.
When the moon's full those creatures of the
Are met on the waste hills by countrymen
Who shudder and hurry by: body and soul
Estranged amid the strangeness of themselves,
Caught up in contemplation, the mind's eye
Fixed upon images that once were thought;
For separate, perfect, and immovable
Images can break the solitude
Of lovely, satisfied, indifferent eyes.
And thereupon with aged, high-pitched voice
Aherne laughed, thinking of the man within,
His sleepless candle and lahorious pen.
And after that the crumbling of the moon.
The soul remembering its loneliness
Shudders in many cradles; all is changed,
It would be the world's servant, and as it serves,
Choosing whatever task's most difficult
Among tasks not impossible, it takes
Upon the body and upon the soul
The coarseness of the drudge.
Before the full
It sought itself and afterwards the world.
Because you are forgotten, half out of life,
And never wrote a book, your thought is clear.
Reformer, merchant, statesman, learned man,
Dutiful husband, honest wife by turn,
Cradle upon cradle, and all in flight and all
Deformed because there is no deformity
But saves us from a dream.
And what of those
That the last servile crescent has set free?
Because all dark, like those that are all light,
They are cast beyond the verge, and in a cloud,
Crying to one another like the bats;
And having no desire they cannot tell
What's good or bad, or what it is to triumph
At the perfection of one's own obedience;
And yet they speak what's blown into the mind;
Deformed beyond deformity, unformed,
Insipid as the dough before it is baked,
They change their bodies at a word.
When all the dough has been so kneaded up
That it can take what form cook Nature fancies,
The first thin crescent is wheeled round once more.
But the escape; the song's not finished yet.
Hunchback and Saint and Fool are the last
The burning bow that once could shoot an arrow
Out of the up and down, the wagon-wheel
Of beauty's cruelty and wisdom's chatter -
Out of that raving tide - is drawn betwixt
Deformity of body and of mind.
Were not our beds far off I'd ring the bell,
Stand under the rough roof-timbers of the hall
Beside the castle door, where all is stark
Austerity, a place set out for wisdom
That he will never find; I'd play a part;
He would never know me after all these years
But take me for some drunken countryman:
I'd stand and mutter there until he caught
"Hunchback and Sant and Fool,' and that they came
Under the three last crescents of the moon.
And then I'd stagger out.
He'd crack his wits
Day after day, yet never find the meaning.
And then he laughed to think that what seemed hard
Should be so simple - a bat rose from the hazels
And circled round him with its squeaky cry,
The light in the tower window was put out.
William Blake |
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell through all its regions.
A dog starved at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipped and armed for fight
Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf's and lion's howl
Raises from hell a human soul.
The wild deer wandering here and there
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misused breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher's knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won't believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever's fright.
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be beloved by men.
He who the ox to wrath has moved
Shall never be by woman loved.
The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider's enmity.
He who torments the chafer's sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother's grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the Last Judgment draweth nigh.
He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar's dog and widow's cat,
Feed them, and thou wilt grow fat.
The gnat that sings his summer's song
Poison gets from Slander's tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of Envy's foot.
The poison of the honey-bee
Is the artist's jealousy.
The prince's robes and beggar's rags
Are toadstools on the miser's bags.
A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so:
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
The babe is more than swaddling bands,
Throughout all these human lands;
Tools were made and born were hands,
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;
This is caught by females bright
And returned to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar
Are waves that beat on heaven's shore.
The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes Revenge! in realms of death.
The beggar's rags fluttering in air
Does to rags the heavens tear.
The soldier armed with sword and gun
Palsied strikes the summer's sun.
The poor man's farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric's shore.
One mite wrung from the labourer's hands
Shall buy and sell the miser's lands,
Or if protected from on high
Does that whole nation sell and buy.
He who mocks the infant's faith
Shall be mocked in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.
He who respects the infant's faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child's toys and the old man's reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.
The questioner who sits so sly
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.
The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar's laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour's iron brace.
When gold and gems adorn the plough
To peaceful arts shall Envy bow.
A riddle or the cricket's cry
Is to doubt a fit reply.
The emmet's inch and eagle's mile
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne'er believe, do what you please.
If the sun and moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.
The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation's fate.
The harlot's cry from street to street
Shall weave old England's winding sheet.
The winner's shout, the loser's curse,
Dance before dead England's hearse.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie
When we see not through the eye
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light
To those poor souls who dwell in night,
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.
Ernest Lawrence Thayer |
The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day,
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.
The rest clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast.
They thought, "if only Casey could but get a whack at that.
We'd put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.
But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake;
and the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake.
So upon that stricken multitude, grim melancholy sat;
for there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all.
And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball.
And when the dust had lifted,
and men saw what had occurred,
there was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
it rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
it pounded through on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat;
for Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place,
there was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile lit Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
no stranger in the crowd could doubt t'was Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt.
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then, while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
defiance flashed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
and Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped --
"That ain't my style," said Casey.
"Strike one!" the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
like the beating of the storm waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand,
and it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity, great Casey's visage shone,
he stilled the rising tumult, he bade the game go on.
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew,
but Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two!"
"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
and they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.
The sneer has fled from Casey's lip, the teeth are clenched in hate.
He pounds, with cruel violence, his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
and now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright.
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light.
And, somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout,
but there is no joy in Mudville
mighty Casey has struck out.
William Vaughn Moody |
After seeing at Boston the statue of Robert Gould Shaw, killed while storming Fort Wagner, July 18, 1863, at the head of the first enlisted negro regiment, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts.
Before the solemn bronze Saint Gaudens made
To thrill the heedless passer's heart with awe,
And set here in the city's talk and trade
To the good memory of Robert Shaw,
This bright March morn I stand,
And hear the distant spring come up the land;
Knowing that what I hear is not unheard
Of this boy soldier and his negro band,
For all their gaze is fixed so stern ahead,
For all the fatal rhythm of their tread.
The land they died to save from death and shame
Trembles and waits, hearing the spring's great name,
And by her pangs these resolute ghosts are stirred.
Through street and mall the tides of people go
Heedless; the trees upon the Common show
No hint of green; but to my listening heart
The still earth doth impart
Assurance of her jubilant emprise,
And it is clear to my long-searching eyes
That love at last has might upon the skies.
The ice is runneled on the little pond;
A telltale patter drips from off the trees;
The air is touched with southland spiceries,
As if but yesterday it tossed the frond
Of pendant mosses where the live-oaks grow
Beyond Virginia and the Carolines,
Or had its will among the fruits and vines
Of aromatic isles asleep beyond
Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
Soon shall the Cape Ann children shout in glee,
Spying the arbutus, spring's dear recluse;
Hill lads at dawn shall hearken the wild goose
Go honking northward over Tennessee;
West from Oswego to Sault Sainte-Marie,
And on to where the Pictured Rocks are hung,
And yonder where, gigantic, wilful, young,
Chicago sitteth at the northwest gates,
With restless violent hands and casual tongue
Moulding her mighty fates,
The Lakes shall robe them in ethereal sheen;
And like a larger sea, the vital green
Of springing wheat shall vastly be outflung
Over Dakota and the prairie states.
By desert people immemorial
On Arizonan mesas shall be done
Dim rites unto the thunder and the sun;
Nor shall the primal gods lack sacrifice
More splendid, when the white Sierras call
Unto the Rockies straightway to arise
And dance before the unveiled ark of the year,
Sounding their windy cedars as for shawms,
Unrolling rivers clear
For flutter of broad phylacteries;
While Shasta signals to Alaskan seas
That watch old sluggish glaciers downward creep
To fling their icebergs thundering from the steep,
And Mariposa through the purple calms
Gazes at far Hawaii crowned with palms
Where East and West are met, --
A rich seal on the ocean's bosom set
To say that East and West are twain,
With different loss and gain:
The Lord hath sundered them; let them be sundered yet.
Alas! what sounds are these that come
Sullenly over the Pacific seas, --
Sounds of ignoble battle, striking dumb
The season's half-awakened ecstasies?
Must I be humble, then,
Now when my heart hath need of pride?
Wild love falls on me from these sculptured men;
By loving much the land for which they died
I would be justified.
My spirit was away on pinions wide
To soothe in praise of her its passionate mood
And ease it of its ache of gratitude.
Too sorely heavy is the debt they lay
On me and the companions of my day.
I would remember now
My country's goodliness, make sweet her name.
Alas! what shade art thou
Of sorrow or of blame
Liftest the lyric leafage from her brow,
And pointest a slow finger at her shame?
Lies! lies! It cannot be! The wars we wage
Are noble, and our battles still are won
By justice for us, ere we lift the gage.
We have not sold our loftiest heritage.
The proud republic hath not stooped to cheat
And scramble in the market-place of war;
Her forehead weareth yet its solemn star.
Here is her witness: this, her perfect son,
This delicate and proud New England soul
Who leads despisèd men, with just-unshackled feet,
Up the large ways where death and glory meet,
To show all peoples that our shame is done,
That once more we are clean and spirit-whole.
Crouched in the sea fog on the moaning sand
All night he lay, speaking some simple word
From hour to hour to the slow minds that heard,
Holding each poor life gently in his hand
And breathing on the base rejected clay
Till each dark face shone mystical and grand
Against the breaking day;
And lo, the shard the potter cast away
Was grown a fiery chalice crystal-fine
Fulfilled of the divine
Great wine of battle wrath by God's ring-finger stirred.
Then upward, where the shadowy bastion loomed
Huge on the mountain in the wet sea light,
Whence now, and now, infernal flowerage bloomed,
Bloomed, burst, and scattered down its deadly seed, --
They swept, and died like freemen on the height,
Like freemen, and like men of noble breed;
And when the battle fell away at night
By hasty and contemptuous hands were thrust
Obscurely in a common grave with him
The fair-haired keeper of their love and trust.
Now limb doth mingle with dissolvèd limb
In nature's busy old democracy
To flush the mountain laurel when she blows
Sweet by the southern sea,
And heart with crumbled heart climbs in the rose: --
The untaught hearts with the high heart that knew
This mountain fortress for no earthly hold
Of temporal quarrel, but the bastion old
Of spiritual wrong,
Built by an unjust nation sheer and strong,
Expugnable but by a nation's rue
And bowing down before that equal shrine
By all men held divine,
Whereof his band and he were the most holy sign.
O bitter, bitter shade!
Wilt thou not put the scorn
And instant tragic question from thine eye?
Do thy dark brows yet crave
That swift and angry stave --
Unmeet for this desirous morn --
That I have striven, striven to evade?
Gazing on him, must I not deem they err
Whose careless lips in street and shop aver
As common tidings, deeds to make his cheek
Flush from the bronze, and his dead throat to speak?
Surely some elder singer would arise,
Whose harp hath leave to threaten and to mourn
Above this people when they go astray.
Is Whitman, the strong spirit, overworn?
Has Whittier put his yearning wrath away?
I will not and I dare not yet believe!
Though furtively the sunlight seems to grieve,
And the spring-laden breeze
Out of the gladdening west is sinister
With sounds of nameless battle overseas;
Though when we turn and question in suspense
If these things be indeed after these ways,
And what things are to follow after these,
Our fluent men of place and consequence
Fumble and fill their mouths with hollow phrase,
Or for the end-all of deep arguments
Intone their dull commercial liturgies --
I dare not yet believe! My ears are shut!
I will not hear the thin satiric praise
And muffled laughter of our enemies,
Bidding us never sheathe our valiant sword
Till we have changed our birthright for a gourd
Of wild pulse stolen from a barbarian's hut;
Showing how wise it is to cast away
The symbols of our spiritual sway,
That so our hands with better ease
May wield the driver's whip and grasp the jailer's keys.
Was it for this our fathers kept the law?
This crown shall crown their struggle and their ruth?
Are we the eagle nation Milton saw
Mewing its mighty youth,
Soon to possess the mountain winds of truth,
And be a swift familiar of the sun
Where aye before God's face his trumpets run?
Or have we but the talons and the maw,
And for the abject likeness of our heart
Shall some less lordly bird be set apart? --
Some gross-billed wader where the swamps are fat?
Some gorger in the sun? Some prowler with the bat?
We have not fallen so.
We are our fathers' sons: let those who lead us know!
'T was only yesterday sick Cuba's cry
Came up the tropic wind, "Now help us, for we die!"
Then Alabama heard,
And rising, pale, to Maine and Idaho
Shouted a burning word.
Proud state with proud impassioned state conferred,
And at the lifting of a hand sprang forth,
East, west, and south, and north,
Oh, by the sweet blood and young
Shed on the awful hill slope at San Juan,
By the unforgotten names of eager boys
Who might have tasted girls' love and been stung
With the old mystic joys
And starry griefs, now the spring nights come on,
But that the heart of youth is generous, --
We charge you, ye who lead us,
Breathe on their chivalry no hint of stain!
Turn not their new-world victories to gain!
One least leaf plucked for chaffer from the bays
Of their dear praise,
One jot of their pure conquest put to hire,
The implacable republic will require;
With clamor, in the glare and gaze of noon,
Or subtly, coming as a thief at night,
But surely, very surely, slow or soon
That insult deep we deeply will requite.
Tempt not our weakness, our cupidity!
For save we let the island men go free,
Those baffled and dislaureled ghosts
Will curse us from the lamentable coasts
Where walk the frustrate dead.
The cup of trembling shall be drainèd quite,
Eaten the sour bread of astonishment,
With ashes of the hearth shall be made white
Our hair, and wailing shall be in the tent;
Then on your guiltier head
Shall our intolerable self-disdain
Wreak suddenly its anger and its pain;
For manifest in that disastrous light
We shall discern the right
And do it, tardily.
-- O ye who lead,
Blindness we may forgive, but baseness we will smite.
Derek Walcott |
There were still shards of an ancient pastoral
in those shires of the island where the cattle drank
their pools of shadow from an older sky,
surviving from when the landscape copied such objects as
"Herefords at Sunset in the valley of the Wye.
The mountain water that fell white from the mill wheel
sprinkling like petals from the star-apple trees,
and all of the windmills and sugar mills moved by mules
on the treadmill of Monday to Monday, would repeat
in tongues of water and wind and fire, in tongues
of Mission School pickaninnies, like rivers remembering
their source, Parish Trelawny, Parish St David, Parish
St Andrew, the names afflicting the pastures,
the lime groves and fences of marl stone and the cattle
with a docile longing, an epochal content.
And there were, like old wedding lace in an attic,
among the boas and parasols and the tea-colored
daguerreotypes, hints of an epochal happiness
as ordered and infinite to the child
as the great house road to the Great House
down a perspective of casuarinas plunging green manes
in time to the horses, an orderly life
reduced by lorgnettes day and night, one disc the sun,
the other the moon, reduced into a pier glass:
nannies diminished to dolls, mahogany stairways
no larger than those of an album in which
the flash of cutlery yellows, as gamboge as
the piled cakes of teatime on that latticed
bougainvillea verandah that looked down toward
a prospect of Cuyp-like Herefords under a sky
lurid as a porcelain souvenir with these words:
"Herefords at Sunset in the Valley of the Wye.
Strange, that the rancor of hatred hid in that dream
of slow rivers and lily-like parasols, in snaps
of fine old colonial families, curled at the edge
not from age of from fire or the chemicals, no, not at all,
but because, off at its edges, innocently excluded
stood the groom, the cattle boy, the housemaid, the gardeners,
the tenants, the good Negroes down in the village,
their mouth in the locked jaw of a silent scream.
A scream which would open the doors to swing wildly
all night, that was bringing in heavier clouds,
more black smoke than cloud, frightening the cattle
in whose bulging eyes the Great House diminished;
a scorching wind of a scream
that began to extinguish the fireflies,
that dried the water mill creaking to a stop
as it was about to pronounce Parish Trelawny
all over, in the ancient pastoral voice,
a wind that blew all without bending anything,
neither the leaves of the album nor the lime groves;
blew Nanny floating back in white from a feather
to a chimerical, chemical pin speck that shrank
the drinking Herefords to brown porcelain cows
on a mantelpiece, Trelawny trembling with dusk,
the scorched pastures of the old benign Custos; blew
far the decent servants and the lifelong cook,
and shriveled to a shard that ancient pastoral
of dusk in a gilt-edged frame now catching the evening sun
in Jamaica, making both epochs one.
He looked out from the Great House windows on
clouds that still held the fragrance of fire,
he saw the Botanical Gardens officially drown
in a formal dusk, where governors had strolled
and black gardeners had smiled over glinting shears
at the lilies of parasols on the floating lawns,
the flame trees obeyed his will and lowered their wicks,
the flowers tightened their fists in the name of thrift,
the porcelain lamps of ripe cocoa, the magnolia's jet
dimmed on the one circuit with the ginger lilies
and left a lonely bulb on the verandah,
and, had his mandate extended to that ceiling
of star-apple candelabra, he would have ordered
the sky to sleep, saying, I'm tired,
save the starlight for victories, we can't afford it,
leave the moon on for one more hour,and that's it.
But though his power, the given mandate, extended
from tangerine daybreaks to star-apple dusks,
his hand could not dam that ceaseless torrent of dust
that carried the shacks of the poor, to their root-rock music,
down the gullies of Yallahs and August Town,
to lodge them on thorns of maca, with their rags
crucified by cactus, tins, old tires, cartons;
from the black Warieka Hills the sky glowed fierce as
the dials of a million radios,
a throbbing sunset that glowed like a grid
where the dread beat rose from the jukebox of Kingston.
He saw the fountains dried of quadrilles, the water-music
of the country dancers, the fiddlers like fifes
He had to heal
this malarial island in its bath of bay leaves,
its forests tossing with fever, the dry cattle
groaning like winches, the grass that kept shaking
its head to remember its name.
No vowels left
in the mill wheel, the river.
The mountains rolled like whales through phosphorous stars,
as he swayed like a stone down fathoms into sleep,
drawn by that magnet which pulls down half the world
between a star and a star, by that black power
that has the assassin dreaming of snow,
that poleaxes the tyrant to a sleeping child.
The house is rocking at anchor, but as he falls
his mind is a mill wheel in moonlight,
and he hears, in the sleep of his moonlight, the drowned
bell of Port Royal's cathedral, sees the copper pennies
of bubbles rising from the empty eye-pockets
of green buccaneers, the parrot fish floating
from the frayed shoulders of pirates, sea horses
drawing gowned ladies in their liquid promenade
across the moss-green meadows of the sea;
he heard the drowned choirs under Palisadoes,
a hymn ascending to earth from a heaven inverted
by water, a crab climbing the steeple,
and he climbed from that submarine kingdom
as the evening lights came on in the institute,
the scholars lamplit in their own aquarium,
he saw them mouthing like parrot fish, as he passed
upward from that baptism, their history lessons,
the bubbles like ideas which he could not break:
Jamaica was captured by Penn and Venables,
Port Royal perished in a cataclysmic earthquake.
Before the coruscating faÃ§ades of cathedrals
from Santiago to Caracas, where penitential archbishops
washed the feet of paupers (a parenthetical moment
that made the Caribbean a baptismal font,
turned butterflies to stone, and whitened like doves
the buzzards circling municipal garbage),
the Caribbean was borne like an elliptical basin
in the hands of acolytes, and a people were absolved
of a history which they did not commit;
the slave pardoned his whip, and the dispossessed
said the rosary of islands for three hundred years,
a hymn that resounded like the hum of the sea
inside a sea cave, as their knees turned to stone,
while the bodies of patriots were melting down walls
still crusted with mute outcries of La Revolucion!
"San Salvador, pray for us,St.
Thomas, San Domingo,
ora pro nobis, intercede for us, Sancta Lucia
of no eyes," and when the circular chaplet
reached the last black bead of Sancta Trinidad
they began again, their knees drilled into stone,
where Colon had begun, with San Salvador's bead,
beads of black colonies round the necks of Indians.
And while they prayed for an economic miracle,
ulcers formed on the municipal portraits,
the hotels went up, and the casinos and brothels,
and the empires of tobacco, sugar, and bananas,
until a black woman, shawled like a buzzard,
climbed up the stairs and knocked at the door
of his dream, whispering in the ear of the keyhole:
"Let me in, I'm finished with praying, I'm the Revolution.
I am the darker, the older America.
She was as beautiful as a stone in the sunrise,
her voice had the gutturals of machine guns
across khaki deserts where the cactus flower
detonates like grenades, her sex was the slit throat
of an Indian, her hair had the blue-black sheen of the crow.
She was a black umbrella blown inside out
by the wind of revolution, La Madre Dolorosa,
a black rose of sorrow, a black mine of silence,
raped wife, empty mother, Aztec virgin
transfixed by arrows from a thousand guitars,
a stone full of silence, which, if it gave tongue
to the tortures done in the name of the Father,
would curdle the blood of the marauding wolf,
the fountain of generals, poets, and cripples
who danced without moving over their graves
with each revolution; her Caesarean was stitched
by the teeth of machine guns,and every sunset
she carried the Caribbean's elliptical basin
as she had once carried the penitential napkins
to be the footbath of dictators, Trujillo, Machado,
and those whose faces had yellowed like posters
on municipal walls.
Now she stroked his hair
until it turned white, but she would not understand
that he wanted no other power but peace,
that he wanted a revolution without any bloodshed,
he wanted a history without any memory,
streets without statues,
and a geography without myth.
He wanted no armies
but those regiments of bananas, thick lances of cane,
and he sobbed,"I am powerless, except for love.
She faded from him, because he could not kill;
she shrunk to a bat that hung day and night
in the back of his brain.
He rose in his dream.
(to be continued)
Sylvia Plath |
Viciousness in the kitchen!
The potatoes hiss.
It is all Hollywood, windowless,
The fluorescent light wincing on and off like a terrible migraine,
Coy paper strips for doors --
Stage curtains, a widow's frizz.
And I, love, am a pathological liar,
And my child -- look at her, face down on the floor,
Little unstrung puppet, kicking to disappear --
Why she is schizophrenic,
Her face is red and white, a panic,
You have stuck her kittens outside your window
In a sort of cement well
Where they crap and puke and cry and she can't hear.
You say you can't stand her,
The bastard's a girl.
You who have blown your tubes like a bad radio
Clear of voices and history, the staticky
Noise of the new.
You say I should drown the kittens.
You say I should drown my girl.
She'll cut her throat at ten if she's mad at two.
The baby smiles, fat snail,
From the polished lozenges of orange linoleum.
You could eat him.
He's a boy.
You say your husband is just no good to you.
His Jew-Mama guards his sweet sex like a pearl.
You have one baby, I have two.
I should sit on a rock off Cornwall and comb my hair.
I should wear tiger pants, I should have an affair.
We should meet in another life, we should meet in air,
Me and you.
Meanwhile there's a stink of fat and baby crap.
I'm doped and thick from my last sleeping pill.
The smog of cooking, the smog of hell
Floats our heads, two venemous opposites,
Our bones, our hair.
I call you Orphan, orphan.
You are ill.
The sun gives you ulcers, the wind gives you T.
Once you were beautiful.
In New York, in Hollywood, the men said: 'Through?
Gee baby, you are rare.
You acted, acted for the thrill.
The impotent husband slumps out for a coffee.
I try to keep him in,
An old pole for the lightning,
The acid baths, the skyfuls off of you.
He lumps it down the plastic cobbled hill,
The sparks are blue.
The blue sparks spill,
Splitting like quartz into a million bits.
O jewel! O valuable!
That night the moon
Dragged its blood bag, sick
Up over the harbor lights.
And then grew normal,
Hard and apart and white.
The scale-sheen on the sand scared me to death.
We kept picking up handfuls, loving it,
Working it like dough, a mulatto body,
The silk grits.
A dog picked up your doggy husband.
He went on.
Now I am silent, hate
Up to my neck,
I do not speak.
I am packing the hard potatoes like good clothes,
I am packing the babies,
I am packing the sick cats.
O vase of acid,
It is love you are full of.
You know who you hate.
He is hugging his ball and chain down by the gate
That opens to the sea
Where it drives in, white and black,
Then spews it back.
Every day you fill him with soul-stuff, like a pitcher.
You are so exhausted.
Your voice my ear-ring,
Flapping and sucking, blood-loving bat.
That is that.
That is that.
You peer from the door,
'Every woman's a whore.
I can't communicate.
I see your cute décor
Close on you like the fist of a baby
Or an anemone, that sea
Sweetheart, that kleptomaniac.
I am still raw.
I say I may be back.
You know what lies are for.
Even in your Zen heaven we shan't meet.
Carolyn Kizer |
My mother-- preferring the strange to the tame:
Dove-note, bone marrow, deer dung,
Frog's belly distended with finny young,
Leaf-mould wilderness, hare-bell, toadstool,
Odd, small snakes loving through the leaves,
Metallic beetles rambling over stones: all
Wild and natural -flashed out her instinctive love,
and quick, she
Picked up the fluttering.
bleeding bat the cat laid at her feet,
And held the little horror to the mirror, where
He gazed on himself and shrieked like an old screen door
Depended from her pinched thumb, each wing
Came clattering down like a small black shutter.
Still tranquil, she began, "It's rather sweet.
The soft mouse body, the hard feral glint
In the caught eyes.
Then we saw
And recoiled: lice, pallid, yellow,
Nested within the wing-pits, cozily sucked and snoozed,
The thing dropped from her hands, and with its thud,
Swiftly, the cat with a clean careful mouth
Closed on the soiled webs, growling, took them out to the back stoop.
But still, dark blood, a sticky puddle on the floor
Remained, of all my my mother's tender, wounding passion
For a whole wild, lost, betrayed and secret life
Among its dens and burrows, its clean stones,
Whose denizens can turn upon the world
With spitting tongue, an odor, talon, claw
To sting or soil benevolence, alien
As our clumsy traps, our random scatter of shot,
She swept to the kitchen.
Turning on the tap,
She washed and washed the pity from her hands.
Robert William Service |
You've heard of "Casey at The Bat,"
And "Casey's Tabble Dote";
But now it's time
To write a rhyme
Of "Casey's Billy-goat.
Pat Casey had a billy-goat he gave the name of Shamus,
Because it was (the neighbours said) a national disgrace.
And sure enough that animal was eminently famous
For masticating every rag of laundry round the place.
For shirts to skirts prodigiously it proved its powers of chewing;
The question of digestion seemed to matter not at all;
But you'll agree, I think with me, its limit of misdoing
Was reached the day it swallowed Missis Rooney's ould red shawl.
Now Missis Annie Rooney was a winsome widow women,
And many a bouncing boy had sought to make her change her name;
And living just across the way 'twas surely only human
A lonesome man like Casey should be wishfully the same.
So every Sunday, shaved and shined, he'd make the fine occasion
To call upon the lady, and she'd take his and coat;
And supping tea it seemed that she might yield to his persuasion,
But alas! he hadn't counted on that devastating goat.
For Shamus loved his master with a deep and dumb devotion,
And everywhere that Casey went that goat would want to go;
And though I cannot analyze a quadruped's emotion,
They said the baste was jealous, and I reckon it was so.
For every time that Casey went to call on Missis Rooney,
Beside the gate the goat would wait with woefulness intense;
Until one day it chanced that they were fast becoming spooney,
When Shamus spied that ould red shawl a-flutter on the fence.
Now Missis Rooney loved that shawl beyond all rhyme or reason,
And maybe 'twas an heirloom or a cherished souvenir;
For judging by the way she wore it season after season,
I might have been as precious as a product of Cashmere.
So Shamus strolled towards it, and no doubt the colour pleased him,
For he biffed it and he sniffed it, as most any goat might do;
Then his melancholy vanished as a sense of hunger seized him,
And he wagged his tail with rapture as he started in to chew.
"Begorrah! you're a daisy," said the doting Mister Casey
to the blushing Widow Rooney as they parted at the door.
"Wid yer tinderness an' tazin' sure ye've set me heart a-blazin',
And I dread the day I'll nivver see me Anniw anny more.
"Go on now wid yer blarney," said the widow softly sighing;
And she went to pull his whiskers, when dismay her bosom smote.
Her ould red shawl! 'Twas missin' where she'd left it bravely drying -
Then she saw it disappearing - down the neck of Casey's goat.
Fiercely flamed her Irish temper, "Look!" says she, "The thavin' divvle!
Sure he's made me shawl his supper.
Well, I hope it's to his taste;
But excuse me, Mister Casey, if I seem to be oncivil,
For I'll nivver wed a man wid such a misbegotten baste.
So she slammed the door and left him in a state of consternation,
And he couldn't understand it, till he saw that grinning goat:
Then with eloquence he cussed it, and his final fulmination
Was a poem of profanity impossible to quote.
So blasting goats and petticoats and feeling downright sinful,
Despairfully he wandered in to Shinnigan's shebeen;
And straightway he proceeded to absorb a might skinful
Of the deadliest variety of Shinnigan's potheen.
And when he started homeward it was in the early morning,
But Shamus followed faithfully, a yard behind his back;
Then Casey slipped and stumbled, and without the slightest warning
like a lump of lead he tumbled - right across the railroad track.
And there he lay, serenely, and defied the powers to budge him,
Reposing like a baby, with his head upon the rail;
But Shamus seemed unhappy, and from time to time would nudge him,
Though his prods to protestation were without the least avail.
Then to that goatish mind, maybe, a sense of fell disaster
Came stealing like a spectre in the dim and dreary dawn;
For his bleat of warning blended with the snoring of his master
In a chorus of calamity - but Casey slumbered on.
Yet oh, that goat was troubled, for his efforts were redoubled;
Now he tugged at Casey's whisker, now he nibbled at his ear;
Now he shook him by the shoulder, and with fear become bolder,
He bellowed like a fog-horn, but the sleeper did not hear.
Then up and down the railway line he scampered for assistance;
But anxiously he hurried back and sought with tug and strain
To pull his master off the track .
when sudden! in the distance
He heard the roar and rumble of the fast approaching train.
Did Shamus faint and falter? No, he stood there stark and splendid.
True, his tummy was distended, but he gave his horns a toss.
By them his goathood's honour would be gallantly defended,
And if their valour failed him - he would perish with his boss
So dauntlessly he lowered his head, and ever clearer, clearer,
He heard the throb and thunder of the Continental Mail.
He would face the mighty monster.
It was coming nearer, nearer;
He would fight it, he would smite it, but he'd never show his tail.
Can you see that hirsute hero, standing there in tragic glory?
Can you hear the Pullman porters shrieking horror to the sky?
No, you can't; because my story has no end so grim and gory,
For Shamus did not perish and his master did not die.
At this very present moment Casey swaggers hale and hearty,
And Shamus strolls beside him with a bright bell at his throat;
While recent Missis Rooney is the gayest of the party,
For now she's Missis Casey and she's crazy for that goat.
You're wondering what happened? Well, you know that truth is stranger
Than the wildest brand of fiction, so Ill tell you without shame.
There was Shamus and his master in the face of awful danger,
And the giant locomotive dashing down in smoke and flame.
What power on earth could save them? Yet a golden inspiration
To gods and goats alike may come, so in that brutish brain
A thought was born - the ould red shawl.
Then rearing with elation,
Like lightning Shamus threw it up - AND FLAGGED AND STOPPED THE TRAIN.
Stephen Dunn |
My neighbor was a biker, a pusher, a dog
and wife beater.
In bad dreams I killed him
and once, in the consequential light of day,
I called the Humane Society
about Blue, his dog.
They took her away
and I readied myself, a baseball bat
inside my door.
That night I hear his wife scream
and I couldn't help it, that pathetic
relief; her again, not me.
It would be years before I'd understand
why victims cling and forgive.
I plugged in
the Sleep-Sound and it crashed
like the ocean all the way to sleep.
One afternoon I found him
on the stoop,
a pistol in his hand, waiting,
he said, for me.
A sparrow had gotten in
to our common basement.
Could he have permission
to shoot it? The bullets, he explained,
might go through the floor.
I said I'd catch it, wait, give me
a few minutes and, clear-eyed, brilliantly
afraid, I trapped it
with a pillow.
I remember how it felt
when I got my hand, and how it burst
that hand open
when I took it outside, a strength
that must have come out of hopelessness
and the sudden light
and the trees.
And I remember
the way he slapped the gun against
his open palm,
kept slapping it, and wouldn't speak.
Quincy Troupe |
in brussels, eye sat in the grand place cafe & heard
duke's place, played after salsa
between the old majestic architecture, jazz bouncing off
all that gilded gold history snoring complacently there
flowers all over the ground, up inside the sound
the old white band jammin the music
tight & heavy, like some food
pushin pedal to the metal
gettin all the way down
under the scaffolding surrounding
l'hotel de ville, chattanooga choochoo
choo choing all the way home, upside walls, under gold eagles
& a gold vaulting girl, naked on a rooftop holding a flag over
her head, like skip rope, surrounded by all manner
of saints & gold madmen, riding emblazoned stallions
snorting like crazed demons at their nostrils
the music swirling like a dancing bear
a beautiful girl, flowers in her hair
the air woven with lilting voices in this grand place of parepets
& crowns, jewels & golden torches streaming
like a horse's mane, antiquity riding through in a wheel carriage
here, through gargoyles & gothic towers rocketing swordfish lanced crosses
pointing up at a God threatening rain
& it is stunning at this moment when raised beer steins cheer
the music on, hot & heavy, still humming & cooking
basic african-american rhythms alive here
in this ancient grand place of europe
this confluence point of nations & cultures
jumping off place for beer & cuisines
fused with music, poetry & stone
here in this blinding, beautiful square
sunlit now as the golden eye of God shoots through
flowers all over the cobbled ground, up in the music
the air brightly cool as light after jeweled rain
still, there are these hats slicing foreheads off in the middle
of crowds that need explaining, the calligraphy of this penumbra
slanting ace-deuce, cocked, carrying the perforated legacy of bebop
these bold, peccadillo, pirouetting pellagras
razor-sharp clean, they cut into our rip-tiding dreams carrying
their whirlpooling imaginations, their rivers of schemes
assaulted by pellets of raindrops
these broken mirrors catching fragments
of sonorous words, entrapping us between parentheses
two bat wings curved, imprisoning the world