Robert Seymour Bridges |
'Twas at that hour of beauty when the setting sun
squandereth his cloudy bed with rosy hues, to flood
his lov'd works as in turn he biddeth them Good-night;
and all the towers and temples and mansions of men
face him in bright farewell, ere they creep from their pomp
naked beneath the darkness;- while to mortal eyes
'tis given, ifso they close not of fatigue, nor strain
at lamplit tasks-'tis given, as for a royal boon
to beggarly outcasts in homeless vigil, to watch
where uncurtain's behind the great windows of space
Heav'n's jewel'd company circleth unapproachably-
'Twas at sunset that I, fleeing to hide my soul
in refuge of beauty from a mortal distress,
walk'd alone with the Muse in her garden of thought,
discoursing at liberty with the mazy dreams
that came wavering pertinaciously about me; as when
the small bats, issued from their hangings, flitter o'erhead
thru' the summer twilight, with thin cries to and fro
hunting in muffled flight atween the stars and flowers.
Then fell I in strange delusion, illusion strange to tell;
for as a man who lyeth fast asleep in his bed
may dream he waketh, and that he walketh upright
pursuing some endeavour in full conscience-so 'twas
with me; but contrawise; for being in truth awake
methought I slept and dreamt; and in thatt dream methought
I was telling a dream; nor telling was I as one
who, truly awaked from a true sleep, thinketh to tell
his dream to a friend, but for his scant remembrances
findeth no token of speech-it was not so with me;
for my tale was my dream and my dream the telling,
and I remember wondring the while I told it
how I told it so tellingly.
And yet now 'twould seem
that Reason inveighed me with her old orderings;
as once when she took thought to adjust theology,
peopling the inane that vex'd her between God and man
with a hierarchy of angels; like those asteroids
wherewith she later fill'd the gap 'twixt Jove and Mars.
Verily by Beauty it is that we come as WISDOM,
yet not by Reason at Beauty; and now with many words
pleasing myself betimes I am fearing lest in the end
I play the tedious orator who maundereth on
for lack of heart to make an end of his nothings.
Wherefor as when a runner who hath run his round
handeth his staff away, and is glad of his rest,
here break I off, knowing the goal was not for me
the while I ran on telling of what cannot be told.
For not the Muse herself can tell of Goddes love;
which cometh to the child from the Mother's embrace,
an Idea spacious as the starry firmament's
inescapable infinity of radiant gaze,
that fadeth only as it outpasseth mortal sight:
and this direct contact is 't with eternities,
this springtide miracle of the soul's nativity
that oft hath set philosophers adrift in dream;
which thing Christ taught, when he set up a little child
to teach his first Apostles and to accuse their pride,
saying, 'Unless ye shall receive it as a child,
ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
So thru'out all his young mental apprenticehood
the child of very simplicity, and in the grace
and beauteous attitude of infantine wonder,
is apt to absorb Ideas in primal purity,
and by the assimilation of thatt immortal food
may build immortal life; but ever with the growth
of understanding, as the sensible images
are more and more corrupt, troubled by questioning thought,
or with vainglory alloy'd, 'tis like enought the boy
in prospect of his manhood wil hav cast to th' winds
his Baptism with his Babyhood; nor might he escape
the fall of Ev'ryman, did not a second call
of nature's Love await him to confirm his Faith
or to revoke him if he is whollylapsed therefrom.
And so mighty is this second vision, which cometh
in puberty of body and adolescence of mind
that, forgetting his Mother, he calleth it 'first Love';
for it mocketh at suasion or stubbornness of heart,
as the oceantide of the omnipotent Pleasur of God,
flushing all avenues of life, and unawares
by thousandfold approach forestalling its full flood
with divination of the secret contacts of Love,--
of faintest ecstasies aslumber in Nature's calm,
like thought in a closed book, where some poet long since
sang his throbbing passion to immortal sleep-with coy
tenderness delicat as the shifting hues
that sanctify the silent dawn with wonder-gleams,
whose evanescence is the seal of their glory,
consumed in self-becoming of eternity;
til every moment as it flyeth, cryeth 'Seize!
Seize me ere I die! I am the Life of Life.
'Tis thus by near approach to an eternal presence
man's heart with divine furor kindled and possess'd
falleth in blind surrender; and finding therewithal
in fullest devotion the full reconcilement
betwixt his animal and spiritual desires,
such welcome hour of bliss standeth for certain pledge
of happiness perdurable: and coud he sustain
this great enthusiasm, then the unbounded promise
would keep fulfilment; since the marriage of true minds
is thatt once fabled garden, amidst of which was set
the single Tree that bore such med'cinable fruit
that if man ate thereof he should liv for ever.
Friendship is in loving rather than in being lov'd,
which is its mutual benediction and recompense;
and tho' this be, and tho' love is from lovers learn'd,
it springeth none the less from the old essence of self.
No friendless man ('twas well said) can be truly himself;
what a man looketh for in his friend and findeth,
and loving self best, loveth better than himself,
is his own better self, his live lovable idea,
flowering by expansion in the loves of his life.
And in the nobility of our earthly friendships
we hav al grades of attainment, and the best may claim
perfection of kind; and so, since ther be many bonds
other than breed (friendships of lesser motiv, found
even in the brutes) and since our politick is based
on actual association of living men, 'twil come
that the spiritual idea of Friendship, the huge
vastidity of its essence, is fritter'd away
in observation of the usual habits of men;
as happ'd with the great moralist, where his book saith
that ther can be no friendship betwixt God and man
because of their unlimited disparity.
From this dilemma of pagan thought, this poison of faith,
Man-soul made glad escape in the worship of Christ;
for his humanity is God's Personality,
and communion with him is the life of the soul.
Of which living ideas (when in the struggle of thought
harden'd by language they became symbols of faith)
Reason builded her maze, wherefrom none should escape,
wandering intent to map and learn her tortuous clews,
chanting their clerkly creed to the high-echoing stones
of their hand-fashion'd temple: but the Wind of heav'n
bloweth where it listeth, and Christ yet walketh the earth,
and talketh still as with those two disciples once
on the road to Emmaus-where they walk and are sad;
whose vision of him then was his victory over death,
thatt resurrection which all his lovers should share,
who in loving him had learn'd the Ethick of happiness;
whereby they too should come where he was ascended
to reign over men's hearts in the Kingdom of God.
Our happiest earthly comradeships hold a foretaste
of the feast of salvation and by thatt virtue in them
provoke desire beyond them to out-reach and surmount
their humanity in some superhumanity
and ultimat perfection: which, howe'ever 'tis found
or strangeley imagin'd, answereth to the need of each
and pulleth him instinctivly as to a final cause.
Thus unto all who hav found their high ideal in Christ,
Christ is to them the essence discern'd or undeiscern'd
of all their human friendships; and each lover of him
and of his beauty must be as a bud on the Vine
and hav participation in him; for Goddes love
is unescapable as nature's environment,
which if a man ignore or think to thrust it off
he is the ill-natured fool that runneth blindly on death.
This Individualism is man's true Socialism.
This is the rife Idea whose spiritual beauty
multiplieth in communion to transcendant might.
This is thatt excelent way whereon if we wil walk
all things shall be added unto us-thatt Love which inspired
the wayward Visionary in his doctrinal ode
to the three christian Graces, the Church's first hymn
and only deathless athanasian creed,--the which
'except a man believe he cannot be saved.
This is the endearing bond whereby Christ's company
yet holdeth together on the truth of his promise
that he spake of his grat pity and trust in man's love,
'Lo, I am with you always ev'n to the end of the world.
Truly the Soul returneth the body's loving
where it hath won it.
and God so loveth the world.
and in the fellowship of the friendship of Christ
God is seen as the very self-essence of love,
Creator and mover of all as activ Lover of all,
self-express'd in not-self, mind and body, mother and child,
'twixt lover and loved, God and man: but ONE ETERNAL
in the love of Beauty and in the selfhood of Love.
Sylvia Plath |
The night is only a sort of carbon paper,
Blueblack, with the much-poked periods of stars
Letting in the light, peephole after peephole --
A bonewhite light, like death, behind all things.
Under the eyes of the stars and the moon's rictus
He suffers his desert pillow, sleeplessness
Stretching its fine, irritating sand in all directions.
Over and over the old, granular movie
Exposes embarrassments--the mizzling days
Of childhood and adolescence, sticky with dreams,
Parental faces on tall stalks, alternately stern and tearful,
A garden of buggy rose that made him cry.
His forehead is bumpy as a sack of rocks.
Memories jostle each other for face-room like obsolete film stars.
He is immune to pills: red, purple, blue --
How they lit the tedium of the protracted evening!
Those sugary planets whose influence won for him
A life baptized in no-life for a while,
And the sweet, drugged waking of a forgetful baby.
Now the pills are worn-out and silly, like classical gods.
Their poppy-sleepy colors do him no good.
His head is a little interior of grey mirrors.
Each gesture flees immediately down an alley
Of diminishing perspectives, and its significance
Drains like water out the hole at the far end.
He lives without privacy in a lidless room,
The bald slots of his eyes stiffened wide-open
On the incessant heat-lightning flicker of situations.
Nightlong, in the granite yard, invisible cats
Have been howling like women, or damaged instruments.
Already he can feel daylight, his white disease,
Creeping up with her hatful of trivial repetitions.
The city is a map of cheerful twitters now,
And everywhere people, eyes mica-silver and blank,
Are riding to work in rows, as if recently brainwashed.
Carolyn Kizer |
Arms and the girl I sing - O rare
arms that are braceleted and white and bare
arms that were lovely Helen's, in whose name
Greek slaughtered Trojan.
Helen was to blame.
Scape-nanny call her; wars for turf
and profit don't sound glamorous enough.
Mythologize your women! None escape.
Europe was named from an act of bestial rape:
Eponymous girl on bull-back, he intent
on scattering sperm across a continent.
Old Zeus refused to take the rap.
It's not his name in big print on the map.
But let's go back to the beginning
when sinners didn't know that they were sinning.
He, one rib short: she lived to rue it
when Adam said to God, "She made me do it.
Eve learned that learning was a dangerous thing
for her: no end of trouble would it bring.
An educated woman is a danger.
Lock up your mate! Keep a submissive stranger
like Darby's Joan, content with church and Kinder,
not like that sainted Joan, burnt to a cinder.
Whether we wield a scepter or a mop
It's clear you fear that we may get on top.
And if we do -I say it without animus-
It's not from you we learned to be magnaminous.
Jorge Luis Borges |
When sorrow lays us low
for a second we are saved
by humble windfalls
of the mindfulness or memory:
the taste of a fruit, the taste of water,
that face given back to us by a dream,
the first jasmine of November,
the endless yearning of the compass,
a book we thought was lost,
the throb of a hexameter,
the slight key that opens a house to us,
the smell of a library, or of sandalwood,
the former name of a street,
the colors of a map,
an unforeseen etymology,
the smoothness of a filed fingernail,
the date we were looking for,
the twelve dark bell-strokes, tolling as we count,
a sudden physical pain.
Eight million Shinto deities
travel secretly throughout the earth.
Those modest gods touch us--
touch us and move on.
Rg Gregory |
they seek to celebrate the word
not to bring their knives out on a poem
dissecting it to find a heart
whose beat lies naked on a table
not to score in triumph on a line
no sensitive would put a nostril to
but simply to receive it as an
offering glimpsing the sacred there
poem probes the poet's once-intention
but each time said budges its truth
afresh (leaving the poet's self
estranged from the once-intending man)
and six ears in the room have tuned
objectives sifting the coloured strands
the words have hidden from the poet
asking what world has come to light
people measured by their heartbeats
language can't flout that come-and-go
to touch the heartbeat in a poem
calls for the brain's surrender
a warm diffusion of the mind
a listening to an eery silence
the words both mimic and destroy
(no excuses slipping off the tongue)
and when a poem works the unknown
opens a timid shutter on a world
so familiar it's not been seen
before - and then it's gone bringing
a frisson to an altered room
and in a stuttering frenzy dusty
attributes are tried to resurrect
a glimpse of what it's like inside
a truth (the glow a glow-worm makes)
this is not (not much) what happens
there's serious concern and banter
there's opacity there's chit-chat
diversions and derailings from
a line some avalanche has blocked
(what a fine pass through the mountains)
poetry and fidgets are blood-brothers
it's within all these the cosmos calls
that makes these afternoons a rich
adventure through a common field
when three men moving towards death
(without alacrity but conscious of it)
find youth again and bubble with
its springs - opening worn valves
to give such flow their own direction
there's no need of competition
no wish to prove that one of us
holds keys the others don't to the
sacral chambers - no want to find
consensus in technique or drench
the rites of words in orthodox
belief - difference is essential
and delightful (integrity's all)
quality's a private quarrel
between the poem and the poet - taste
the private hang-up of receivers
mostly migrained by exposure
to opinions not their own - fed
from a culture no one bleeds in
sustained by reputations manured
by a few and spread by hearsay
these meetings are a modest vow
to let each poet speak uncluttered
from establishment's traditions
and conditions where passions rippling
from the marrow can choose a space
to innocent themselves and long-held
tastes for carlos williams gurney
poems to siva (to name a few)
can surface in a side-attempt
to show unexpected lineage from
the source to present patterns
of the poet - but at the core
of every poem read and comment made
it's not the poem or the poet
being sifted to the seed but
poetry itself given the works
the most despised belittled
enervated creative cowcake
of them all in the public eye
prestigious when it doesn't matter
to the clapped-out powers and turned
away from when too awkward and
impolitic to confront - ball
to be bounced from high art to low
when fights break out amongst the teachers
and shakespeare's wielded as a cane
as the rich old crusty clan reverts
to the days it hated him at school
but loved the beatings - loudhailer
broken-down old-banger any ram-it-
up-your-**** and suck-my-prick to those
who want to tear chintz curtains down
and shock the cosy populace to taste
life at its rawest (most obscene)
courtesan to fashion and today's
ploy - advertisement's gold gimmick
slave of beat and rhythm - dead but
much loved donkey in the hearts of all
who learned di-dah di-dah at school
and have been stuck in the custard since
plaything political-tool pop-
star's goo - poetry's been made to garb
itself in all these rags and riches
this age applauds the eye - is one
of outward exploration - the earth
(in life) and universe (in fiction)
are there for scurrying over - haste
is everything and the beat is all
fireworks feed the fancy - a great ah
rewards the enterprise that fills
night skies with flashing bountifuls
of way-out stars - poetry has to be
in service to this want (is fed
into the system gracelessly)
there can be no standing-still or
stopping-by no take a little time
and see what blossoms here - we're into
poetry in motion and all that ****
and i can accept it all - what stirs
the surface of the ocean ignores
the depths - what talks the hindlegs off
the day can't murder dreams - that's not
to say the depths and dreams aren't there
for those who need them - it's commonplace
they hold the keystones of our lives
i fear something else much deeper
the diabolical self-deceiving
(wilful destruction of the spirit)
by those loudspeaking themselves
as poetry's protectors - publishers
editors literature officers
poetry societies and centres
all all jumping on the flagship
competition's crock of gold
find the winners pick the famous
all the hopefuls cry please name us
aspiring poets search their wardrobes
for the wordy swimsuit likely
to catch the eyeful of the judges
(winners too in previous contests
inured to the needle of success
but this time though now they are tops
totally pissed-off with the process
only here because the money's good)
winners' middle name is wordsworth
losers swallow a dose of shame
organisers rub their golden hands
pride themselves on their discernment
these jacks have found the beanstalk
castle harp and the golden egg
the stupid giant and his frightened wife
who let them steal their best possessions
whose ear for poetry's so poor
they think fum rhymes with englishman
and so of course they get no prizes
thief and trickster now come rich
poetry's purpose is to hit the jackpot
so great the lust for poetic fame
thousands without a ghost of winning
find poems like mothballs in their drawers
sprinkle them with twinkling stardust
post them off with copperplate cheques
the judges wipe their arses on them
the money's gone to a super cause
everyone knows it's just a joke
who gets taken - the foolish and vain
if they're daft enough and such bad poets
more money than sense the best advice
is - keep it up grannies the cause
is noble and we'll take your cheque
again and again and again
it's the winners who fall in the bog
to win is to be preened - conceit
finds a little fluffy nest dear
to the feted heart and swells there
fed (for a foetal space) on all
the praisiest worms but in the nest
is a bloated thing that sucks (and chokes)
on hurt that has the knack of pecking
where there's malice - it grows two heads
winners by their nature soon become
winged and weighted - icarus begins
to prey upon their waking dreams
prometheus gnawed by eagles
the tight-shut box epimetheus
gave pandora about to burst
apart - yeats's centre cannot hold
being poets they know the references
and they learn the lesson quickly
climb upon others as they would
climb on you - in short be ruthless
or be dead they mostly fade away
being too intact or too weak-willed
to go the shining way with light-
ning bolts at every second bend
agents breathing fire up their pants
those who withstand the course become
the poets of their day (and every one
naturally good as gold - exceptions
to the rule - out of the hearing
and the judgment of their rivals)
the media covet the heartache
and the bile - love the new meteor
can't wait to blast it from the heavens
universities will start the cult
with-it secondary teachers catch
the name on fast - magazines begin
to taste the honey on the plate
and soon another name is buzzing
round the bars where literary pass-
ons meet to dole out bits of hem
i accept it all - it's not for me
above it all the literary lions
(jackals to each other) stand posed
upon their polystyrene mountains
constructed by their fans and foes
alike (they have such need of them)
disdaining what they see but terror-
stricken when newcomers climb up
waving their thin bright books
for so long they've dubbed themselves
the intellectual cream - deigning
to hand out poems when they're asked
(for proper recompense in cash
or fawning) - but well beyond the risk
of letting others turn the bleeders
down so sure they are they're halfway
to the gods (yet still need preening)
a poem from one of them is like
the loaves and fishes jesus touched
and rendered food for the five thousand
they too can walk on water in
their home - or so the reviewers say
poetry from their mouths is such a gift
if you don't read or understand it
you'll be damned - i accept all that
but what i can't accept is (all
this while) the source and bed of what
is poetry to me as cracked and parched -
condemned ignored made mock of
shoved in wilderness by those
who've gone the gilded route (mapped out
by ego and a driving need to claim
best prick with a capital pee)
it's being roomed with the said poem
coming back and back to the same
felt heartbeat having its way with words
absorbing the strains and promises
that make the language opt for paths
no other voice would go - shifting
a dull stone and knowing what bright
creature this instinct has bred there
it's trusting the poet with his own map
not wanting to tear it up before
the ink is dry because the symbols
he's been using don't suit your own
conception of terrain you've not
been born to - it's being pleased
to have connections made in ways
you couldn't dream of (wouldn't want to)
Barry Tebb |
Here is a silence I had not hoped for
This side of paradise, I am an old believer
In nature’s bounty as God’s grace
To us poor mortals, fretting and fuming
At frustrated lust or the scent of fame
Coming too late to make a difference
Blue with white vertebrae of cloud forms
Riming the spectrum of green dark of poplars
Lined like soldiers, paler the hue of hawthorn
With the heather beginning to bud blue
Before September purple, yellow ragwort
Sways in the wind as distantly a plane hums
And a lazy bee bumbles by.
A day in Brenda’s flat, mostly play with Eydie,
My favourite of her seven cats, they soothe better
Than Diazepan for panic
Seroxat for grief
Zopiclone to make me sleep.
I smoke my pipe and sip blackcurrant tea
Aware of the ticking clock: I have to be back
To talk to my son’s key nurse when she comes on
For the night shift.
Always there are things to sort,
Misapprehensions to untangle, delusions to decipher,
Lies to expose, statistics to disclose, Trust Boards
And team meetings to attend, ‘Mental Health Monthly’
To peruse, funds for my press to raise – the only one
I ever got will leave me out of pocket.
A couple sat on the next bench
Are earnestly discussing child custody, broken marriages,
Failed affairs, social service interventions –
Even here I cannot escape complexity
"I should never have slept with her once we split"
"The kids are what matters when it comes to the bottom line"
"Is he poisoning their minds against me?"
Part of me nags to offer help but I’ve too much
On already and the clock keeps ticking.
"It’s a pity she won’t turn round and clip his ear"
But better not to interfere.
Damn my bloody superego
Nattering like an old woman or Daisy nagging
About my pipe and my loud voice on buses –
No doubt she’s right – smoking’s not good
And hearing about psychosis, medication and end-on-sections
Isn’t what people are on buses for.
I long for a girl in summer, pubescent
With a twinkle in her eye to come and say
"Come on, let’s do it!"
I was always shy in adolescence, too busy reading Baudelaire
To find a decent whore and learn to score
And now I’m probably impotent with depression
So I’d better forget sex and read more of Andr? Green
On metaphor from Hegel to Lacan and how the colloquium
At Bonneval changed analytic history, a mystery
I’ll not unravel if I live to ninety.
Ignorance isn’t bliss, I know enough to talk the piss
From jumped-up SHO’s and locums who’d miss vital side effects
And think all’s needed is a mother’s kiss.
I’ll wait till the heather’s purple and bring nail scissors
To cut and suture neatly and renew my stocks
Of moor momentoes vased in unsunny Surrey.
Can you believe it? Some arseholes letting off fireworks
On the moor? Suburban excesses spread like the sores
Of syphilis and more regulations in a decade of Blair
Than in the century before.
"Shop your neighbours.
Bring birth certificates to A&E
If you want NHS treatment free.
Be careful not to bleed to death
While finding the certificate.
Blunkett wants us all to have ID
Photo cards, genetic codes, DNA database, eye scans, the lot –
And kiss good-bye to the last bits of freedom we’ve got"
"At the end of the day she shopped me and all I’d done
Was take a few pound from the till ’cos Jenny was ill
And I didn’t have thirteen quid to get the bloody prescription done"
To-morrow I’ll be back in the Great Wen,
Two days of manic catching up and then
Thistledown, wild wheat, a dozen kinds of grass,
The mass of beckoning hills I’d love to make
A poet’s map of but never will.
"Oh to break loose" Lowell’s magic lines
Entice me still but slimy Fenton had to have his will
And slate it in the NYB, arguing that panetone
Isn’t tin foil as Lowell thought.
James you are a dreadful bore,
A pedantic creep like hundreds more, five A4 pages
Of sniping and nit-picking for how many greenbacks?
A thousand or two I’d guess, they couldn’t pay you less
For churning out such a king-size mess
But not even you can spoil this afternoon
Of watching Haworth heather bloom.
Eavan Boland |
—and not simply by the fact that this shading of
forest cannot show the fragrance of balsam,
the gloom of cypresses,
is what I wish to prove.
When you and I were first in love we drove
to the borders of Connacht
and entered a wood there.
Look down you said: this was once a famine road.
I looked down at ivy and the scutch grass
rough-cast stone had
disappeared into as you told me
in the second winter of their ordeal, in
1847, when the crop had failed twice,
Relief Committees gave
the starving Irish such roads to build.
Where they died, there the road ended
and ends still and when I take down
the map of this island, it is never so
I can say here is
the masterful, the apt rendering of
the spherical as flat, nor
an ingenious design which persuades a curve
into a plane,
but to tell myself again that
the line which says woodland and cries hunger
and gives out among sweet pine and cypress,
and finds no horizon
will not be there.
Bob Hicok |
Wasn't on purpose that I drilled
through my finger or the nurse
three times and gave me a shot
of something that was a lusher
who drove me home
said my smile was a smeared
totem that followed
his body that night as it arced
over a cliff in a dream.
He's always flying
in his dreams and lands
on cruise ships or hovers
over Atlanta with an ********.
He put me to bed and the drugs
wore off and I woke
to cannibals at my extremities.
I woke with a sense
of what nails in the palms
might do to a spirit
temporarily confined to flesh.
That too was an accident
if you believe Judas
merely wanted to be loved.
To be loved by God,
Urban the 8th
had heads cut off
that were inadequately
bowed by dogma.
To be loved
by Blondie, Dagwood
gets nothing right
except the hallucinogenic
architecture of sandwiches.
He would have drilled
through a finger too
while making a case for books
on home repair and health.
Drilling through my finger's
not the dumbest thing
a frozen gas-cap with lighter
in hand while thinking
heat melts ice and not
explosion kills *******.
place was passing
through a bedroom door
and removing silk that did not
belong to my wife.
Making a bookcase is not
the extent of my apology.
I've also been beaten up
in a bar for saying huevos
rancheros in a way
insulting to the patrons'
I've also lost
my job because lying
face down on the couch
didn't jibe with my employer's
definition of home
I wanted her to come
through the door on Sunday
and see the bookcase
she'd asked me to build
for a year and be impressed
that it didn't lean
or wobble even though
I've only leaned and often
Now it's half
done but certainly
a better gift with its map
of my unfaithful blood.
John Donne |
Who ever loves, if he do not propose
The right true end of love, he's one that goes
To sea for nothing but to make him sick.
Love is a bear-whelp born: if we o'erlick
Our love, and force it new strange shapes to take,
We err, and of a lump a monster make.
Were not a calf a monster that were grown
Faced like a man, though better than his own?
Perfection is in unity: prefer
One woman first, and then one thing in her.
I, when I value gold, may think upon
The ductileness, the application,
The wholsomeness, the ingenuity,
From rust, from soil, from fire ever free;
But if I love it, 'tis because 'tis made
By our new nature (Use) the soul of trade.
All these in women we might think upon
(If women had them) and yet love but one.
Can men more injure women than to say
They love them for that by which they're not they?
Makes virtue woman? Must I cool my blood
Till I both be, and find one, wise and good?
May barren angels love so! But if we
Make love to woman, virtue is not she,
As beauty's not, nor wealth.
He that strays thus
From her to hers is more adulterous
Than if he took her maid.
Search every sphere
And firmament, our Cupid is not there;
He's an infernal god, and under ground
With Pluto dwells, where gold and fire abound:
Men to such gods their sacrificing coals
Did not in altars lay, but pits and holes.
Although we see celestial bodies move
Above the earth, the earth we till and love:
So we her airs contemplate, words and heart
And virtues, but we love the centric part.
Nor is the soul more worthy, or more fit,
For love than this, as infinite is it.
But in attaining this desired place
How much they err that set out at the face.
The hair a forest is of ambushes,
Of springs, snares, fetters and manacles;
The brow becalms us when 'tis smooth and plain,
And when 'tis wrinkled shipwrecks us again—
Smooth, 'tis a paradise where we would have
Immortal stay, and wrinkled 'tis our grave.
The nose (like to the first meridian) runs
Not 'twixt an East and West, but 'twixt two suns;
It leaves a cheek, a rosy hemisphere,
On either side, and then directs us where
Upon the Islands Fortunate we fall,
(Not faint Canaries, but Ambrosial)
Her swelling lips; to which when we are come,
We anchor there, and think ourselves at home,
For they seem all: there Sirens' songs, and there
Wise Delphic oracles do fill the ear;
There in a creek where chosen pearls do swell,
The remora, her cleaving tongue doth dwell.
These, and the glorious promontory, her chin,
O'erpassed, and the straight Hellespont between
The Sestos and Abydos of her breasts,
(Not of two lovers, but two loves the nests)
Succeeds a boundless sea, but yet thine eye
Some island moles may scattered there descry;
And sailing towards her India, in that way
Shall at her fair Atlantic navel stay;
Though thence the current be thy pilot made,
Yet ere thou be where thou wouldst be embayed
Thou shalt upon another forest set,
Where many shipwreck and no further get.
When thou art there, consider what this chase
Misspent by thy beginning at the face.
Rather set out below; practise my art.
Some symetry the foot hath with that part
Which thou dost seek, and is thy map for that,
Lovely enough to stop, but not stay at;
Least subject to disguise and change it is—
Men say the devil never can change his.
It is the emblem that hath figured
Firmness; 'tis the first part that comes to bed.
Civility we see refined; the kiss
Which at the face began, transplanted is,
Since to the hand, since to the imperial knee,
Now at the papal foot delights to be:
If kings think that the nearer way, and do
Rise from the foot, lovers may do so too;
For as free spheres move faster far than can
Birds, whom the air resists, so may that man
Which goes this empty and ethereal way,
Than if at beauty's elements he stay.
Rich nature hath in women wisely made
Two purses, and their mouths aversely laid:
They then which to the lower tribute owe
That way which that exchequer looks must go:
He which doth not, his error is as great
As who by clyster gave the stomach meat.
Natasha Trethewey |
--New Orleans, November 1910
Four weeks have passed since I left, and still
I must write to you of no work.
I've worn down
the soles and walked through the tightness
of my new shoes calling upon the merchants,
their offices bustling.
All the while I kept thinking
my plain English and good writing would secure
for me some modest position Though I dress each day
in my best, hands covered with the lace gloves
you crocheted--no one needs a girl.
the word sounds, and heavy.
My purse thins.
I spend foolishly to make an appearance of quiet
industry, to mask the desperation that tightens
I sit watching--
though I pretend not to notice--the dark maids
ambling by with their white charges.
Do I deceive
anyone? Were they to see my hands, brown
as your dear face, they'd know I'm not quite
what I pretend to be.
I walk these streets
a white woman, or so I think, until I catch the eyes
of some stranger upon me, and I must lower mine,
a negress again.
There are enough things here
to remind me who I am.
Mules lumbering through
the crowded streets send me into reverie, their footfall
the sound of a pointer and chalk hitting the blackboard
at school, only louder.
Then there are women, clicking
their tongues in conversation, carrying their loads
on their heads.
Their husky voices, the wash pots
and irons of the laundresses call to me.
I thought not to do the work I once did, back bending
and domestic; my schooling a gift--even those half days
at picking time, listening to Miss J--.
I'd come to know words, the recitations I practiced
to sound like her, lilting, my sentences curling up
or trailing off at the ends.
I read my books until
I nearly broke their spines, and in the cotton field,
I repeated whole sections I'd learned by heart,
spelling each word in my head to make a picture
I could see, as well as a weight I could feel
in my mouth.
So now, even as I write this
and think of you at home, Goodbye
is the waving map of your palm, is
a stone on my tongue.