Elizabeth Barrett Browning |
I MIND me in the days departed,
How often underneath the sun
With childish bounds I used to run
To a garden long deserted.
The beds and walks were vanish'd quite; 5
And wheresoe'er had struck the spade,
The greenest grasses Nature laid,
To sanctify her right.
I call'd the place my wilderness,
For no one enter'd there but I.
The sheep look'd in, the grass to espy,
And pass'd it ne'ertheless.
The trees were interwoven wild,
And spread their boughs enough about
To keep both sheep and shepherd out, 15
But not a happy child.
Adventurous joy it was for me!
I crept beneath the boughs, and found
A circle smooth of mossy ground
Beneath a poplar-tree.
Old garden rose-trees hedged it in,
Bedropt with roses waxen-white,
Well satisfied with dew and light,
And careless to be seen.
Long years ago, it might befall, 25
When all the garden flowers were trim,
The grave old gardener prided him
On these the most of all.
Some Lady, stately overmuch,
Here moving with a silken noise, 30
Has blush'd beside them at the voice
That liken'd her to such.
Or these, to make a diadem,
She often may have pluck'd and twined;
Half-smiling as it came to mind, 35
That few would look at them.
O, little thought that Lady proud,
A child would watch her fair white rose,
When buried lay her whiter brows,
And silk was changed for shroud!¡ª 40
Nor thought that gardener (full of scorns
For men unlearn'd and simple phrase)
A child would bring it all its praise,
By creeping through the thorns!
To me upon my low moss seat, 45
Though never a dream the roses sent
Of science or love's compliment,
I ween they smelt as sweet.
It did not move my grief to see
The trace of human step departed: 50
Because the garden was deserted,
The blither place for me!
Friends, blame me not! a narrow ken
Hath childhood 'twixt the sun and sward:
We draw the moral afterward¡ª 55
We feel the gladness then.
And gladdest hours for me did glide
In silence at the rose-tree wall:
A thrush made gladness musical
Upon the other side.
Nor he nor I did e'er incline
To peck or pluck the blossoms white:¡ª
How should I know but that they might
Lead lives as glad as mine?
To make my hermit-home complete, 65
I brought clear water from the spring
Praised in its own low murmuring,
And cresses glossy wet.
And so, I thought, my likeness grew
(Without the melancholy tale) 70
To 'gentle hermit of the dale,'
And Angelina too.
For oft I read within my nook
Such minstrel stories; till the breeze
Made sounds poetic in the trees, 75
And then I shut the book.
If I shut this wherein I write,
I hear no more the wind athwart
Those trees, nor feel that childish heart
Delighting in delight.
My childhood from my life is parted,
My footstep from the moss which drew
Its fairy circle round: anew
The garden is deserted.
Another thrush may there rehearse 85
The madrigals which sweetest are;
No more for me!¡ªmyself afar
Do sing a sadder verse.
Ah me! ah me! when erst I lay
In that child's-nest so greenly wrought, 90
I laugh'd unto myself and thought,
'The time will pass away.
And still I laugh'd, and did not fear
But that, whene'er was pass'd away
The childish time, some happier play 95
My womanhood would cheer.
I knew the time would pass away;
And yet, beside the rose-tree wall,
Dear God, how seldom, if at all,
Did I look up to pray! 100
The time is past: and now that grows
The cypress high among the trees,
And I behold white sepulchres
As well as the white rose,¡ª
When wiser, meeker thoughts are given, 105
And I have learnt to lift my face,
Reminded how earth's greenest place
The colour draws from heaven,¡ª
It something saith for earthly pain,
But more for heavenly promise free, 110
That I who was, would shrink to be
That happy child again.
Philip Larkin |
Once i am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting seats and stone
and little books; sprawlings of flowers cut
For Sunday brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense musty unignorable silence
Brewed God knows how long.
Hatless I take off
My cylce-clips in awkward revrence
Move forward run my hand around the font.
From where i stand the roof looks almost new--
Cleaned or restored? someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern I peruse a few
hectoring large-scale verses and pronouce
Here endeth much more loudly than I'd meant
The echoes snigger briefly.
Back at the door
I sign the book donate an Irish sixpence
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.
Yet stop I did: in fact I often do
And always end much at a loss like this
Wondering what to look for; wondering too
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show
Their parchment plate and pyx in locked cases
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?
Or after dark will dubious women come
To make their children touvh a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games in riddles seemingly at random;
But superstition like belief must die
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass weedy pavement brambles butress sky.
A shape less recognisable each week
A purpose more obscure.
I wonder who
Will be the last the very last to seek
This place for whta it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber randy for antique
Or Christmas-addict counting on a whiff
Of grown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative
Bored uninformed knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation--marriage and birth
And death and thoughts of these--for which was built
This special shell? For though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth
It pleases me to stand in silence here;
A serious house on serious earth it is
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet
Are recognisd and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious
And gravitating with it to this ground
Which he once heard was proper to grow wise in
If only that so many dead lie round.
Anne Kingsmill Finch |
In such a night, when every louder wind
Is to its distant cavern safe confined;
And only gentle Zephyr fans his wings,
And lonely Philomel, still waking, sings;
Or from some tree, famed for the owl's delight,
She, hollowing clear, directs the wand'rer right:
In such a night, when passing clouds give place,
Or thinly veil the heav'ns' mysterious face;
When in some river, overhung with green,
The waving moon and trembling leaves are seen;
When freshened grass now bears itself upright,
And makes cool banks to pleasing rest invite,
Whence springs the woodbind, and the bramble-rose,
And where the sleepy cowslip sheltered grows;
Whilst now a paler hue the foxglove takes,
Yet checkers still with red the dusky brakes
When scattered glow-worms, but in twilight fine,
Shew trivial beauties watch their hour to shine;
Whilst Salisb'ry stands the test of every light,
In perfect charms, and perfect virtue bright:
When odors, which declined repelling day,
Through temp'rate air uninterrupted stray;
When darkened groves their softest shadows wear,
And falling waters we distinctly hear;
When through the gloom more venerable shows
Some ancient fabric, awful in repose,
While sunburnt hills their swarthy looks conceal,
And swelling haycocks thicken up the vale:
When the loosed horse now, as his pasture leads,
Comes slowly grazing through th' adjoining meads,
Whose stealing pace, and lengthened shade we fear,
Till torn-up forage in his teeth we hear:
When nibbling sheep at large pursue their food,
And unmolested kine rechew the cud;
When curlews cry beneath the village walls,
And to her straggling brood the partridge calls;
Their shortlived jubilee the creatures keep,
Which but endures, whilst tyrant man does sleep;
When a sedate content the spirit feels,
And no fierce light disturbs, whilst it reveals;
But silent musings urge the mind to seek
Something, too high for syllables to speak;
Till the free soul to a composedness charmed,
Finding the elements of rage disarmed,
O'er all below a solemn quiet grown,
Joys in th' inferior world, and thinks it like her own:
In such a night let me abroad remain,
Till morning breaks, and all's confused again;
Our cares, our toils, our clamors are renewed,
Or pleasures, seldom reached, again pursued.
Allen Ginsberg |
What new element before us unborn in nature? Is there
a new thing under the Sun?
At last inquisitive Whitman a modern epic, detonative,
First penned unmindful by Doctor Seaborg with poison-
ous hand, named for Death's planet through the
sea beyond Uranus
whose chthonic ore fathers this magma-teared Lord of
Hades, Sire of avenging Furies, billionaire Hell-
King worshipped once
with black sheep throats cut, priests's face averted from
underground mysteries in single temple at Eleusis,
Spring-green Persephone nuptialed to his inevitable
Shade, Demeter mother of asphodel weeping dew,
her daughter stored in salty caverns under white snow,
black hail, grey winter rain or Polar ice, immemor-
able seasons before
Fish flew in Heaven, before a Ram died by the starry
bush, before the Bull stamped sky and earth
or Twins inscribed their memories in clay or Crab'd
washed memory from the skull, or Lion sniffed the
lilac breeze in Eden--
Before the Great Year began turning its twelve signs,
ere constellations wheeled for twenty-four thousand
slowly round their axis in Sagittarius, one hundred
sixty-seven thousand times returning to this night
Radioactive Nemesis were you there at the beginning
black dumb tongueless unsmelling blast of Disil-
I manifest your Baptismal Word after four billion years
I guess your birthday in Earthling Night, I salute your
dreadful presence last majestic as the Gods,
Sabaot, Jehova, Astapheus, Adonaeus, Elohim, Iao,
Ialdabaoth, Aeon from Aeon born ignorant in an
Abyss of Light,
Sophia's reflections glittering thoughtful galaxies, whirl-
pools of starspume silver-thin as hairs of Einstein!
Father Whitman I celebrate a matter that renders Self
Grand Subject that annihilates inky hands & pages'
prayers, old orators' inspired Immortalities,
I begin your chant, openmouthed exhaling into spacious
sky over silent mills at Hanford, Savannah River,
Rocky Flats, Pantex, Burlington, Albuquerque
I yell thru Washington, South Carolina, Colorado,
Texas, Iowa, New Mexico,
Where nuclear reactors creat a new Thing under the
Sun, where Rockwell war-plants fabricate this death
stuff trigger in nitrogen baths,
Hanger-Silas Mason assembles the terrified weapon
secret by ten thousands, & where Manzano Moun-
tain boasts to store
its dreadful decay through two hundred forty millenia
while our Galaxy spirals around its nebulous core.
I enter your secret places with my mind, I speak with
your presence, I roar your Lion Roar with mortal
One microgram inspired to one lung, ten pounds of
heavy metal dust adrift slow motion over grey
the breadth of the planet, how long before your radiance
speeds blight and death to sentient beings?
Enter my body or not I carol my spirit inside you,
O heavy heavy Element awakened I vocalize your con-
sciousness to six worlds
I chant your absolute Vanity.
Yeah monster of Anger
birthed in fear O most
Ignorant matter ever created unnatural to Earth! Delusion
of metal empires!
Destroyer of lying Scientists! Devourer of covetous
Generals, Incinerator of Armies & Melter of Wars!
Judgement of judgements, Divine Wind over vengeful
nations, Molester of Presidents, Death-Scandal of
Capital politics! Ah civilizations stupidly indus-
Canker-Hex on multitudes learned or illiterate! Manu-
factured Spectre of human reason! O solidified
imago of practicioner in Black Arts
I dare your reality, I challenge your very being! I
publish your cause and effect!
I turn the wheel of Mind on your three hundred tons!
Your name enters mankind's ear! I embody your
My oratory advances on your vaunted Mystery! This
breath dispels your braggart fears! I sing your
form at last
behind your concrete & iron walls inside your fortress
of rubber & translucent silicon shields in filtered
cabinets and baths of lathe oil,
My voice resounds through robot glove boxes & ignot
cans and echoes in electric vaults inert of atmo-
I enter with spirit out loud into your fuel rod drums
underground on soundless thrones and beds of
O density! This weightless anthem trumpets transcendent
through hidden chambers and breaks through
iron doors into the Infernal Room!
Over your dreadful vibration this measured harmony
floats audible, these jubilant tones are honey and
milk and wine-sweet water
Poured on the stone black floor, these syllables are
barley groats I scatter on the Reactor's core,
I call your name with hollow vowels, I psalm your Fate
close by, my breath near deathless ever at your
to Spell your destiny, I set this verse prophetic on your
mausoleum walls to seal you up Eternally with
Diamond Truth! O doomed Plutonium.
The Bar surveys Plutonian history from midnight
lit with Mercury Vapor streetlamps till in dawn's
he contemplates a tranquil politic spaced out between
Nations' thought-forms proliferating bureaucratic
& horrific arm'd, Satanic industries projected sudden
with Five Hundred Billion Dollar Strength
around the world same time this text is set in Boulder,
Colorado before front range of Rocky Mountains
twelve miles north of Rocky Flats Nuclear Facility in
United States of North America, Western Hemi-
of planet Earth six months and fourteen days around
our Solar System in a Spiral Galaxy
the local year after Dominion of the last God nineteen
hundred seventy eight
Completed as yellow hazed dawn clouds brighten East,
Denver city white below
Blue sky transparent rising empty deep & spacious to a
morning star high over the balcony
above some autos sat with wheels to curb downhill
from Flatiron's jagged pine ridge,
sunlit mountain meadows sloped to rust-red sandstone
cliffs above brick townhouse roofs
as sparrows waked whistling through Marine Street's
summer green leafed trees.
This ode to you O Poets and Orators to come, you
father Whitman as I join your side, you Congress
and American people,
you present meditators, spiritual friends & teachers,
you O Master of the Diamond Arts,
Take this wheel of syllables in hand, these vowels and
consonants to breath's end
take this inhalation of black poison to your heart, breath
out this blessing from your breast on our creation
forests cities oceans deserts rocky flats and mountains
in the Ten Directions pacify with exhalation,
enrich this Plutonian Ode to explode its empty thunder
through earthen thought-worlds
Magnetize this howl with heartless compassion, destroy
this mountain of Plutonium with ordinary mind
and body speech,
thus empower this Mind-guard spirit gone out, gone
out, gone beyond, gone beyond me, Wake space,
July 14, 1978
Ted Hughes |
The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.
So people can't sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!
And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.
Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!' and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills.
William Wordsworth |
In distant countries I have been,
And yet I have not often seen
A healthy man, a man full grown,
Weep in the public roads alone.
But such a one, on English ground,
And in the broad high-way, I met;
Along the broad high-way he came,
His cheeks with tears were wet.
Sturdy he seemed, though he was sad;
And in his arms a lamb he had.
He saw me, and he turned aside,
As if he wished himself to hide:
Then with his coat he made essay
To wipe those briny tears away.
I follow'd him, and said, "My friend
What ails you? wherefore weep you so?"
—"Shame on me, Sir! this lusty lamb,
He makes my tears to flow.
To-day I fetched him from the rock;
He is the last of all my flock.
When I was young, a single man,
And after youthful follies ran.
Though little given to care and thought,
Yet, so it was, a ewe I bought;
And other sheep from her I raised,
As healthy sheep as you might see,
And then I married, and was rich
As I could wish to be;
Of sheep I numbered a full score,
And every year increas'd my store.
Year after year my stock it grew,
And from this one, this single ewe,
Full fifty comely sheep I raised,
As sweet a flock as ever grazed!
Upon the mountain did they feed;
They throve, and we at home did thrive.
—This lusty lamb of all my store
Is all that is alive;
And now I care not if we die,
And perish all of poverty.
Six children, Sir! had I to feed,
Hard labour in a time of need!
My pride was tamed, and in our grief,
I of the parish ask'd relief.
They said I was a wealthy man;
My sheep upon the mountain fed,
And it was fit that thence I took
Whereof to buy us bread:
"Do this; how can we give to you,"
They cried, "what to the poor is due?"
I sold a sheep as they had said,
And bought my little children bread,
And they were healthy with their food;
For me it never did me good.
A woeful time it was for me,
To see the end of all my gains,
The pretty flock which I had reared
With all my care and pains,
To see it melt like snow away!
For me it was a woeful day.
Another still! and still another!
A little lamb, and then its mother!
It was a vein that never stopp'd,
Like blood-drops from my heart they dropp'd.
Till thirty were not left alive
They dwindled, dwindled, one by one,
And I may say that many a time
I wished they all were gone:
They dwindled one by one away;
For me it was a woeful day.
To wicked deeds I was inclined,
And wicked fancies cross'd my mind,
And every man I chanc'd to see,
I thought he knew some ill of me.
No peace, no comfort could I find,
No ease, within doors or without,
And crazily, and wearily
I went my work about.
Oft-times I thought to run away;
For me it was a woeful day.
Sir! 'twas a precious flock to me,
As dear as my own children be;
For daily with my growing store
I loved my children more and more.
Alas! it was an evil time;
God cursed me in my sore distress,
I prayed, yet every day I thought
I loved my children less;
And every week, and every day,
My flock, it seemed to melt away.
Sir, sad sight to see!
From ten to five, from five to three,
A lamb, a weather, and a ewe;
And then at last, from three to two;
And of my fifty, yesterday
I had but only one,
And here it lies upon my arm,
Alas! and I have none;
To-day I fetched it from the rock;
It is the last of all my flock.
Charlotte Bronte |
Lough, vessel, plough the British main,
Seek the free ocean's wider plain;
Leave English scenes and English skies,
Unbind, dissever English ties;
Bear me to climes remote and strange,
Where altered life, fast-following change,
Hot action, never-ceasing toil,
Shall stir, turn, dig, the spirit's soil;
Fresh roots shall plant, fresh seed shall sow,
Till a new garden there shall grow,
Cleared of the weeds that fill it now,
Mere human love, mere selfish yearning,
Which, cherished, would arrest me yet.
I grasp the plough, there's no returning,
Let me, then, struggle to forget.
But England's shores are yet in view,
And England's skies of tender blue
Are arched above her guardian sea.
I cannot yet Remembrance flee;
I must again, then, firmly face
That task of anguish, to retrace.
Wedded to homeI home forsake,
Fearful of changeI changes make;
Too fond of easeI plunge in toil;
Lover of calmI seek turmoil:
Nature and hostile Destiny
Stir in my heart a conflict wild;
And long and fierce the war will be
Ere duty both has reconciled.
What other tie yet holds me fast
To the divorced, abandoned past?
Smouldering, on my heart's altar lies
The fire of some great sacrifice,
Not yet half quenched.
The sacred steel
But lately struck my carnal will,
My life-long hope, first joy and last,
What I loved well, and clung to fast;
What I wished wildly to retain,
What I renounced with soul-felt pain;
Whatwhen I saw it, axe-struck, perish
Left me no joy on earth to cherish;
A man bereftyet sternly now
I do confirm that Jephtha vow:
Shall I retract, or fear, or flee ?
Did Christ, when rose the fatal tree
Before him, on Mount Calvary ?
'Twas a long fight, hard fought, but won,
And what I did was justly done.
Yet, Helen ! from thy love I turned,
When my heart most for thy heart burned;
I dared thy tears, I dared thy scorn
Easier the death-pang had been borne.
Helen ! thou mightst not go with me,
I could notdared not stay for thee !
I heard, afar, in bonds complain
The savage from beyond the main;
And that wild sound rose o'er the cry
Wrung out by passion's agony;
And even when, with the bitterest tear
I ever shed, mine eyes were dim,
Still, with the spirit's vision clear,
I saw Hell's empire, vast and grim,
Spread on each Indian river's shore,
Each realm of Asia covering o'er.
There the weak, trampled by the strong,
Live but to sufferhopeless die;
There pagan-priests, whose creed is Wrong,
Extortion, Lust, and Cruelty,
Crush our lost raceand brimming fill
The bitter cup of human ill;
And Iwho have the healing creed,
The faith benign of Mary's Son;
Shall I behold my brother's need
And selfishly to aid him shun ?
Iwho upon my mother's knees,
In childhood, read Christ's written word,
Received his legacy of peace,
His holy rule of action heard;
Iin whose heart the sacred sense
Of Jesus' love was early felt;
Of his pure full benevolence,
His pitying tenderness for guilt;
His shepherd-care for wandering sheep,
For all weak, sorrowing, trembling things,
His mercy vast, his passion deep
Of anguish for man's sufferings;
Ischooled from childhood in such lore
Dared I draw back or hesitate,
When called to heal the sickness sore
Of those far off and desolate ?
Dark, in the realm and shades of Death,
Nations and tribes and empires lie,
But even to them the light of Faith
Is breaking on their sombre sky:
And be it mine to bid them raise
Their drooped heads to the kindling scene,
And know and hail the sunrise blaze
Which heralds Christ the Nazarene.
I know how Hell the veil will spread
Over their brows and filmy eyes,
And earthward crush the lifted head
That would look up and seek the skies;
I know what war the fiend will wage
Against that soldier of the cross,
Who comes to dare his demon-rage,
And work his kingdom shame and loss.
Yes, hard and terrible the toil
Of him who steps on foreign soil,
Resolved to plant the gospel vine,
Where tyrants rule and slaves repine;
Eager to lift Religion's light
Where thickest shades of mental night
Screen the false god and fiendish rite;
Reckless that missionary blood,
Shed in wild wilderness and wood,
Has left, upon the unblest air,
The man's deep moanthe martyr's prayer.
I know my lotI only ask
Power to fulfil the glorious task;
Willing the spirit, may the flesh
Strength for the day receive afresh.
May burning sun or deadly wind
Prevail not o'er an earnest mind;
May torments strange or direst death
Nor trample truth, nor baffle faith.
Though such blood-drops should fall from me
As fell in old Gethsemane,
Welcome the anguish, so it gave
More strength to workmore skill to save.
And, oh ! if brief must be my time,
If hostile hand or fatal clime
Cut short my coursestill o'er my grave,
Lord, may thy harvest whitening wave.
So I the culture may begin,
Let others thrust the sickle in;
If but the seed will faster grow,
May my blood water what I sow !
What ! have I ever trembling stood,
And feared to give to God that blood ?
What ! has the coward love of life
Made me shrink from the righteous strife ?
Have human passions, human fears
Severed me from those Pioneers,
Whose task is to march first, and trace
Paths for the progress of our race ?
It has been so; but grant me, Lord,
Now to stand steadfast by thy word !
Protected by salvation's helm,
Shielded by faithwith truth begirt,
To smile when trials seek to whelm
And stand 'mid testing fires unhurt !
Hurling hell's strongest bulwarks down,
Even when the last pang thrills my breast,
When Death bestows the Martyr's crown,
And calls me into Jesus' rest.
Then for my ultimate reward
Then for the world-rejoicing word
The voice from FatherSpiritSon:
" Servant of God, well hast thou done !"
John Keats |
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkn'd ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.
Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.
Charles Simic |
A New Version: 1980
What is that little black thing I see there
in the white?
Out of poverty
To begin again:
With the color of the bride
And that of blindness,
Touch what I can
Of the quick,
Speak and then wait,
As if this light
Will continue to linger
On the threshold.
All that is near,
I no longer give it a name.
Once a stone hard of hearing,
Once sharpened into a knife.
Now only a chill
Enough glow to kneel by and ask
To be tied to its tail
When it goes marrying
Its cousins, the stars.
Is it a cloud?
If it's a cloud it will move on.
The true shape of this thought,
Something seeks someone,
It bears him a gift
Of himself, a bit
Of snow to taste,
Glimpse of his own nakedness
By which to imagine the face.
On a late afternoon of snow
In a dim badly-aired grocery,
Where a door has just rung
With a short, shrill echo,
A little boy hands the old,
Bending low over the counter,
A shiny nickel for a cupcake.
Now only that shine, now
Only that lull abides.
That your gaze
Of my first hopeless insomnia.
Kind nurse, show me
The place of salves.
Teach me the song
That makes a man rise
His glass at dusk
Until a star dances in it.
Who are you? Are you anybody
A moonrock would recognize?
There are words I need.
They are not near men.
I went searching.
Is this a deathmarch?
You bend me, bend me,
Oh toward what flower!
Noose big for us all.
As strange as a shepherd
In the Arctic Circle.
Someone like Bo-peep.
All his sheep are white
And he can't get any sleep
Over lost sheep.
And he's got a flute
Which says Bo-peep,
Which says Poor boy,
Take care of your snow-sheep.
Then all's well and white,
And no more than white.
Indiana with one bare tree.
Michigan a storm-cloud.
Wisconsin empty of men.
There's a trap on the ice
Laid there centuries ago.
The bait is still fresh.
The metal glitters as the night descends.
Woe, woe, it sings from the bough.
Our Lady, etc.
You had me hoodwinked.
I see your brand new claws.
Praying, what do I betray
By desiring your purity?
There are old men and women,
All bandaged up, waiting
At the spiked, wrought-iron gate
Of the Great Eye and Ear Infirmery.
We haven't gone far.
Fear lives there too.
Five ears of my fingertips
Against the white page.
What do you hear?
We hear holy nothing
It touched you once, twice,
And tore like a stitch
Out of a new wound.
What are you up to son of a gun?
I roast on my heart's dark side.
What do you use as a skewer sweetheart?
I use my own crooked backbone.
What do you salt yourself with loverboy?
I grind the words out of my spittle.
And how will you know when you're done chump?
When the half-moons on my fingernails set.
With what knife will you carve yourself smartass?
The one I hide in my tongue's black boot.
Well, you can't call me a wrestler
If my own dead weight has me pinned down.
Well, you can't call me a cook
If the pot's got me under its cover.
Well, you can't call me a king
if the flies hang their hats in my mouth.
Well, you can't call me smart,
When the rain's falling my cup's in the cupboard.
Nor can you call me a saint,
If I didn't err, there wouldn't be these smudges.
One has to manage as best as one can.
The poppies ate the sunset for supper.
One has to manage as best as one can.
Who stole my blue thread, the one
I tied around my pinky to remember?
One has to manage as best as one can.
The flea I was standing on, jumped.
One has to manage as best as one can.
I think my head went out for a walk.
One has to manage as best as one can.
This is breath, only breath,
Think it over midnight!
A fly weighs twice as much.
The struck match nods as it passes,
But when I shout,
Its true name sticks in my throat.
It has to be cold
So the breath turns white,
And then mother, who's fast enough
To write his life on it?
A song in prison
And for prisoners,
Made of what the condemned
Have hidden from the jailers.
White--let me step aside
So that the future may see you,
For when this sheet is blown away,
What else is left
But to set the food on the table,
To cut oneself a slice of bread?
In an unknown year
Of an algebraic century,
An obscure widow
Wrapped in the colors of widowhood,
Met a true-blue orphan
On an indeterminate street-corner.
She offered him
A tiny sugar cube
In the hand so wizened
All the lines said: fate.
Do you take this line
Stretching to infinity?
I take this chipped tooth
On which to cut it in half.
Do you take this circle
Bounded by a single curved line?
I take this breath
That it cannot capture.
Then you may kiss the spot
Where her bridal train last rustled.
Winter can come now,
The earth narrow to a ditch--
And the sky with its castles and stone lions
Above the empty plains.
The snow can fall.
What other perennials would you plant,
My prodigals, my explorers
Tossing and turning in the dark
For those remote, finely honed bees,
The December stars?
Had to get through me elsewhere.
Woe to bone
That stood in their way.
Woe to each morsel of flesh.
In a white anthill.
The rustle of their many feet
This is the last summoning.
Solitude--as in the beginning.
A zero burped by a bigger zero--
It's an awful licking I got.
And fear--that dead letter office.
And doubt--that Chinese shadow play.
Does anyone still say a prayer
Before going to bed?
No one knows its weight.
What The White Had To Say
For how could anything white be distinct
from or divided from whiteness?
Because I am the bullet
That has gone through everyone already,
I thought of you long before you thought of me.
Each one of you still keeps a blood-stained handkerchief
In which to swaddle me, but it stays empty
And even the wind won't remain in it long.
Cleverly you've invented name after name for me,
Mixed the riddles, garbled the proverbs,
Shook you loaded dice in a tin cup,
But I do not answer back even to your curses,
For I am nearer to you than your breath.
One sun shines on us both through a crack in the roof.
A spoon brings me through the window at dawn.
A plate shows me off to the four walls
While with my tail I swing at the flies.
But there's no tail and the flies are your thoughts.
Steadily, patiently I life your arms.
I arrange them in the posture of someone drowning,
And yet the sea in which you are sinking,
And even this night above it, is myself.
Because I am the bullet
That has baptized each one of your senses,
Poems are made of our lusty wedding nights.
The joy of words as they are written.
The ear that got up at four in the morning
To hear the grass grow inside a word.
Still, the most beautiful riddle has no answer.
I am the emptiness that tucks you in like a
The fingernail that scratched on your sleep's
Take a letter: From cloud to onion.
Say: There was never any real choice.
One gaunt shadowy mother wiped our asses,
The same old orphanage taught us loneliness.
Street-organ full of blue notes,
I am the monkey dancing to your grinding--
And still you are afraid-and so,
It's as if we had not budged from the beginning.
We are falling head over heels
At the speed of night.
That milk tooth
You left under the pillow, it's grinning.
This currently out-of-print edition:
Copyright ©1980 Logbridge-Rhodes, Inc.
An earlier version of White was first published
by New Rivers Press in 1972.
William Blake |
THE sun descending in the west
The evening star does shine;
The birds are silent in their nest.
And I must seek for mine.
The moon like a flower 5
In heaven's high bower
With silent delight
Sits and smiles on the night.
Farewell green fields and happy grove
Where flocks have took delight: 10
Where lambs have nibbled silent move
The feet of angels bright;
Unseen they pour blessing
And joy without ceasing
On each bud and blossom 15
And each sleeping bosom.
They look in every thoughtless nest
Where birds are cover'd warm;
They visit caves of every beast
To keep them all from harm: 20
If they see any weeping
That should have been sleeping
They pour sleep on their head
And sit down by their bed.
When wolves and tigers howl for prey 25
They pitying stand and weep
Seeking to drive their thirst away
And keep them from the sheep.
But if they rush dreadful
The angels most heedful 30
Receive each mild spirit
New worlds to inherit.
And there the lion's ruddy eyes
Shall flow with tears of gold:
And pitying the tender cries 35
And walking round the fold:
Saying 'Wrath by His meekness
And by His health sickness
Are driven away
From our immortal day.
'And now beside thee bleating lamb
I can lie down and sleep
Or think on Him who bore thy name
Graze after thee and weep.
For wash'd in life's river 45
My bright mane for ever
Shall shine like the gold
As I guard o'er the fold.