Another old poet, old friend, I conjure: a second Daniel to write to, while I sit at my pondering pints, pink with drinking-- my ruminative mind returns to me a hundred hundred hours merrily heaped with cocksure colloquy, pecking in the shade of the lion's den, two aging pagans hailing Pan. How often we mocked the very teeth of death with foamy vows outrageous as their sudsy birth. At midlife, our fortunes pile up silver dust to fill our untrimmed temples, a wealth of thoughts enriched by alpine crowns of time, as if wreathing clouds consented, trailing harmless sparks, to be our thinking caps! Years are mounting as we mount the years: our sacrifice is to live, and remain alienate from pop culture, embracing what was great. To linger on Olympus in our skivvies, our discarded skis set beside the fire; exchanging grapes with the gods, while midnight purrs plush, is triumph enough for us. Sway-stacked and furred with congenial dust, familiar books look out from under ragged racks of antique antlers and bad gags at this seaside pub-- the creak of memory loud underfoot, a tub of button daisies declaiming spring beneath the wind-waved sign: Ron's West End. At this cratered sea-cliff's visionary height, summer nights, still softly unborn, and windy winter's diminishing end both blow round our glowing table talk, whispering wisdoms between the elbowed mellow beers and bossy Brunhildas who rule the roost as if Chaucer never died, nor no clock ever tolled a verse beyond Falstaff's everlasting thirst. We'd talk until our literary prattle mounted, instance by little instance, to tallest universals: "Little Man's imagination floats, lotus-like, seeming unbound in the water blaze, and yet at its root, mud and blossom are integral; even thus is our little man's imagination integral with Nature's nurturing phenomena--" Cheerly we keep the "Al-Ron-Quin's" covenant of converse, alarming charm of riposte and counterpoint displayed around the flash and yellow leer of mugs. Wordsworth's here emending mumbles, Hamlet hums and haws 'til the deed is done-- both dissed and up-ended by our roaring joy in favor of old Coleridge and fierce Lear, one divining lines of logic in the infinite, one wrangling bare humanity on an empty heath, barking heartfelt metaphysics with a fool. And so we argue high midnight through to closing, and press each other's contention to a peak. And so a heightened speech is piled, word on word, and green on green, in the natural admonition of an oak tower- ing over lesser growths. Just as in humid June we'd climbed far Nether Stowey's stones in scrambled haste, short-breathed, up beneath the governing shade of woods so old and dense all stirring sound was damped until the hill's bare cap opened in a swirl of sky--blue and white and misted. The mountain where we stood, and stand, (the round high hill where Coleridge crowed until a last disaster buried him beneath), pours roundness down its sides, mossy coombs unmoving as the sweating stones they covered: green beyond the memory of green, everlasting as the grass where Coleridge strolled in glee. How long our conversation that day unrolled, laughing unmannerly as we hopped the brainy turf above horizons where the sea sketched white a limit to the vista, and to the sight-- and all the open dome of heaven was mute, God's own silence by piety magnified. What awful power moves unseen within us, blowing potent gusts through us, until we're left consigned unprepared to pinnacles unguessed? As music crests and crests to its crescendo, so poets' lives rise to one resounding note. Outside Ron's, the sea scowls pewter, too, an echo of those lonely Stowey views, agile as a drunken dutchman's fermented brew. Here, too, Dan, the decay of light and time declare a limit to the sight; here the sea flashes crested in the softly silver eve, and our old talk billows hollow with the surf, hazarding new splashes at night's darkest onset. Above, the unmoored moon--which calls heart and head and all to dream--repeats impermanent feats in the expanding scale all dreams distort and no knowledge amends. Our littleness is echoed like a fractal's edge in the universal pattern--as yet unspoken! And so the jazz of chatter happens, again and again: sophisticated, false; brave, benighted-- The dissolute smoke that clouds the moon, the dull confusion of stop-motion, photo-emulsion skies, where memory and meme are meeting this eve, is North-Star sharp by midnight, and we see how monkeys fed on evolution's bread row on the auroraed sea below, parting lights with makeshift paddles, as if the whole Milky Way could sit reflected in the pond out back! And indeed it does sit there, when we remember to look with Galileo's lens, or rheumy Rousseau's ruminative glance.
The rain's continuous throbbing pours roaring as a cataract. Inchling Spring is edging towards its green strength again and my thoughts turn to roots--To you, brother, I turn my slow thoughts, plough- like--to the soil where my brothers and I were sown to growth beneath a beating sun. Long before angry time had made us men and carved hard marks in cheek and character, we'd discovered an old abandoned well that held hidden light below a wounded wooden lid wreathed in leaves gone black with mold and oldness. How strange the intense interest each ragged crack contained, lightning-shaped shadows just open enough to let dropped rocks knock echoes up to our ears! How strong the burning noon allowed slim glimmers of the sharded sky to reflect into our nook-invading eyes. Wild as fox kits, we'd swat afternoons away with races through the castle-high trees of Dad's estate, crying 'cuckoo, cuckoo' back at birds we'd startled from their naps-- coming round again at eve's cooing onset to the well that had not left our thoughts alone for an instant. Down the deep well we boldly brayed our loud-sounding secrets, our canvas dungarees kneed a filthy khaki with the daylong play of dirt. What each said was wrung lowing into a deeper register than either knew or recognized--it was as if our future voices resounded brownly back in the brawny familiarity of manhood from the receiving deep of that black well. How cool we thought it all was back then, our piping voices booming back like bulls. Sworn secrets and youngsters' oaths we hallooed a hundred times into the dark before the dinner bell of an inverted bowl and wooden spoon orange with squash stuff rang us back to Mom's steaming table. What oaths, and what secrets we dropped into the welling earth, let our lives and thrivings show, fruit of buried truths. Outside, the storm is still coming on, a bleak conveyer belt of darkness on the news stretching back half a dozen states. My regrets, too, go far into our past, shadowing the many memories of life that trained our vines to twine as close as twins-- two brothers blessed, and best of brothers too for a time when time was young. What has made us break with what we were, untwine what sun and childhood had braided? Is not this night, spent undreaming and alone, contiguous with the ten thousand darks that have marched in line before tonight? The sound outside is like a wall, a thick wet against the walls of my condo-abode. Yet there is a silence in the flailing rain, as if too much sound must cancel sound, and repetition wash drummed distinctions to silence in the night. So, too--too full of memories I write, and all that's past transforms from stories lived and told, to one reminding tone of feeling sounding over all. I listen down the well of years, and hear how time has brought us onward and light- ward, through a void we did not understand-- bands of doppler effect expanding blandly into the numb enamelling of now. Outside, a ripple of hitting wind unveils how the universal rain, invisible, still keeps ringing down in loud-dim chains, links of the unknown mating then and now. These days we nod or share a cordial laugh at politics, renew some well-chewed gristle of family gossip--secrets no one but us still keeps or cares to hear about. Despite the change of costume that flesh and accident have rendered to body and embodiment, I see us crowded round that boyhood well even now. I see us crowded round that boyhood well even now. You at a steep fantastic angle as you lean aged but dapper on the silver orthopedic cane a reckless SUV leapt a Jersey barrier like a salmon to deliver to the shady eddy of a hospital bed, your body pooled crooked as a questionmark. Me, thick-waisted with grim reading at my remote IT management screen, thickening eyeglasses aiding my old-man myopia; me, thick-tongued despite my serial confessions of pen and of poetry nimbly repeating: "me!" Soundless I hold you, folded round by arms as I take my Easter leave of thee and Holly-- a half-dozen empty, river-green Heinekens gracing the lace placemats. We two old brothers wait a beat, twined deep in the years steeped between us, our now silent vows echoing well in hidden hearts.
Now, when cherry and apple boughs begin to swing weighted double and triple with blossom like hard-arced deep-sea lines pulling marlin and swordfish and blind leviathan up hungry from oblivion by mouth and hook, O mothering, all-consuming sea, I enter the wide grove to pace awhile and speak my piece. Now, when orchard air betrays no too-rich scent of ripening death, too-ripe life--no loaded orbs hang glistening all the harvest-moon midnight as when I sang easy between the bee-busy trees, too alive to sleep those onward autumns through-- now I remember and honor the hours the days my Mom's proud ghost walked and prayed. Now, Mom, when of we two only one may play a speaking part, I seek you out in Spring among these oft-deserted aisles of souls whose sails flag plainly on the wept sea of massy grasses not yet scotched and cut, unevenly alive, each green blade its own green height at Holmdel Cemetery. Now I in the prompt of warmth walk an evening vigil I cannot choose but chase so many mourning hours beyond departure.-- Still you stand at the kitchen counter, peeling glad apples, small russets, pears, lambent carrots, all picked by your brazen squad of boys in the sun, washing each, rolling each in careful hands until their inner shine shows showered in the sink-rinse, all laid white on the cutting board or minced into copper-bottomed vats for quibbling soups. How many and intricate the apple-hours we tolled! Your hair its own silver feast of blossom-curls damp in the happy chatter of meal prep where boiling things poured pellucid, spouting through colanders I held unably at any angle, standing at your elbow, low, listening to water fillip and drip, tipping the big yellow bowl, your sharp wit apt as the paring knife dancing against your thumb. I never knew you, the dark-haired darling who danced in your father's Welsh eyes. I knew you alarmed and laboring lion-hearted in a hospital bed, small hands at the chained triangle to leverage and lift yourself to some easier breath that didn't come. But I knew you best, and know you still, in a wordless kaleidoscope of worlds where each small turn changes all, the pattern resplendently renewed by light, the pattern of broken chips and needy details, rainbows sawed to pebbles--as when light through leaves entertains and blinds, so I see you, Mom: a hand, a heart, an eye alight. And so I walk, myself shelving shore without ship or mystery, swept haphazard among coral shoals of memory, tunelessly whistling in the ruminative night, tapping a foreign California apple in my pocket as I count out time to no song I know, hum no uplifting lyric to the unnameable tune, alone at your elbow, just we two, and the April moon standing mute.
Winter's roughened touch has left us, though still in dreams we find its echo, harsh remembrancers that we are, recalling all by pain and indignity. Having set alarms to catch the current moon at full, she arises from her slumbers, aroused and drowsy, trailing gossamer glories of her nightgown into the dim unlit living room. She stands silent beside me, we stand blandly, woozily wooed to do, to be, in all the accident of time together-- ourselves and in love--searching for the red moon with our pajama bottoms off, the whole quiet room luminous as a dish of water, surrounding curtains caught in a fabulous haze as almost-fog envelopes us, has us feel as if we exist within a cloud, our breaths heavily lunged as if still asleep, eyes squinted and salty as cracked pistachios and every window glowing cold. Like a captain, her hand shading out brimming halogen lights of the lot, Jenny breathes against the glass, slow one, slow two, and searches the skies for any trace of rouge. We are looking for that rare, red moon evinced from a thousand sunsets at once when earth trails her infected fires like a kiss across the silver deserts of Diana's moon, too perfect-pure to blush back at us. I had hoped, as we turned and plied about the room that I, that we, would stumble across the moon as I had once before stumbled into such looking luck when walking alone the still edge of a wood I came across a sleeping dappled fawn quiet as leaves, curled simple in an unattended nest. My walking-stick stopped like a secondhand tricked at the loss of time, my eyes gone wide in delight to see this dim thing that seemed but shadows of the sun, sun-flecked, white-floating spots of indifferent light, the dappled overcast of a low- hanging dogwood tree confusing all, confusing me, until the creature curling there seemed no more than an intensification of the grass, brown-white below, before me, its fallen breath a breathing of all the earth herself, those long careful legs snipped together like sleeping shears, the paired ears leanly alert: focused, still and present, upon myself even as my whole attention fell to it--our mutual life of a moment's dewy duration--and then led on by a sort of baby-snort, a twitch around the muzzle, I came all at once to see--those eyes! I cannot tell their oil-depth, their ink-heart-- how all the dappled mini-cosmos round our wooded cove was distilled to highlights in those grand eyes, yet not diminished, not in the least diminished, as I stared. And I came, in time, as my wildered consciousness grew more natively attuned, to know that I who watched was watched, that all I had thought was hid in me was plain as paper: all deeds known, all recorded there-- all no more than a single spark of light in the dark surface of that fawn's calm eye. In all our moon-excitement, did I say how we found the ground that April at three a.m.? The ground of crocus bud and of daffodil newly come to their spring bloom, first bloom sweet as Easter candy newly caught unwrapped? A whiteness as of a wedding-walk was gifted everywhere. A still, sudden frost, an April frost, was over all. As if, because we'd missed the rouge moon, this other, lesser blessing was bestowed--yet more than bestowed if I think on it aright--strewn like bales of dogwood petals littered everywhere. We never found the moon that night, nor any tippler's tainting tint of pink in all that cloud-strewn, cloud-molested sky that stayed a starless haze, although we stared, finding our orientation by iPhone app and guess, standing together on the little balcony there, listening to trees meekly creak in their sleep as all light drifted down to our upward eyes. Softly, her sudden hand was at my back-- her breath a wordless whisper in my ear. I knew, despite the sky's cloudy recalcitrance, all I'd found.
A bee drones in the cowslip Not more happily than I, Who into your honey mouth has slipped And let the hours by. Long I thought that blue most true Of saddened evening skies, Till you winked ope' horizons new In azures of your eyes. Now I wing to courts of love And press my buzzing case Bow by bow before the purple judge Who whirls me by the waist.
Earth never grieves! ~~Thomas Hardy
I'm tired of living backward, carping "It should have happened like this." Nobody's left who gives a crap. Not her, not me. I don't give a piss. I can't think about her face. And I shan't Think how things should have happened, but didn't. Her face wasn't exactly pretty, exactly pale. More sallow, celery yellow, stale-- Like hungry roots had sucked her blood Back into impatient earth. I loved her once, as I thought I should. I loved her in my body, in my breath. Now, I'm tired in my bones, my marrow Stuffed with regret and meat and sorrow.
It isn't difficult, dying perennially disappointed. There's a comforting ooze that cozies okay, Down here at the bottom. Promise. Why fidget in time's indifference anyway? Lie calm in your slippers like the rosy anointed, Note the replete applique of your surplice. Perhaps a fashionable coffin will ease your unease. Get your tomb topped by a flattering bust-- No more nude, embarrassed mirrors. After all, dying leaves no one else to please. You needn't, you must not, fear her; Death's just being ground resolutely to dust. Repeat after me: whatever was said, was said. Lovers only say lovely things in the night Freed from harsh, photographic light. Repeat after me: whatever you did, you did. You'll get on alright, my dear, my dunce, When you learn to love your ignorance. It isn't difficult, dying perennially disappointed. And, let's be honest, it's not as if you shot For the stars--and almost, but never quite, made it. Please, drink your tea while it's still hot. Around the next corner is a bus with your name on it. When we bury you, we won't inter your sonnet. Promise.
As near as breath can be to ceased And still inspire, She, solitary, tended Her failing fire-- To the sipping ventilator tethered. Her hands are not quite blue as yet; The ironic, flowered gown Half rumpled, half patted-down.... Her honied forehead wet-- Bathed in freezing sweat.
The devil is red, his wings red flames. Guilt harrows the heart, pulls shut its little gate. Eden had a gadfly Adam couldn't name. The devil is red, his wings red flames. Blue is the sea, to drown your sin and shame. So love your brother; Able be kind to Cain. The devil is red, his hellish wings aflame. Hurt harrows the heart, shuts its slutty grate.