[Poetry], The Sword Inside  Comments Off on Snowbound
Aug 292011

A silent fibbing moonlight washes
Distorted shadows of the dissenting sun
Over each snow-molested branch and bush
Arranged outside with a congregation's grace
For the terminal minutes of our love-embrace
Happening behind an unrolled windowsash.
You had wanted to hurt me, and did.
Truth was my only tribulation.

Your hands hung, inert and underfed,
Along the sofa's arms, overstuffed and wan,
Resisting the reconciliation of my touch
- And you pulled away, besides, your face,
Quick and moonlike, from my near face
Hurrying forward in a rudimentary rush
That had so often sought the complexity of bed.
Truth was my only tribulation.

It was then, snowbound and alone, you had said
Words that made all things one
And useless, in the gelid December hush
Whose winds diminished to a sparse trace
In the outer emptiness I could not face,
Too full of the moon's pale refracted crush.
I don't know how all this roomy dark occurred.
Truth is my only tribulation.

Pavilion Fountain: After the Funeral (Nov. 25, 1963)

 [Poetry], The Sword Inside  Comments Off on Pavilion Fountain: After the Funeral (Nov. 25, 1963)
Aug 292011

Winter's never here at the fountain
Whose waters' liveliness seems a warm 
And open candor. Things are but things and do as they must:
As in the fountain's pallorous spangling forever
Heaviness and  light contest.

Beyond the torus of its halo
The summery waters' motions endeavor,
With the tear-bright dignity of an eye in agony,
To show how lightly may a substance go
An afflatus of divinity.

All things to their opposite use
Tortured, as when this lithesome watercourse
Was narrowed from easy murmur into gladdened sound,
Reveal some laden tale of their earthly course
Returning to their source.

As when like tears to ground we streak  
And the opened waters that accompany burial
Flow in broken speech, so the startled water, at its arc
Interpenetrate of scattered light, torridly tumbles
All rainbows to one stone bowl.

Something had sung up 
From the dark watered words summoned to console
Bodied brightness; as when we ourselves, by a terrible pity pul-
Led vocal from the womb, tighten and squall 
To give creation's own 

Cry to the beautiful.

Sestina: A Whittler’s Self-Portrait

 [Poetry], The Sword Inside  Comments Off on Sestina: A Whittler’s Self-Portrait
Aug 292011

Tired of the afternoon, too tired to rest,
a crooked dropping spider made herself my guest,
dispossessed of the wood over which she'd labored
wispily uniting the crooked scrap lengths of pine
by busy inner habit for a length of time.
Unwitting where she was, she knew no reason

to rest here out of season. No reason....
Though with no reason myself among the rest,
I dare endure my time as long as any guest;
ignorant of Sisyphus, she had no sense of labor,
tying and untying her crooked knots of pine.
Reason's only reason in the absurdity of time.

With sly and candid step, each time each time,
a spider will weight a grassblade for her reasons
until the toppling tip on earth must have its rest
where busy man himself is a busy guest
by dint of crooked reason and crooked labor.
Too tired to rest, wherever here is, I pine

for bed. Each crooked plank was chopped from pine;
I lie and contemplate the length of time
Granddad who'd taught me hewed his reasons,
laboring and loving busily that I might rest
somewhere on Earth an honored guest.
And here again the dropping spider took up her labors,

surprising me upon the crooked wood I labor.
I watched her threaded progress along the pine
desktop chopped from scraps of time
when Granddad himself had thought his reasons
for cutting and hewing had been laid to rest.
Busily I contemplate my busy guest.

Absurd, I think, how the length of time we're guests
Shrinks, and crook my wood portrait while she labors,
going awkwardly on against the lengths of pine
as if it were no labor to labor all her time.
If reasons she kept, she kept them her own reasons
as we carved the scraps of day to silent rest.

Tired in my crooked dreams of tired day's length of tired time,
I hear my angry Mentors demand and reason;
I labor, labor, labor on my portrait without rest.

Late-Flowering Bush

 [Poetry], The Sword Inside  Comments Off on Late-Flowering Bush
Aug 292011

Beyond the serious torches of several cypress trees,
The dusty chirrup chirrup of militant cicadas,
The noble solitude of a solid lonely oak
Clattering his leaves at the sun over a bleached field
That balanced his high growth by spreading out,
Desert-like and hot at noon, and all afternoon
Until the evening made them equal sharers 
Of one shade, a blackness welled up from the root.
Beyond all this, beyond the blushing bluish grasses
And inner darkness of some evergreens out right,
I thought to see what seemed from the county road
A sweet hilarious patch of beech, tittering 
Among more sober rowans, and walked on
Farther than I had thought at first to do.
A forest darkness hustled, a coat atop my coat.
And so I came upon a late-flowering bush
Hidden deeper in among more doubtful darks,
Taller and elder, more august and up high.
It was way out of season, much too too late,
Yet full of hopeful blossom regardless
Of the season's clock; it kept its time its own--
Before the long sharpness of the frost that tapered
In shadows till midday, it held its whites aloft.

The flowering bush was a thing itself, alone,
Clotted with milky flowers as large as fists
As if to claim a space among the harder barks,
As a child will feel more brave at midnight,
Startled from a nightmare, to smile in the dark,
Or as a father walks twice round and round 
A house, for proof he really has a home.
The flowers asked for bees that would not come
To so shaded an interior, whose buzzed instincts
Could not guess to lead them there, too far
From the sugary buttercups and tigerlilies of the field;
The bees were busy with their honeys and their hives,
Too industrious to bother with this thing alone.
I wondered what had made the seed drop here
All those years ago when this bush first pipped.
Had some panicked thrush raced bewildered through the thick,
Or been carried dead by some hawk, and dropped?
How had the seed, which loved the sun, found 
Filtered light to endure, in the coolness all about?
Had some tree burned out and a dormant seed 
Been sprung, hot from its casing, into germination?
I'd known an odd old fellow who had not
Half begun to sing until he was half past eighty,
And his voice as awful as an old phonograph;
But still he sung, and mostly pleased himself of late,
And showed the lyric shavings of sharpened wit
To any too-curious; those words were his fists.

Above us all in the little clearing, the dull touch
Of a near cloud's inner-lighted immanence
Broadened into mystery over man and bush.
Something happened then, I did not know
How much until years afterward had stretched
My roots into some new dark flowing underneath.
But then, I did not know what I would become,
And, never having intended to be there once at all,
And having forgotten all about the patch of beech
That had first sent me off into the dark,
I shook my head at the flowering bush and took off.


 [Poetry], Sonnets, The Sword Inside  Comments Off on Agape
Aug 292011

It's wondrous easy some days to guess
What at last we are and what's happiness.
Yet these inscrutable questions duly observe
Both the face of the question and the hidden obverse.

What do we know but that knit intuition
Pearls the stitches of mere superstition
When sacred instinct's emergent pattern comes
Divulging phantoms of what we might become?

There's no simple time in which to simply be;
Time's a dark palimpsest of what we can see:
Squaring the past with our parochial acre of here,
Or inferring a fictional future from fanciful history.

Flip, stitch, or analysis: we guess as we must,
Surprise ourselves, and end as dust.


 [Poetry], Sonnets, The Sword Inside  Comments Off on Borderline
Aug 292011

   A psyche's inscape's treacherous,
   As alive with dangers as with bliss;
   The purple outcrop of a mental rock
   Cripples the supple Muse and mocks.

   Caught between imagination and the dream
   The mind's barriers dissolve at the seams;
   The motivating carnivals of lurid emotions
   Cycles us like actors thru smoky memories and scenes.

   Here we're running, running on the borderline
   Half-unaware of the tailored baggage we've brought,
   Half-amnesiac about the burdens dropped,
   Drunk on our own lucubrant blood like wine.

   Blindfolded eyes foretell dark prophecies
   When we cannot see that we cannot see.


 [Poetry], The Sword Inside  Comments Off on On
Aug 292011

   Beyond the paper moon
        and past the plastic stars
   Lurks a lump or troubled wisp
        of what we really are.

   Behind the pantaloon, the canvas and the grease,
        beside the green stage door
   Lingers a loveable stranger
        whose tenor urges us to "more."

   Although the lights are out, are out
        and the set's gone burning down
   Still we ache to traipse the stage
        and immortalize the clown.

   The grave is but a keyhole
        and we ourselves the key
   That into clay or on to flame
        abide Eternity.

At the Gate

 [Poetry], The Sword Inside  Comments Off on At the Gate
Aug 292011

   Beyond the bland suspension of a moment
       (still and queer and empty)
   We sip our tea and take our toast
        drained of life and envy.

   A drunken angel at a harpsichord
        suspends upon a cigarette
   Some tattooed prayer of the Lord,
        some blank mystery as yet.

   An opal in a teardrop
        confers what grief would keep;
   Purpure absolution drops
        in gutters at your feet.

   Starlight in a candle
        reddens the intruding hand,
   Restless on the icy mantle
        where Life makes no demands.

Come with me, Love

 [Poetry], The Sword Inside  Comments Off on Come with me, Love
Aug 292011

Come with me, love, beside the oaken bole
We'll watch the finch dance in the waterhole.
Old blind men get their comeuppance
Whenever a loving two become
What's commonly called a one;
Only unlovers sit on the fence.

Come with me, love, behind the hill
Where the geese hold court on the croquet field.
Look at the terrible virginity of the snow!
Whatever is the matter?
We'll get the geese to scatter;
Only the unmoved won't go where's to go.

Come with me, love, uncomb your cares,
Mother and father are no longer here.
Take this white ribbon, take it and tie
The wildness of your black hair,
The wrongness of your despair:
Only take my white crossed hands till I die.

Come with me, love, into the sun,
We'll dare what they daren't when we are one.
Let the old man's finch and the old man's goose
Run to ruin and devolve to havoc;
We'll burn the prison and break the locks
And like the moon in water let happiness loose.