Because I am old and refuse my death I have been bitter and I've been kind; Skeletal bitterness my enmities shook, Kindness flowed from head to foot. But of all those wind-gaunt faces I have worn as if strapped in the traces I most adore the look Of an old withered apple, its withdrawn glance, All sweetness concentrated To an unrelenting taste: An old bitten rind, bitten rind. But because I am bitter And dislike the taste Of joys overblown in any wind I have come to sing in the waste Of an old bitten rind: "Bitten rind, bitten time, Under stars or under sky The right emotion of a dirty crook Has nobleness to bless or curse, Confirm or rescind the pledge Made by our bodies as they lie Under this dirty hedge." An old bitten rind, bitten rind. Having tasted thus The fruit of an obscure look Or the sharp meaning of a song Under dull words in a book I laugh at all awhile And I myself forsake; For nothing's worth the riddle And no man's worth his wake, I stole a blind man's fiddle And sing what I forsake. An old bitten rind, bitten rind. I have nothing but am a queen: Monstrosities sworn must heel Forced by a hand unseen As dog to its master's whistle wheels. And although I am a great queen With stars on my fingers for rings And although I dance like a drunk And with the seen and unseen wink I am driven by passion to sing: An old bitten rind, bitten rind.
We have many problems, Both violence and drouth; Plagues upon our people, Plagues stuffed in our mouths. Democracy abandons men That lack remembrance; Behind us another mountain Crowds a fresh sky. Day in, day out, All the businessmen are stout. Politicians of utopia From every gutter shout: 'Join hands against the common slope A better world will out.' The strong man has his answer To the dream of a perfect state: 'Strike him without swerving, Lay him out upon the slates!' Day in, day out, All the businessmen are stout. Arjuna on the streetcorner Sipping at his smoke Knows the daily death of friends, Knows it for no hoax. What of all that rant and hiss Will strike him as sense? What blue Krishna whisper He died before for this? Day in, day out, All the business men are stout.
We've been shooting strangers Over waters and the wild; But conscience is forgotten In the tearing wind. We stood up in battlements of dust To cut down what would live: "Worms and tyrants all must die---" Nothing was as pleasure is. Said a dark voice hid in the bush. The mob is filled with insane joy, The banners in the street Hang from pole and lamppost Hang ripe like butchered meat. What happiness or bliss is there In conversing with a face Uncle Sam has painted blank For every circumstance? Said a dark voice hid in the bush. In a folded tent there's room For filching treachery; Standing near, the slaughter's done We'll collect an oiled fee. Dead men lie face down in bed, A hole in every spine; How goes the empire's rate When we to cowardice decline? Said a dark voice hid in the bush. What if great washington lived, That stern face breathing near, What thoughtless sentence then Transform to pleas our cheers? Nothing was as pleasure is, And God's a neglected child; We've been shooting strangers Over waters in the wild. Said a dark voice hid in the bush.
"Wheeled cradled, blank-faced and blue-brained to the hospital chapel, I watch the ivory pastor's hands trace shadow rabbits in the air under the florescent cross and list my sins in silence as he drones redemption; maybe St. Peter will greet me in heaven with a new guitar. Something babbles into static as my stroked-out arm relaxes... A tumor dripping ink now fills my mind, a black bud swelling to blood-blossom, ready to costume me in blood--- Stalking back from the guillotine like a 50s zombie blitzed on my first part in the Bs, I wake socketed in the nMR chamber like a bullet waiting for the green light to flit my diagnosis on the big screen, the chart a map of Europe. I lay enlarged; drugged and irradiated like a fallen fruit. I still laugh when I hear a democrat's ill. I was worse: my perennial, emboldened humor ramping like a bull, I crooned Dukakis is bald from my black marshall stacks for the innocent fetuses at the Republican convention, dating Miss America still.... I'm sorry I kicked his Greek hynee. Sorry for all that."
Not the politician in his coterie Surmounting an elaborate chair--- A simple, elegant glass Choked in his unconscious fist, Nor revolutionary lunatic Standing tip-toe on the quay To out-face the beating sea (And has not the courage To stand half at ease) Has a fanatic eye Or golden stomach enough To sweat out the divine Night after night, or lick From all this tragic human stuff Some shrinking taste Of the glittering sublime.
The cardinal his scarlet vigil keeps That had no sin but singing; How much more should we march in grief That have said and done such things? The azalea extends its wild branch Against a wild sky; nearby Some libertarian pamphlet flaps Ignored by some more sodden door. A child is singing in the bright march air Some tune his father sung--- Abstracted with the politics Of that disastrous, forgotten war. "The soldier will soon be waking That fed on dreams before; A man kills a man that killed; All happens as before."
An azalea climbed up Into a silver cup, And blossoming died While the bee had sup.
Toiling in dawn's orange forge I hammer at the gorge Of silent kings and laughless queens. They come to me for pretty things, Pretty things; I have imagination's means. But the farther that I thrust That art I cannot trust Into the aching spirit's pyre The more my hand is burnt and hurt By earthly fires.
They study at a school Where waves are crest on crest, The fish half in the air As if the highest were the best. But every brooding oyster knows And every whale that spouts That although their high heaven glows Its because the water has run out.
Virtuous beggars into cold dawn swarm To chill their heated flanks. How do I know that they were warm? They had no stitch of clothing on.