Aug 262011
"What things real are there but imponderable thoughts?"
There was Tenor in his party grave, sharing
All of the same old sick jokes with himself.
He says, "What is there besides imagining?
These four occasional walls will not bring 
Spring or sorrow to any unsuffering thing. 
It is the will that wanes, in summer dark, 
After clogged stars have scraped the sky and left 
A newer dark for some cold singer's questioning. 
Rusted apples gathered, honey melons dusky gold, 
Cherries rosing in the tinted sun, what was invented
If not these things? Shall my hand remain 
Unfloured by its own effort? A pointed oar 
Plunges and plunges in a white war and remains 
An oar. The mind is not so meager; it becomes,
Once its rent raiment roars, in polychromes 
Above chalk waters that it held and gave, 
That of which it sang and did not hear, because 
Too busy singing in undivided, tensile mystery." 
If, on the wings of sparrows, men's feet shall flesh 
Who shall fly, in contrapuntal destiny,
In waltz time, alone, beneath 
The unceasing testament of the waves?
Tenor Semblance in his water-wings, bulbing 
At his back, held his breath and dived, at 4, 
Into the tossing terror of a tame sea. 
Once caught among the coral's shadowing, he saw 
The flash and error of dying fish in that dim maze.
Their antlered looks and opalescent eyes 
Placed a holy horror in his slalom breast 
Racing, among more mobile lights, out of death's 
Abrupt shade. He knew of earth by this buried paradise. 
He told his parents of the sharking waves and sea. Alone, 
His executed gestures in scarred sunset seemed 
The switch-back hesitancy of leaves. 
It was his mother's going, her poignant death,
Like still water, that made him hear 
Curlicues of God's named trumpet, world. 
A French horn paddles in his ear; 
Finches mocked the minister at her wake, his frown 
Emitted solo labyrinths, corona icicles of sound.
Tenor Semblance, leaving, knew his feet 
were tambourines, clashing in the grass.
And when he whispered, it was with sorrow 
That he could not sing himself a barrow. 
In her twinking time upon this mortal orb,
In laundered air, tender sequences 
Of love and love, flashed from her bright center 
Like perpetual suns that sang and knew their tune. 
It was because of her he sought 
A personal, vocal dew. 
Semblance swelled in his soft decor.
Like an awkward Alice, he used his vital eye 
To distill a separate scenery in the dwindled grass. 
Little thunder smoked the mountaintops. 
Gnats as vultures bulked silence on their prey. 
But a swung censor, sacred scenting, never lends 
Its incense to these more airy tendencies. 
Neither garland of flowers, in a stiff ring, 
Nor any distincter bloom was worn.
Victim in winter, he tried to say 
The measureless landscape he became: 
Desolate branches, details of packed snow,
Paired tracks of deer, or south-seeking geese 
Dispassionate as the sky. There comes
A crowd of moths, an abrupt lamp flapping 
In discontinuous circles as he speaks. 
But should we sacrifice infinite finesse for that 
Snowblind and last, fatal profundity? 
Sonless Semblance once, with gagging glands,
Turned abrogated Pa; the wincing world 
Trickled from his groin. He clawed out an eye
And dived, lost in a reef, resulting in a sky 
Made blue, by harshest imagination, by 
Exclusionary rules. Was it a mincing butcher's 
Cleaver thumb, his abusement of a One, 
Chopping up the single digit we pretend?
False finesse? The sky was blue; he claimed 
To be the author, and his grave 
Was dug in blue clay; bluets brushed the edge. 
His mineral bones are scavenged by worms that die. 
Thus we see, beyond cut division or misty ending, 
Death is daughter to imagination's venting. 
A man is image and is sound, 
Imagining sounds; a blare of being
Scribbled like a cloud, pinched nothingness 
Palely resembling himself, in a mirror;
Unalterable shadow, that falls 
As seasons fall, in whitest trumpeting. 
Thus was Tenor in his dirty grave, 
In severest evening, uttering 
A few, essential words. In his halter,
Dawdling day undid the staunching fist 
Of night, and materbirds like mandolins 
Twanged his very song. They were his toys, who,
Hautboy accountant, made of his breast 
Final register. A second heaven, set
Beside the first, is best, when we forget 
Ourselves in what our wish of death becomes. 

NOTE: This poem originally appeared in this collection, but later had a sequel written. This poem and its sequel are collected in “Rehearsing Repetitions on the Rappahannock.”

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