I banish all Who fret and stall To finish out my work: Pitched to that extreme of thought Or dark, and shambling room to room As from spirit to spirit And always preparing for that Never-arriving guest, I have labored over-long Or too-thick with theme and means Have overwrought my song. Out of night like a distorted dream Or storm more mysterious A penitent ghost that cannot crest The bound of rotted day appears; Poets, learn to live as clay All rich substance to underpin Whatever a great man might make Tinkering with his fate In momentary play, Or more solemnly erect, Out of an undistracted hate. All our lot have spurned and sung Brevity of man, necessity of guns, Unable as any mirror To sing ourselves aright Caught in enlarging night We turned from face to face As if every face would save us; We who had arrogance enough Of thought to have thought That careless hands had made us. So that a few good words might not perish Or empty imagining sink unmanned In unalterable loss Collect like solemn children round The myriad confusion of the foam And write it out again: Live, and live again, as old men say Anxious for eternities That make their own wisdom seem But momentary toys that gleam And are beaten back to mud. I am not that holy sage Remembers the misery of knowing all Or turning to a wall completes What body and its pleasure Were forbidden to decide--- Under burdened moon That sinks in July to rise on fire Out of the glittering wheat Knows man and his defeats All the sudden infirmities Blind violence took for sureties And looks on them and laughs. From the womb man falls Or from the widowed breast Dispatched to a sultry grave That gives no rest.
1 Dutch decorations groom the hours. The parted dark resumes its essential black, Its pasteboard panache, dressed blues of indifference, A more vital seem. Still the old men dicker In deeper dusk, realer hues, from Below the perch of being in parrot patricides That consume the expert, whistled throatings Of loftier loons, whose red retina shift To scan a level heaven, unplummeted. 2 They were like the colors of these things. Old men of the river rocks, disparaging Old men of the river rocks in pairs. A portion of the evening looked down Among palm fronds and purple sand, and glared A nimbus of new stars that pierced A rarer dark than thought or action formed, Whitely condemning with unalterable blare The blandest barb of neutral fact. 3 The oceans stars were reflected in the men themselves, Their trudging bucket hearts and bleary souls. Chrome, The streaked adjustment of the light, apt intrusion Of subjective singe and burn, shook step by step, until The stars were lost because the total sea was stars. Their stony heads moved in unison, great grey rocks, And tumbled towards the momentous moment of a cliff To invent a waterfall. Their old hearts poured Whiter than before, among dashed rocks that babbled As they poured. 4 But who can carry empty starlight in his purse, Or sew together toes for fins, hands for wings? The ancient bretherns' hearts must fail. They flop as they reflect, endlessly; a soul Must take a darkness from its carbon work, A scattered semblance tinctured of its grain. etched pine swamped in black ink retains The arbitrary suaveness of its growth, carved above The image of twelve men like trees. 5 Wrong boys threw up spectrum dust at sunset. they beat the rocky heads of elders viciously, Like drums, like drums, like drums, in time To the whirred sensation of white wings. Their dewy hands hardened with a thought. Imagining, they made their pockets weighty With caught stones. They leapt, leapt, leapt, Without their blue bodies diminishing. Imagining, They braided their loose fingers into beards. 6 Twelve boys danced in violet night, in a communal Hymn that offered nothing brutal. It was their game. This they knew, their short spaghetti beards and uncut Minds like bangs, in diamond time forever ripening, Took the minor light the unspent stars had saved And poured it on the orchard's hair, and fissured earth Like wine. Their sweet limbs were never heavy In that sleepy paradise. They chant aloud their names: Impatient to insistent hands, moving as they mend. 7 I descant upon a dusky theme Illegibly. What there is is this: The men are trees. The men are rocks. They mar and mark upon each other ceaselessly. There is no outside agent agitating. They invent Themselves. The clock is riveting their veins. They have never seen a star. They fly On fins. And all of this I saw in some Mirror-making, mirror-resembling dream.
Everything here is orderly, touristy. Herds of Subarus and VWs pull off together to take the first easy steps toward wetness in the park. Surrounded by a ground mounded with leaf mulch and pine cones the size of small mammal skeletons, the SUVs seem as one-off and out of place as kiddie-colored dinosaur sculptures. Even if they were picturesque junk from the Pleistocene, they would seem too new, too natty to belong in this sacred thimble of ancientness. A conviction of eternity weighs down your shoulders, attaches heavily to the car roof above you as you corkscrew slowly earthward from the crimped rim of the Valley. Your eyes seem to see only the changeless verities of grey rock and hurtling stream, motionless and motion married in a souvenir pewter frieze left out of the attic for ten thousand Christmases. Giant trees with the girth of elephants, of whales even, are no more than yesterday’s stubble on the living portrait–the greenish visible fringes of a force that pushes life out of every available surface. Dun toads look up you at you knowingly, returning your stare, addressing not the man you are but the ageless toad you came from undimmed eons ago. The occasional mule deer neither beg nor blink, you are so irrelevant to their woodland walks and ways. Coming back along the first, low path to the lichened boulders of a minor waterfall, you are hugged close against a latrine, its reek enormous, its fecal mound bursting, dotted with white flags, full almost to the lip of the hole that defines it. Old men and women, saggy-kneed, young children with large eyes and noses unwrinkled by the putrid scent, hold hands and wait patiently to access the hole. They will leave something behind here at the emetic gate, a ritual purification before going any further on into the valley vast as a million crashed cathedrals and unforgettable as a first caustic kiss from God.