Van Winkle Awakens

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Oct 312013
The old dream is gone, and the grief is here.
Two hundred years has my white beard grown
Before the first car rolled, before aeroplane had flown.
But the dream like a madness still in my eyes appears--
That none dare touch, dare take what sweat had made
Without oaktree silver on a rough palm laid.
The old dream is gone, and new grief is here.     

My good girl's grown, and my helpmeet's fled.
Thunder-cracks clout the Catskills, wild and loud,
Where fairy folk drank and leapt like clouds.
Now my love's still limbs lie buried and dead,
And the wind blows the rain on foe and on friend
And none are living who recall our fight to the end--
The old dream is gone, and my helpmeet fled.

Ichabod Dreams of Katrina Van Tassel

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Oct 312013
Her beauty stirred like mirrored fire,
Like perfection etched in cloudless glass,
Unstained by any but her own desire.

The dew that clung to her when she passed
--Ignorant and beauteous as a summer morn--
Shook rainbows when she wheeled.

Let love come wind his bitter horn
And pierce the bitter heart of my desire,
The bitter dark where my dream is born!

Always I hear amid the battering hooves
Her valorous laughter--echoes on stone worn smooth--
Always I see heedless sparks of her mirrored fire.

Night winds that set the tree-shadows loose,
Or upon the Old Dutch Bridge echo close,
Wail bleak knowledge the Headless Horseman and I

Ride to one desire.

A Tale in Acadie

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Oct 312013
Saddled by an unearthly sadness,
The leaves and I lack all gladness:
To no more adore my divine,
Intricate Evangeline.

Old, dear world, formed before I fell
To your dim dust, speak the spell
That calls her back from spirit's brink;
Pour the resurrecting drink.

I wander toward a dream recalled--
A dream I dreamed before my fall--
Of bangled arms that held me late:
Beautiful, elaborate.

Break, old world caught in fiery winds
Like a blown sailboat caught in irons;
I'll drown my everlasting shame
In your watery, wavering flames.

Ballad of Billy the Kid

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Oct 312013
Every man's a fighting man,
By women or whiskey made glad--
Law's no more than smoke from a gun,
And luck the turn of a card.

For fourteen years desert dawn unfurled
Up the cold hillside where my Ma died;
God plumb stole her merry soul
Through a pinprick in her side.

That Fall I got nabbed by a tin-star man
For a sour mouthful of cheese I stole and hid.
That sheriff sure laughed;  he called me a calf,
And branded me "Billy, the Kid."

The winds blew cruel, and wide night shook
The tumbledown sun from the skies;
Up the jailhouse flue I climbed like smoke--
A white rope thrown on high.

Now the law and I are strangers
Cause the law ain't nobody's friend--
I lit out for the open range
And never looked back again.

"An outlaw's life's lonesome rough,"
Declared Pat Garrett, roisterer and rustler.
"Kid," said he, "there's cash on the hoof
High up Rosaverde Mesa."

Galloping nights chased hard-ridden days
High up Rosaverde Mesa--
My soul grew spurs where the coyote bays
And snowy stars bow low in answer.

Those times were best, with Pat my guest
--How sweet the senoritas danced!
We raised campfire cans to life's wry jest
And tossed playing cards for the chance.

* * * * *
Sleep lay deep on the bunkhouse keep,
And soft stars curled slumberin' blue;
A Mexican lady at my side lay sleeping,
And sleep lay on my eyelids too.

Did the darkness slide, that night I died,
Blowed down by Patrick Garrett?
Plugged in the back--despite his peacock pride--
Paid two dollars by a tin-star sheriff.

Tall stars are nothin' but bullet holes
Shot in the fabric of Time.--
Through one such pinprick I send my soul--
It's to those stars I climb.

It's among those stars my story's writ
(Now I am done with lying),
That others may learn by quickened wits
What I have learned by dying:

Every man's a fighting man,
By women or whiskey made mad--
Law's no more than smoke from a gun,
And luck the turn of a card.

Phillip Freneau Addresses Naked Liberty on His Knee

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Oct 312013
To one who is all love unbound
I give the velvets of this voice--
The rounded syllables of this sound.

Fly past precincts of mere chance, mere choice!
Let freezing History hiss silent arctic scholars,
Not you, with its cool, histrionic noise.

Let you come near as kisses on a collar;
Be near, till breath inflicts on breath,
Be near when hot breaths pant shallow.

Marilyn Monroe’s Wedding Night

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Oct 302013
Tonight I dreamed my marriage bed was pouring over Niagara Falls;
Green the Falls were pouring, green as a baseball field;
Down my love for Joe was rushing, but my heart refused to yield,
Rushing like a catch-in-the-breath when you fall.

Green glow the diamond fields where Joe's the mounded thrower;
Dusty and dun come the men who run there,
Hitting and spitting and whittling defeat away there
Until all the field's laid out for a victory homer.

Up with a deep up-pouring rose the mists upon the rocks;
White tossed my wedding dress, white twined my twisted veil;
Our hands locked in a lovers' knot as over the Falls we fell,
Ramming toward the roaring, raging, raucous rocks.

Pocahontas Bids Despair Depart

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Oct 302013
Bid despair go haunt another breast
And cut his shadows from paper hearts,
For I have heard the great Love calling
With sounds of the shore-pebbles rolling
When the long wave retreats from the shore:
Unsatiated lovers ever, ever crying 'More.'  

And I have lain my head where his head had lain
And felt the quick brightness of the world recede--
And heard naught but the pebbles' plaint,
And his high-wrought heart for all the sea.

All those who have heard great Love's call
Know wet desire survives the fire, its deep well
Is ever-fresh, a portion of the imageless All
Whose depths are rolling in the bluest eye
Forever, though a war-club block the sky.

Our Beloved Southland

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Oct 302013
Long the walk to my stopping place,
Birmingham jail and a state of grace;
On a windy bridge we bared our faces--
Arms linked tight
To procure the right.
"My feets is tired, but my soul is rested."

John Brown's body like a relic slept,
Which on the battlefield stood sore-tested;
What light shone down from unearthly sources?
Nat Turner's neck
Justice annexed.
"My feets is tired, but my soul is rested."

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego first
Walked the fires Nebuchadnezzar burst;
That disobedience might hatch from a holy nest,
Those shadows strolled
Into furnace-gold.
"My feets is tired, but my soul is rested."

The Rebel Yell

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Oct 302013
My lank Abe stands commanding where coalblack shadows spar;
Heavy Chaos covers us over, a blanket without stars--
War is folding over my heart, and over all my days;
War is wearing our beautiful country away.
Men in thousands are marching, grey and shadowy,
Their roiling horses thundering, thundering from afar.

At silky midnight the medium returns, with crystal ball
And long tin trumpet floating ghostly in the gaslit pall;
And Willie's lisping voice buzzing there--to the life!
Each dim word returns to my breast like a knife,
Each dim dawn returns to the sound of the marchers' marshal fifes.
The coffin that carried my heart away was waxed and small.

Battleside at noon in our folding chairs, we watch the long lines 
Approach and cross, blue and grey, threads on a loom divine;
Threads red and mud soon enough, soon enough.
Always now my wronged, longing heart is crying out: enough!
Always it is Willie I see atop the high chargers, out riding in the rough;
Always I hear his hollow voice arising--in every Rebel yell.

Jefferson Sequestered, 1776

 [Poetry], American Songbook, Character Poems  Comments Off on Jefferson Sequestered, 1776
Oct 302013
Do you, merry bird bright upon the sill,
Watch with quick eyes a twitching quill?  
For what do you sing, merry bird,             
Trilling on the sill without a word?
Do you trill for liberty while I toil,            
Burnishing words by midnight oil             
That all men might sing in gathering night
As you do, careless and light?