Aug 272015

Copyright 1990 by Gregg G. Brown

This Book Published By

Xavier Descends His Soap-Box

Every day there was a little less of himself, 
A moon of diminishing hues, 
Less and less, as he strode from the balustrade 
To the roses, each night a different leaf fallen, 
Each day a new ambivalence in the sun's assertions, 
Proverbial gold in a stale world 
Where the water tasted tinny and the tap spat 
Erratic chuffs of water in an empty cup 
And something or other had died a day earlier, 
Had died and had its poor death recorded, 
Less and less itself, or its wintery twin, 
Pacing from the terrace to the garden. 

Cloudy Apostrophe

Calmed lightnings in the evening sky 
Shuttle, like warm humans, from sty to sty. 
If ever there were an evening readiest 
For comparisons, gilded in flashes, half real, 
It is this evening, blotched by light, 
Spumed with cloudy figures of our imagining. 
And so the erratic discharges of our thoughts 
Are themselves significant, 
Indicative perhaps of the circuits that we make 
Circling one disaster and another catastrophe, 
Symptoms of a discord so profound, 
Malevolent fragrances of black, pitted things, 
That long-fruited hopes have withered, and everlasting airs 
Crimp their silvery middles tiredly 
And the brazen horizon awes us a little less 
With its simmering magnificence 
Dull a little, and a little cold even in summer, 
Shunted to one side a little, and old and used. 
Wormy lightnings, restore the discords of your colorings; 
These are the makings of our end. 

Remote Chiaroscuro Enters West Virginia

Is it a death of the self, or of the self's 
One projection, fatal ray, deadliest beam 
Unfolding from out of a stillness the self contains 
Like scissors, or a dove's placid wings, abruptly flown 
From brooded palms, this quiet that returns 
To the stone house, empty and white 
In a whiter air? Something deeply tired 
Has taken the place of the cows, 
Still morose, filling the entire structure 
With placid breaths, but what is it? 
Is there, in this fix of airs, an extinguishing anguish 
That broods from the barn, the tired reds 
Falling in the air under a Dutch hex 
And a soggy roof buckled by the weather, 
Something that ticks in the empty hayrick 
Or yawns from the creosote timbers 
Leaning together a little in the space left 
By the solemn breathing of the cows? 

Among the Shadows

The pines in their shadows are distinguishing themselves 
Detached in a softly shaking emptiness 
Separate from themselves and their riveting greens, 
Voraciously vivid, beyond coughed words, 
Beyond a last leaf stretched in a last silence 
Like Hamlet at the vacant end of the meadow, 
Dying in summer, breathing a last breath 
In the final rye and grasses, seeing the trees loud sway 
At the rim of the yellow field, shaken 
Softly, softly, following a blue track through the pines. 

Flatterers Among the Roses

Does the moon sail in its sumptuous heaven 
Disfigured by pity, 
Blindly tearful in an icy lair? 
To walk in the moonlight, to trod 
The verdant ambers, and to think of nothing, 
What sort of matter for a poem is that? 
Is it a matter of having nothing 
In the mind, icy sequester 
Of nothing, of nothingness layered in its own absence? 
Or is it a matter, rather 
Of nothingness icily conceived, icily meant? 
It is a matter of sinister consequence. 
To walk in the violet moonlight 
Discussing the moon from which it flares 
Disfiguring the roses 
Is a kind of nothing, a suave 
Hollowness that we may hold near 
Or suspend between us as we walk. 
O savage celestial, misty moon, 
Snarling in your lair, speak, 
If speak you must, in dismal syllables 
Some more blatant human meaning. 

Loquaciousness in Louisiana

Picaresque birds cry hi-yi-hi 
From the lustered branch 
Festooned with ants. 
Crocodiles mustered in the bayou 
Flutter melodious tails 
Under oaks. 
Captains of the stratosphere march high, march high 
Stepping the squalid dews 
Of gaudiest clouds. 
When the marshal of the swamp cries hi-yi-hi 
It is his essences' valence 
Neatly strummed. 

Aperitif in November

Standing a long time before the pond, in November 
Standing and looking at nothing 
Or looking and forgetting it is oneself that looks 
One begins to think 
That the sinewy residue at the bottom of the pond 
And the pond, and one's consciousness of the pond 
Moving over it like an enigmatic cloud 
Are one, that the famous watery veils are no longer 
Waiting to be torn, or that, torn already, 
They have left only these sinewy shreds, 
Gluey blacks thinly dispersed in the space 
Between the self, astutely observing, 
And the brown pane of water that lifts the clouds 
And the bottom of the pond. 

The Condition of the Furniture

When the house stands empty, the rooms disgorged 
Of all the crumpled laundry daily life imposes 
How conditional our maundering sorrows seem, 
Another routine, like sleep and death, 
Engaging our restless spirits 
As soccer in Brazil, the overnight weather, 
The uninhabited chair, weighted with fringes, 
That stares in the leaning mirror morbidly 
Or the dirty shovel that leans in the garage, 
A little old and uselessly, by a mended fishnet. 

The Mannikin Grown Large Again

One has lived long enough 
Among rusted hills, and the solemn sunlight 
Spinning its steel shadows out of itself 
Over those hills, thickly gathered at the arbor 
Where matted vines still move on the latticework, 
Purple embrasures, seeming almost to speak 
In a light that is constantly fading, 
Shifting its emphasis, a sliding center 
That creeps over partial hills, 
Real where revealed, invisible elsewhere 
Full of hidden masses and interior kisses 
The way a sliver of grass is an entire field of grass, 
The way a man represents a man, 
Without feeling, in the inhuman landscape. 

A Capella, A Cape, Agape

Dun Madonna, caped and veiled 
By modest night, the color of shale, 
Unclench the spools 
Of moroser weather 
Tucked by fingers beneath your vermillion cap. 
Unclench the spools 
Of angrier rains and redder tornadoes 
From your tense cap 
While the violet moon's sisterly sap 
Drips bip, and bip, and bap, bap, bap. 
Her slender tongue 
Unwrapped the whitest portions of the night. 
In the hills, green winds prevail. 

Solar Resignation

The sun, scintillating cadaver, 
Refusing blue, or mauve, or sincerer purple 
For the great step he was to make that day 
Entirely out of himself and into the world 
Where dull mauves congeal, purples espouse darkly, 
And blues irresolutely go blank, 
Unpacked his scalding instruments in the dark 
Listening to the machinery of crickets, grown tired, 
The imperceptible brrr 
Of cold discomfort that enmeshed their foils 
And, tired himself, threw the rude cash of light 
In the moon's urinal. 

The Native Muse of This Rock

The native muse of this rock 
Wakes dumbly in the morning mist, and in the garden, 
Attaches itself to a cockerel by thin tins 
Of light from the bleakest planet; 
Wakes, and stumbles about the house in a robe, having misplaced 
Dawn's engines, the consciousness of a dawn 
In the folded dark of sleep, last night 
When, by the bedstand, it seemed a few syllables had made 
     life cohere. 
The native muse of this rock, dumbly awake, 
Preens against an obliterating light. 

The Butler of the Weather

The butler of the weather, 
Essential lumin on a globe gone dark, 
Parsed us out upon the table 
With a certain ceremonious, filial delicacy. 
What we were we were, without detail, 
And so was he, tracing his investigations out 
The way a dachshund traces the motivating fuel 
Of furtive foxes darkly red. 
Even so, rising to its perch 
A bird of poignant recitations 
Cries sky and sky and sky 
In American barrenness. 
Each thing in the evening tried to find  
What sort of thing it was, and how it had arrived 
In the evening of which it was somehow a part 
As stars descended 
Over Florida. 

Variations on a Viol

The builder of cellos in solar weather 
Extracts a suavity from knots, true trills 
That mock the swilling catbird in his royal chair. 
But from what seed increased the pilfered wood? 
Farm boys and their milky maids grown old 
Must, as hale timbers rudely weathered, 
Must strain, and crack, and, in their scale, break 
Remoter love's fiercest chord, dwindling 
At length as even the grandest cock 
Goes rolling, listlessly, on to noon. 
Blue rabbis without hats are chasing still 
What rabbis, bending at their lamps, construe 
To be the bright perennial, in renewing hues 
Emerging, out of so much ephemeral dust. 
Hearers of thunder in their flamenco capes 
Make much of its minor terrors and mimic hate; 
Dividing time between one disaster 
And another catastrophe, that kills, 
They are like drowned rabbis beholding doom 
In a stoven ship of their own imagining 
While blazing fish peek about their bones. 

Mud Slide in Vernal Weather

You can see the earth shake, no doubt, 
Its myriad images 
In your broken glass. 
You can feel it, no doubt, 
In your tenebrous nails. 
Or in the nervous laughter that the sky 
Shakes down. 
Pointed voice, mixing blues and browns 
In a vivid mash that riffles the eye, 
These solids, and these, 
Remain impenetrable. 
O how I regret not having killed 
The mouse in my childhood. 
Enfold me, lucid muds, 
I would go cloaked in earth the way a duck 
Dons water. 

Fluxes of Ephemera

for Amy
Disconsolate in the deepening weather 
Of a miserable December, 
Cincinnatus made a house of song 
Pinching out the solar imperative 
From other, more miraculous strains 
That salted the winter air 
And coated the simple ice on the porch. 
Without aids in impossible weather, 
Cincinnatus made a house of song 
And took up, in primitive measure, 
A primitive abode. 

Oh let the Light Be Broken

Oh let the light be broken 
That soaked and solemn 
Out of the sun's mouth spoken 
Climbed the virgin's hide 
And the grave of her face. 
Be buried in the stolen stone 
Each word of sight 
That from the tongue's priested 
Memory is severed 
Hunkered in the seed of the cold. 
Oh let the light be broken 
Over shackled genesis 
Until the husks have spoken 
Word and weed and sizzling stem 
Out of the grave of her face 
Alive again, and the once burning 
Turn of the world 
Stumbles back to ochre. 
Let man and woman and infant dread 
Out of harrowed heart 
Lain long and solemn 
Step from the narrow incision 
Speaking in leap years 
The carved distresses 
Scourged in the drop of a tear's face 
Hanging and grieving 
After its home of fruit 
Under bruited tree 
Bruised and fishnet against the sky 
Solemnly detached as a leaf's face 
Ghosted on stones 
Waiting for the last hanged man 
To dive alive at last. 

A Questioner of the Weather

Less and less sure, O soul, the rain 
Repeats its residuum 
Blanking church bells with its ultimate referent: 
Itself, or some other final thing 
That bears the buffets of ceaseless existence 
Like a paper that rolls over in the wind 
Or the wind that rolls the paper, which, 
Startled itself, is full of paper sounds 
The mud on the moon illumes. 
The rain is rasping against the panes. 
A dark, familiar change, 
Elusive elysium, starts at the edges of the ear, 
Chewed by flies in a forgetful sun, 
Hollow as a father's falsest word 
Before drunken dinner, sheds its drunkenness 
On a few, familiar objects. 
What word will ward these mute excursions? 

A Mockumentary of the Sun

One bakes and waits in the roisterous sun 
Tapping out universal time with a particular foot, 
A principle shoe, worn leathers unable to reflect 
The merest shard of all that solar crisis 
Burning in the sky and in the apperceiving chest 
Like boxed jewels winking out of showiest velvets. 
One waits for the desert to be done with itself 
For the holy sequoias to drop their arms, 
One more martyr, torn down by storms, 
Reduced by the sun to one skull of dreams 
Throwing one more shadow away from the hill 
Like a river that flows out of the mind at last. 
This earth of cakes and sweet excrescences 
Lets us eat the loam, lick saccharin sands 
From our lips, taste smeared blazons of cotton candy, 
Raspberry and chocolate, the florid saps 
We bite from the tree, laden with glistering fruits 
We ourselves have made, and ripened in each eye. 


What has life's bitter disappointment brought 
Laid in a narrow, breathless bed? 
Shall we curse all our drunken, muddy lot 
Lain with long bones of the dead? 
At the end of a rifle or parting stream 
Pursued by a pursuing dream 
Man wakes up to find his enemies again, 
The end of dreams, and all friends dead. 
What stays hid in the marrow there, 
Thrust deep underground? 
Things purposed in the unpurposed air 
Die when those men are dead. 
Whether father or brother still pursue 
Their work, or others' work, I do not know; 
I read it on a narrow, upright stone 
Cast by the long bones of the dead. 
Fathers sacrifice long-loving sons 
To a nameless, breathless bed; 
Stand we under an island sun 
Or lie with long bones of the dead? 

Socketless and Sailor

Socketless and sailor 
In the world's winded veins 
Scented genesis and coffinsilk 
I mock the soberest cockerel 
Diving from the prism-spitting 
Pinnacle of the world's mast 
Uselessly singing 
And rant like a wronged girl 
All my sweetest notes 
Over ignorant houses 
Slumbered in death and morning light. 
Out of the closeted shout this echo beats 
Features of a sinning man on tin 
More pressed to anguish in a dial's sigh 
Than any victim of time heretically cried 
Has been bludgeoned by suns 
Or a pauper's bliss been 
Crimped in a penny's fear 
Or any tale of the world 
Cauled in a scorpion's sting 
Has twisted its smile on a man's side 
Or any climbed tirade 
Spoken in wishes 
That nature's weary fabulist 
Set down. 
Graveturning in wishes 
As a wish is a kiss 
My manbones shriek 
In blooded inks 
Out of a rage welled and calmed 
As any bird's ratcheted turn 
Over the thumbing sea at dawn 
Crawls at clouds 
In inching desire as each wingbeat clips 
Over measured cessations 
Chewing ships and bones to flour. 
Out of each brick 
The cold dawn shakes 
And each root tooth of daisies 
Cragged in the fingering spring 
Floods pulse and fever 
To ramshackle gods agog 
As saints in whispers 
Each aghast their closed wings keep 
Singing of statuary 
And the boiling joy 
Of the devil's boyish kiss. 
So I this saintly mort cry down 
And each nailed lip kiss 
Quagmired in hatred 
Tried and hung, on pentecostal cross and hatch 
Birthing the blood plant 
Insisting in stitches 
For this world the word's wound. 
So I, crumbling on windfall, 
On sold bones and the tarot told 
Watch hatred disaster, man and god fall, 
And all loved things end.

The Silence

On undemanding ground
Shot through with hollow sounds 
Bird or bullet make
Or some other keen cry, I take
This man for model, though in truth
A small man of the town; and although
His grandfather was a thief
And his father worse than that,
I respect his grief, for what else can I
That wander in the clay?

There was a man had died
Frozen to the mountainside
And, nothing in his climbing pack
And less upon his withered back,
He ascended the wintry peak
Sang a rich bar tune and died.
It was out of pride
The old man had died.
He gripped a flute, knew God's great lie,
And had a clarity in the eye.

And at the last, a damned wretched gaiety
Suffused his frame.
Mountain echo upon echo
Hollowed out his fame;
Dying, trying once again
To empty himself of troubles by the score--
"This joy of death
Stops the breath."
In the trees, excited laughter;
And after, the silence.