by Gregg Glory [Gregg G. Brown] PUBLISHED BY BLAST PRESS COPYRIGHT © 2014
"Evolution is too slow a process to save my soul." ~~Darby Crash "I'd rather be a poet any day and live on guile and beer." ~~Dylan Thomas I with all my winding torch of days Kept trust, kept flame; The runner's green wand I passed on "The past" my only name.
MAINTAINING THE MAGIC
There is a magic to poetry; it cannot be all puzzle boxes and puns. The big-browed scholar of Finnegan’s Wake must finally be frustrated. And, as important, the child in Joyce’s choices, and the kid in ourselves, must feel like we are genuinely playing. Billy’s roar behind the bushes must be the Snark’s flabbergasting cry. The bread and wine must be the blood and body. Let all the magic happen, or no poetry really is.
Poetry explores the world without and the door within. It raises the hackles on the beast in your soul, and sends you out with the naturalist’s net and bottle to catalog the thousand mysteries of the backyard. Objective experience, and the subjective registering of that experience, and the transformed re-voicing of craftily chosen, artfully deployed, mosaic bits of that experience is a process common to all art. We discern subtle connections (Eliot’s “objective correlative” perhaps) by walking this worn path with fresh eyes; connections assert themselves in our flesh and consciousness, connections hang from the flowering tree like butterflies.
These connections, discerned, touched and exploited in creative expression, are never fully understood. They are not a blueprint, a thesis, or a theorem. But, they are closer to our living consciousness and our daring dreaming sleep, than any other sort of ordering that humans do. They participate in the gift of inspiration, and play in the new fields discovered there. One reason they remain so open is because of the interrelated nature of imagination and invitation.
Imagination fluoresces at borders. Like auras or fronds, its edges are fuzzy. The inspiration that leads (or is followed to) a new invention or a new formulation of scientific principle is different from poetry only in degree. In many ways, Dante even followed poetic inspiration far down this path–but his material was religion, the divine, which is essentially poetic in its ability to seek expression (as distinct from science, which seeks manifestation and demonstration); making the invisible world visible is an endless search for correspondences. Poetry stays in the tidal pools of an ocean of possibilities; it opens the door. This is how it maintains a true connection with the human on-looker, with human desire, with the all-too-apparent limited nature of our existences. Even Dante was not his own guide; his great poem needed Virgil’s invitation so that we could experience Dante’s wonder and awe as God’s design was increasingly revealed canto by canto, Purgatorio to Paradiso.
The more stretched we are, the more connected we feel; that is one secret. The stretch increases contact in both directions–through the door of the self, and out into wider experience. Whitman stretches with his lists and variation–his emphatic empathy declaring that “thou art that.” Tat tvam tasi. Emily Dickinson stretched by the wild length of her rocket flares–making one thread of image encompass the earth and on into the afterlife, yet still be pulled from her own worn, homely shawl; the robin was her auditor, the buttercup her confessor. My own, more formal (and more manic), declaration of this principle might be: “Oceans in acorns my strumming mermaids are.”
Every break of a line is a border; every rhyme is a border; every deliberate ambiguity. And poetry, like the noble intestine, like the manifold folds of the brain, maximizes the numbers and unencumbered extent of those borders–so that the subjective feeling of crossing borders, of inspiration, is maximized. The monsters in the mist must be real; the saints must be accessible to our human appeals.
Gregg Glory May 20, 2014
A DISCARDED LYRE
Below a T'ang moon hanging, On double dragon smoke I take fleet flight to Wales
To the tut-tutters among my myriad readers, I say–yes, there’s a bit too much strutting, too many bones, too many graves yawning gravely in the poems here. Luminous moons number in the millions, and ghosts gather at the dinner table in a feast more featly attended than Banquo’s banquet. But, so what? There are whole necropoleis of vampire literature illuminated from where Stoker’s lightning struck. I much prefer the “rage for order” and the orderly rage of accreting the viable language of our day–rather than continuing to execute in blind rote the wilding attacks after “the new” that distorted so much of the early modernists’ efforts. As Browning puts it in the underrated Balaustion’s Adventure (which is itself an example of historical imagination, and the value of transmitting (via memorization) the words and virtue-values of earlier artists), where Sophokles is described as contemplating re-telling the story of Admetos and his wife Alcestis, which subject had been famously treated by Euripides in his play Alcestis,
They say, my poet failed to get the prize: Sophokles got the prize,--great name! They say, Sophokles also means to make a piece. Model a new Admetos, a new wife : Success to him! One thing has many sides. The great name! But no good supplants a good, Nor beauty undoes beauty.
Here we see an instance of editing to improvement rather than dismembering to impairment. “No beauty undoes beauty.” Have humans changed in 20K years? Not much. The “farmshed’s [still] full of wisdom.” The latest diet fad has its adherents eating as all people did back in the paleolithic era. Perhaps I’ll have to eat my words, but at least my words carry the old nutritional value they had when we sang in caves, hopping in firelit gratitude around a broken bear’s skull.
Gregg Glory May 5, 2014 POEMS
You, my several, severed, Gentle selves, limned with wishes-- In the dawnwash of daybreak delivered When sleep's gone over to ashes, I write my soul's shelving shore On eyelids and tears. Come, while the saying's braying And the farmshed's full of wisdom Lowing to be milked by however praying; Come walk the dawn's ways, and some Of your gentle heart's heats share With mouth and ear. Together in the forevering grace Of day brought burning from its source Let's let simplest and supremest play Nor ask the sun to go another course But with hands crossed as lilies lay Dissolve into love.
IN BEGINNING WIND
In beginning wind When the skimmed sea flats emerge into light And caw-telling gulls descend from their windings To strut on day's sands in awkward delight Out of the blind tides, Accept the sea gift forwarding on offering foams-- See the lean sun's gild winning wide Over night's severing assertions. Out of rowing waters Where prayer begins and praying ends Greet with singing praise the braided mermaid daughters Fanning landward on green fins. In awe's dawning Love where silver standing waves uprise in halo And clouds ponder cherubic from abodes above At this day's sandy birthing. Beat on unrelenting Oh morning come glorying from chaos and mayhem Beat on beyond the dusk wind's sheeted lamenting Sail me windward and onward amen.
BAREFOOT AMONG IMMENSITIES
Flowers in their shackles are born to die; Green and blind they writhe. Man strides blithe, His day increases, Barefoot among immensities. Hunchbacked in my bag of dreams, Interred in the dirty mushroom dark, A whole man crouched in a wolfing skin, I come tumbling upright from nightmare, Wild from flower-red wombs and Ozarks Of dreams that never end. Animals like men are made to dream, And run in dreaming day. Needled to day- Light I awake Aroused from sleep's sensual rut; I grow alive from grave to groomed In the mirror's terrible square: A wreath of hailstones about my neck; A smile snakes ear to ear; My eyes bone-dry asterisks are In the bright of the morning star. "Life, life rife with hours and dangers," Is the cry that aches In my throat; Am I a flower, a blind sun writhing, Or dreaming animal unconscious as teeth? I reach for immensities and powers I wore in my dreams like a coat. I arise to daybreak's damnation And I weep at the breaking light-- A fallen star among rank straw, Barefoot in my animal manger.
THE RUCK OF SEX
In the flood-blooded ruck of sex When opened veins Cry out the cock-cursed witches' hex And hazel pains Of the smiling vagina's sprawl beginning to wax Blood-flooding open When we crawling two cross and cry out Electric, alive In the bed's church, heterodox and devout, Praying as we lie While the sucked pale moon scuttles out Crabwise in skies When we growl God-glad in warped bed's cage, Devourers Devout in dark tiger pounce and lovers' bright rage-- What shocks shakes shoves Between we blood two on the semen-draped stage That is not love?
MY PAPER BOAT
My paper boat the page Without paddle without wind Moves through worlds strange as faces: I winch up my anchor of solitude And sail into oceans of others. Barefoot among the stars I dance with the constellations, Face to face with their blankness, At home among the spaces And anonymities of time. Since the beginning of when On past tomorrow's tomorrow When suns are all dying of sorrow, Out of kilter with places, No face do I know for my own. My kite a scribbled sheet With a glued cross for a spine, A diamond to find the wind's direction And be blown on out of time, I feel the tug of your heat. Strange have been my travels, dear, Through countries of the sky, Through seas of galloping strangers, Through time's riddling lie. Strange have been my travels, dear. But time at last is wise, and I Return to counties dear and near, Return to anchor where my page began: To ponds and lilies of your eyes, At home in the home of your hand.
TO SLEEP PERHAPS
Dog-tired at day's-end I creep Whipped, blind between dead sheets And bark a prayer for sleep. Sunset drops its scald of fires, And prowling hours howl me down to drag My fellowing pillow to sleep's empire. Wrung eyes shut, and day is severed. The wagging moon wanes and begins to weep: It shall be night and sleep forever. Dreams in their millions they shall be said. All that blossomed plain as daisies In daylong light shall be nightlong hid. Dreams high as hay-ricks they shall be heaped, And dreams hatch snakes from the pillow's egg That hissing and rising leap.
DREAMING OF SLEEP
Dreaming of sleep in a tear-tugged thrub, Hammocked in heartstop, my picayune pulse Charts angina and angst incarnadined And slows my blood woes to was. Dumbly in dreams my aspiring vine Climbs moon and sun in calms in gusts, Arisen on passion's hidden hooks to sleep's Wither of insistences.
WHEN DEATH TRUMPETS
When death trumpets from the lily's horn And the timid ribbons grief's fingers knot Are bound bone-white on breast and brow, What praise will rise from the little church Where dead fleets land a boxy prow Under skies flashed black with finches? The crowd at the altar splits like gun smoke Going each their own way from death; Grey trailings who pennant the morning breeze, Thrown back to life like cod half-choked. Life swerves, renews its fatal failings, But what praise can resurrect our ease? Still, I'll speak in my pain's distraction. What I bury here in the grave's waves Sails off unseeing to houseless seas, And my dry, wry mouth seeks satisfaction In whistling praise of her days Unblackened by finches and graves: "Love was her meat, and love her bone. Her animal self moved in love's groove, With love she kept company though soul-alone. Such praise as I have I give to her who gave-- All her days destroyed and nights undone. Love's house she built where now I grieve."
ABOVE THE GRAVE’S GRACES
Hooped high above the crumbled grave's graces In my snowy crowsnest post, I see her crawl Small below, spot her telltale witching walk Untying the whorish knot in my boysome thighs-- Crimped bright by wishes to mix with the minxes And all their suitable goods that engorge my eyes Hanging out on their wires of want and haven't. There stray the ladies subtle as sphinxes, Wild as cats, mild as ministers. Whatever it was in their minds to be They became, promethean as the sprawling sea, Powerful as flowers, enticing as chives, The ladies into whose pirouetting lives I'd dive Aswim in swung loveliness of their milky knees. Oh good were the nights we walked and went In summer fun under a halfway moon Our jolly wild way through red azaleas; The bowing peaches plucked themeselves And rolled for the eating along our rice-white palms. My heart like a plum plumped for her eyes; We knew it was better to be merry than wise. I I In the undressing dark we were goddess and god And the sword dance we did was on all fours. Encephalitic clouds jigged to the moon's old score, Fiddler and fumbler among our human halves. I was stiffer than whiskey in the moon-blind night, My luminous eyes glued to her minxy moving, My wooed blood hissing to my doomed undoing. And there in a glamour of her giving-way My heart fell dumb-a-tumble down heaven's stairs All the way to love, to love, to love. Love's high knobbed hill reared where we paired, Love's blue sky leered bold washes of wishes; Love's landscape escarpments I could no more escape Than wine its musk crushed from the grape. Every tale of the town told love's trials And birds blended voices with her's awhile For never again came coo, cuckoo, or caw, Nor fluffed sheep's leap, nor seesaw creak, But there too cooed her harmonic law, Her swayed hips' riches in all daisies and faces, The bass chord thumbed of all times and places. Down in the town she abates the grave's fever, Blows cool the forehead of the mortal weather, Laying wreathes of ease on the dying griefs-- And with the outlined eyes of her pawing sex, Her Sheherezade fingerends cling to laughing cymbals, Until all the terrible trouble, thump, and taunt of life Rings tingling tamed to one thrum of love.
WHEN I AM BONES
When I am bones I'll have no fleas My marrow gone I'll whistle free, When eyes have melted I'll see no wreathes Nor hear in earholes the sad trombones Gathered at my spaded acre. When buried hunchbacked and sacred, When grave weeds hiss at foot and wrist And no psalms calm my pinching chest, Pennyeyed blind I'll seek the skull sail Of Charon's fatal craft on the Styx. And when one day I'm bones no more When no whistle lifts and no root knuckles And I am less than I was before Conception sailed me to mothering shores, Still will my small flea words jump and struggle.
GRIEF, BRIEF TAKER
Grief, brief taker, unfather me now. Sadness, unmother me. Graveward I've faced the advancing waves Of advancing seas. Too long the tick's arc, the second's digital flip Has lighted me theeward Grief, unwarded from your casual blows, The stealing weather That washes fair faces to bone. Sadness, old mother, Drop the salt bottle that put tears in my eyes All my undying days; Drop the long needles that engender my sighs. Sadness, unmother me. Grief, brief taker, unfather me now.
Pummeled I groan from boy to bier, On my head the hammer of fifty years; White sparks that from my being flare Hiss to show the blacksmith that I care. Shaped to suffer what weights are heaved, What heats the pestered forge unsheaths; I came to love what met my flame, Tempered by the love they claimed. Now I cool old; I wait for starless night Where my still fire may seem a little bright.
Beside an old hooped blackberry's spiked bush Buzzing with berries quick-thick as bees, I heard strange sighs, felt bully births bleed With patient breath in that dew-white hush. I'd gone out gloved and booted at calm dawn To pick among thickets what black wealth Fanged fingers could find for my crooked mouth-- As apt for last singing as a dying swan. When my cheap bucket began to waggle and fail Toppling with riches, and oppressive noon Swooned too full of summer's sultry buzz, I laid heavy in the heathery feathery grass And watched stretched-out full clouds sail by.
THE NIGHT VEILS
Night, weave me a veil and cover me soft away From hard eyes' pry-spies; seamstress, weave me now Far from stars' prisms a place of hiding night; From narrow arrow tongues, from angry pins Of pierced fierce saying, veil me soft away. Although I should love to shine oiled as the sun And gamesome come among flocks of crowing cocks And though my throat shouts like a bird to be heard And my enameled feathers preen, bitter light Illuminates my accusers' sear and scorn. I am peeled and revealed, weak in my puling bones: A hooked, cadaverous worm pinned in pain. To be known, to be heard, shreds the subtle veils; Stands bold-faced upon the past to catcall now, Fleshes in brave skin all pins all arrows fletched with light, Cauterizes all wounds, yet without enduring cure. Shall I stand gaudy-prowed, upright and pure? Night, drop your dark threads; weave me a soft, safe veil.
RUN THROUGH WOODS
Run through woods where woods run wild Where waters of life limn the still moon pool And birds of every marvelous feather Cry Alive, alive at last, alive forever In a believing fever abruptly cooled By a blowdown blessing wind. Run through woods though running must end And the shadow-domed forest dissolve to light, Your bird-quest pecked to dickering questions, Crying Why oh why time's devastation In a shutting autumn that must close in night In the saddened manner all things end. Run till the moon comes runs you down Though lightning stream as mad as milk And thunder shiver where wonder had struck All the child-long days of your winning luck When the old moon-shroud shone pearl-sewn silk-- Cry with the birds in the deep wood hidden: I fletch my wayward soul toward heaven.
WHAT CAME MY WAY
What came my way, windily dying, A pleasant face swayed over giving knees Obedient hands adamant to please A mouth singing arias in crimson ohs Eyes that shined crying robin's-egg blue, I laved with love without trying. What came my way, dying of stardust, A squinting face mad for abstractions Bent intent to beakers of boiling equations Hurried hands exact as smacking rulers Lips that kissed over grimacing molars, I loved with true love as a lover must. What came my way, dying of windfall, The veins of her face as heavy as rope, Pained, drained of all but a cadaver's hope Piecemeal to assemble the true resurrection To wake to eternity in a diamond mansion, I gave rivers of prayers and love's waterfall. What came my way once so windily I loved once, and once loved sinfully; What came my way once so dustily I loved once, and once loved lustfully; What came my way once only, dying, dying-- I loved, and love still. I love without trying.
Once in springing winter's yearning Sledding my shed days down the glistening hill From white heights of the sun's turning To where trickle minutes glint and spill, All I had begun to breathe and rawly be In the rayed amaze of my logturning race Merciless vanished into responsible seas; Melted to salt was my hour's grace. Twice in the mature assurance of doing When I paid my bills duly and nightly wildly wooed Million-pleated shimmering skirts of my choosing As though my noontime had no doom, All I had managed to gather with scythes and give In the muscled playdays of my manhood's prime Sighed from their silos in grain-golden waves; My laughing lovers swept on into time. Thrice when at the pleated weeping bedside Hovering love went striding from the room Harped into narrow light at the grave's thin side, I heard the night-note hid in my hammering noon-- And all my sledding came down on my back And snows of rosaries I continually said Kept not a flake, not an ash, of those tears from my track; I vanished beneath seas and the seas' dead sands.
THE COZY OWL
The cozy owl hoos, the tit-mouse peeps Forever in woods they forever keep. They're in heaven just where they are, The night as still and soft as stars. The trees are lightless, deep as death, The sky as pearl as winter's breath. The field for the mouse is summer's feathers, The air for the owl is windless heather. Mouse in the barn ferrets out the oat, Owl from the rafter ferrets the tit-mouse out. Silent as seances, the owl falls-to, Immense the joy of his floating so. They're in heaven just where they are, Claws and teeth as sharp as stars.
TIME WAS ROUND AND WINDING DOWN
O time was round and winding down and running away to graves When new new year's eve reared from the fleet defeat Of December done, no night rememberers of Christ come Through the long tunnel of the new year's breaking track. Downy towers of January snow shag both bush and branch In glitter stillness the minutes wait until all minutes stop. February finds none merry and March comes round A wet, whipped hound, an everything month with a lion's mouth. Steep cries the creeping clock, punishing, punishing, And December's mercies vanish. O time was round and winding down and running away to graves When Spring came singing thorough tulips swinging, In the dew-raw dawn of the baby year. April's dripping Lips lick the last icy eve, and winter eve drains to day, Till May comes baying tame in the tender green of trees, Walkways pink with cherrytree drifts. O June and her rumors! every seed's ripe grew true Loaded hours unfolded red, brimful full as honeydews. July saw life's celebrants, undimmed, rear bright as stars And life sang easy in a million backyards. Old August sweated swarthy with his layabout breath, And no one moved, hoved home in simmer and sloth. O time was round and winding down and running away to graves As sweet September saw sad dogs barking mad at school bus windows. Dooms of October boomed through the trees And autumn fell broken as the many-voiced sea, Washing summer rinds to the feathering waves. Now November chimes white again, ringing its icicle dimes, Sticks stark as daggers, brown before thrown snow begins And December stumbles to the resurrecting stage, the saving season Where sailor hope climbs winter's cross-spar to spy Olive-leaved Spring somewhen far-off in the scenting wind.
THE TENDRIL WIND
The tendril wind Begins, far away in thin Cornstalks that I had walked Oh eons ago if a day, Pelting the path with my man's sway, Counting the trounces of foot and foot, Wiping my face with playful soot As though I were the storm To come. Bigger than death and ditches, Ripping through my stitches, Ferocious as scorches, Infinite as scythes, Sweeter than salmon skies, Solomon-wise my dancing eyes-- And not some laughing worm, I twist thin In the tendril wind.
IF WIND WERE ICE
If wind were ice, November-locked In transparent cubes of square air, Invisible but real as winter's despair, If shear hills were told ‘no taller' by the crack Of the whittling wind knifing Diamond summer down to rhinestones, Would man in his troubles hunch huddled, Alone before the ruddy fingers of his fire? Would he hear the crossed, cracked sticks Of winter rip in air's transparent box? If wind were ice when November knocks, Yawning trees would creak and settle down to sleep, Restless a final time in the weather's windy knots Before ash and elm turn their backs for good On icicle wind that can crack them dead And go to sleep together as a naked wood.
THE WIND PERSISTS
The wind persists-- Its kiss a hiss, Knocks on boxes, Backwards bleating, The trees unseating, The swing untwisting. The slapped gate yapping, Its lock unlocked, Gapes and shuts, Clacks slats to bits. This chimney hisses, The winds persists. Pushed puddles dimple, Marred mud wrinkles; Single shingles whip, Wanton windchimes clap. Clouds grim and grey Unbolt the baying day-- Torn fingertip twigs tangle, Scratch pathless patches, Flick flattened dirts, flung Signs unhung, The leaves insisting The winds persist. Wild wind feathers Her hair behind her. The terrible weathers Shiver swing tethers, Flap seats to branches; Ripe rain rings down, Unburies the ground, Sounds bells in gutters, Slippery mutters The wind persists. A house unhinged Chases the wind-- A sting, a scream, A body blown, The unknown sown. The mind a mist.... The wind persists.
THE BOOK OF MOONLIGHT
Love doesn't come rowdy and crowding Into our lives, but glides in silver stealth, Writes like ice skates its argent lines On hearts that had been frozen else. Love brims its inches full of moonlight Soft into the cups of lovers' hearts, Leaves its misty trailings like a sigh Over the dawn pond's beginning light. Love is not the drum of nature's duty, Which mates and makes a beauty-- Where wily weasels squirm and twist Mad as affection's fist.
TWO LOVELY LOVES
Two lovely loves roost in May's mulberry tree Mimed alive from the conspiring slime That lulled and told the dinosaurs to sleep; Two helicopter tufts of orchids, flowers Sublimely arise on the dividing branch of day --Whereunto I aim myself A bone arrow arriving late to two beauties.
Light-crafted clouds remind me of seas, Seaweed seasons winter rakes from me, Me (once we) conniving waterlessly, Wordlessly in the lonely going-on of white Whittled December, ice-hemmed January nights, Nights jammed deep in my heart's lace ice. Icy clouds drown my voice in this noiseless waste. Was it your voice the sealess winter void replaced? I pace in silence, all my soul a seaweed sprawl. Light-crafted clouds remind me of seasons We'd once walked two, by those roaring seaside Tides all summer, one long uttering waterslide-- Tied in love, you by my side, and I by your side tied.
MY SWEET SOOT
Burn souls black, my sweet soot, kept Wept bright, My dark imagination locked in keyless chest-- What Whitman called his Fancy. My sour flower, till clear a little Earth's lintel, Hades' entryway and heaven's foyer, Clear this away and that away-- My sprung song, tattle at the gate Late tales Turned and tuned until they tell all, And, revealing all, are all. My fletched foot, fly sprained Gain height, Take the kept chest with you upward-- Soar blazing, my eyes my galaxies.
IN ORDINARY GLORY
The old dog died under a collapsing wheel. The innocent turns of his breath Revolved no further then. This was a dog's death. The old dog young had been a child's companion, Champion in his chasing turns That hounded the summer weather. Now he must be buried or burned. Never among muddy puppy days and yips When we rolled green as grass Did I imagine his final going, The silence in the house. These hands that threw the unfetched stick Somehow in air still turning Are empty now he no longer leaps In ordinary glory.
HOUND AND BOY
Crouched in the cotton-batting grass Cozy as roses in a love-pinched cheek And babbling baptism of a summer's day, I say my ways my world my forgotten selves When young as a pup and pipping proud I played with tufted grasses and the days went round. I found myself and my pointing hound Ready for pheasant in the long splay meadow. Alert at a minute's click we stalked And ran down the rising side of the great sloped hill. We traced our racing in the tall ribbon grass Following with our falling the pheasant's fear, Its loping trot, half wing half claw, the bird Flew to shadow where the pebble stream whirred, Flushed in a flash onto bent bush and wood. The hound stood troubled in the chittering stream; The twice-sniffed tracks slipped in the water's sheen Left taut nose taut gun hung uselessly. No mortal union of man and beast, my hound and me All eyes all ears for the willing chase, all those marble days Of my flyaway youth when killing knew no death. No minutehand arrow in those flung days Followed far beneath the blue-clad eastern clouds, The spattering charms of the swift-passed rains. No hour collected us before long nights called cool, All happiness said in the old hound's cry That sang us sermons and psalms to our summer bed.
THE BEAR IN THE CIRCUS
The bear in the circus A rollicking shambles Dances in cages for afternoon crowds Between bright lights and bullwhips With a rolling drunken gait Among cheers grown fantastically loud. Muzzled and mated and tamed He whirls balls on the end of his nose Between peanutshells and sawdust Whipcrack and organ-grind For crackerjacks and fist-given meats Until crowds rise out of their seats. The bear in the circus A tutued buffoon Dancing among spotlights and blackness On a turnedover tub Twirls for hotdogs and popcorn, Burst laughter and plummeting hands Until the ringmaster bows goodbye And night unbundles Down the swinging tent eaves The spider-dropping dark of shutoff light With a sound as round as seasurf Rough and lovely; And the bear shuffles off in his furs Returning untamed to black forests White pines and wine skies Wild stars pricked trim as pinspots Past cage stale straw and old water And shambles on into dream.
THE BADGER IN WINTER
The badger in winter Is walking his dreamscape In coffindark torpor In yellow fallow forb His fierce face tucked in his tail His tail laid soft as milkweed seed. The badger in winter In the cove cave of his burrow home Laid warm against snows on the sandy plains, Against the shark-finned wind In downcast loam, Walks his dream summer faraway gone. Deep in the seed of his needing Halfway warmed from torpor He remembers the flattened grey grasses Tall in their summer disguises In fields were he snuffled and wagged His striped head like a hungry pennant. A badger backed in a corner Nearsighted and clawing for air Rears like a miniature bear Ragged teeth intense to attack His mind alone as the winter He sleeps through on his back.
THE TAUNT THAT TUGGED
The taunt that tugged the president Pulled havoc down, that tagged him weak Pinched flinches from his sensitive eyes. Tall from the podium he kept speaking. No silence broke the whispering bones Buried hushed beneath the token words; Ministers and senators kept their quarrels home; Itching dissent slept like a covered bird. Tall from the podium he kept speaking. What was told was not what there was to tell. No drone roamed, no attack tank rolled. Vanished as ashes were Crimea's liberties, Small crosses sucked beneath the black sea's hatch. Torn corners of his treaties rubbled to rounded, Shredded edited on the contested ground; The old ordered world's illusions, ruined, fell Dead as kites, as needles from the imagined sky. Tall from the podium he kept speaking.
THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE
He comes home smelling of animal, His shirt all stiff with musk. How do the does endure it? The rank of his reek is incredible! I sniff at his neck in the dusk.
The pig in his trough, of course, Is live, vibrant, vivid, virile; The critic in his pigsty's piss, unless He praises you, his hero.
Dance, dart in daring airs, Part for buttercups, prancing pair Over wheat's real fields of gold. God's dancers, these shining Psyche's bees, emblems busily nothing Doing, really, fluttering flakes of gold. Momently only, they here sink Or there are, immortal moment's winks; Go, having given our eyes real gold.
I IN MY DIFFICULT SELF CONFINED
I in my difficult self confined, A figurehead in any kind of weather, Feel the flesh fail, My blunt body blown about In moon's-blood shouldering the prow. I in the wind's stir untended, A feather unfathered in unkind weather, Blow, burn unblessed, Dying of indecision; crushed, cursed by all The maybe plagues. I from my difficult self unbound, A thrifty theiver of the weather, Shift the kissing sticks Jove tossed crossing to the blundering waves; I emblazon my desire with a lightning look. I in my infinite self confirmed, A watchman of rocks in whiskey weather, Feel Babylon's wormy stars Still drill real into my pinnacled pride For all my woeful mouth's wanting eternity now.
HASTE, MAKE HASTE
Haste, make haste and break this door down That keeps taste and sight and sigh contained In one animal man. Speed, speed to crack the doomsday locks That prison me in tongues while my jailor's key Jangles in nightlong song. Fast, fast unleash the keeping wires that press My stained teeth with blame, that once Leaked a live language. Quick, quick, pickaxe this cadaver here Who holds my moldy manbones black by the throat And keeps heaven dead.
THIS INDOMITABLE DAY
Extinct are all my cradle days, The owl-rocking nights of mother-love When the moon looked in at the open bays From the forever-in-shadow grove. Dead and clamped as brakes the rolling Races between we three furious brothers Freestyling downhill until our voices Dwindled on out of grace. And dumb beneath mournful ocean blues Squall the sung promises of lovers; Deep among reefs, like griefs they sink Which no one shall recover. But what of today, this indomitable day Arrayed fragrant as the sun? What rocking, what racing, what graces may Stay, more than what had come?
IN A BATTER’S CAGE OF KISSES
In a batter's cage of kisses, I pray: "I delight in the little bigness of things-- The male and female of the falling weather, The thunder's caresses, the hurricane's feathers. And I delight in the little bigness of time-- Magnifying maggots to their true snake's size Or ogling saints small from their hail of stars," Until my wayside prayer sparks, Igniting angst and thanks. Dragged by the hair to gratitude In morningtime's lucky ache of love, I take up my holy task to tell: "The pentecostal whip of my missus' kisses, The sweet pinch of being in a flea's swell tail, The saccharine queen sex who thralls all Through life's unforgiving gale," Till morning and meaning break in my molten soul Gotten and golden and whole.
MAN IS STATUE
Man is statue to the act unfolding, Alone must watch new worlds unfurl. The unstill sea against its shingle Confounds his gems and wreckage. To do, to be, is Hamlet's question, Unstilly told to the breaking sea; Love is a verb who's germy gestation Unfurls worlds that break to be. The act unfolding is a falcon's strike, The beak dashed blank to being's white cry-- And the moment alone, no more dreamed But done, arcs arrow vowels to the sky.
IN LEGENDARY DARK
In legendary dark Among old stories roared Around the dying fire as the fire Was kith to the lithe Fire of her eiderdown eyes. Oh mother softly adored In all your sainted ways Of maybe praying And flyover loving Calling us "angel doves," Gone you are with the droves Of wing-wrestling others Flown all the way at once From earth's darks To heaven's angles. And there she plays in fields Of undying light Martyr and mother As all of them are Chased in the storm-soaring Haste, the speedy unwaiting Forever is.
Shall my love's saying soul Assail the running sands? Shall her timeless hand repeal Laws of the flying weather, Clickering rains that drown my ears? My love's tongue shall wring Sugars from the hourglass; What clouds compose she shall mock: Her flung hand shall winnow Wet ghosts of the clock. Should my love turn and say Her soul's weathers in my ear, I should unwind the cloudy leaks, Rain sand hours out of hand; And one heart should flood all lands.
THIS ISLAND MAN
This island man In his lighthouse watches And lets the disturbed ear hear Strangers rowing over The silentest crest Of a sea at peace with itself-- Strangers in lifeboats gaily pursuing What I cannot pursue myself. O stranger rowing over Clasp you an arrow or glass? Never in all my handholding days When the trees shadowed my friends, Did I know myself the island I wore Skirted with simmering flesh Dense and deep as sand; Stars as silent as ministers Watched my days unclasp. O stranger rowing over Clasp you an arrow or glass? Now the stars like spectators Crowd my lulling shore, While I, alone in my clothes, Let days, birds and hours pass Quiet as a radar's sweep. Shall I go to the boats, Unloading my griefs, or keep Eye and ear in my lighthouse locked? O stranger rowing over Clasp you an arrow or glass?
LANDED BY LOVE
I who would love hot am ribboned cold By flying knives of your sighing; I who would live all my blonde, baby days am old Solomon in his windings, Trussed for dead and my meat heart sold To buy my bindings. And this alone is love, and love alone is this In our modern charnelhouse; As winding worms, plunged crucified to fish, Rise resurrected in fishes' bowels-- In love alone persists our one presentiment of bliss Windy as a rose. Kicked crawling by paradox who would kiss the truth, I fly to you sighing; Bitten to blood stitches by beauty's tooth, I kiss you where you're lying. And O I'd trade rose and heart and all for your charnal mouth, But O I am dying. And this alone is love, and love alone is this Which leaves us bound or binding; The timid touch of love, that once coughed soft as whispers, Wails its unwinding-- I swallow again the reeling worm that love hooks with And fly to you sighing.
ONE MATED AND ANGELIC EVE
One mated and angelic eve With the book flared across your knees, Eyes guided eyes and, nose to nose, Ambushed lips began to brush and be. Stiff ministers of a cultish creed We repeated the stolen words, Puked up tongue and black and naked need Until our needing heard. I knew any bell's praise from your lifted lips Would sound my soul awake; I knew each bit of bitch, like a searing nail, Would seal my damaged fate. Together with stars and eyes and book half-open, We paid with pain for what we left unspoken-- We traded hands and nimbly led Each other back to bed.
Sewn together in a pouch of purrs Hand on breast and mouth on thigh We cannot make our moaning words Or hiss a thesaurus into our kisses' sighs. Each stroke of sex that turns us double Or kinks our Xed zones to a core Of double yolks where trapped tongues bubble About the regions our mouths rub sore, Undoes encyclopedias of saying, Erases summations to addition's first tick And cancels accounts we could be laying With the hollow of a kiss' lick.
Doublecrossed by the terror of birth Into the troubled thrum of becoming, Uneaseful in our mirth When summer's feather moults to winter's bone And all the cold wonder Of snow's undoing. Wrenched upright, awry by our thrown bones-- Uncramped from the comfortable hunch Inside neutral mother And stretched to stand in decisive day, Thrown to thrones in the hissing wheats, We bleed into seed. Shambleshanks unpacked on a walk as long as thought, Our knowing as nothing as nothing else (Unless such nothing is)-- We hold seed and snow in eye and hand; In bone and feather breed; our flight Tells all and nothing less Than Christ-crossed oblivion.
THE WOUND THAT SPRINGS IN THE BRAIN
The wound that springs in the brain like a spring Gabbles and bathes the skull's tough turf With its billion babylon babblings: griefs-- The scummed flood within unending. How to tap to touch to cure the bone wound That grows horned and hard by its being sown A wizard hazard of once-love seared to burns, A heart unstrung to shreds from its beginning good-- To console to care to bear the stone bravely That grinds pink steeples to damnation's dust, To save the raving brain from its mournful spurt, To salve with grace the holy core till such touching saves? In the bedtime deadtime of the day's darling going, I see the white nurse rise like nightfall Over the hill's swift wave over houses over all Over each of us with her coverlet of stars undoing Every unshrived grief of the mind's undoing.
A CREATURE OF WHATEVER TROUBLE
A creature of whatever trouble Is cartilage and mischief-- Trimmed in skin and the smile's lie That all shall be kin 'til kinship dies. A creature of whichever wish Is eyelashes and ifs, Entrancing Time in evening's dish With coddling dreams and such. O creature picked of which and what, All elbows and ears, Take of this trouble its whatever worth And wish the wisher kin until His wish full is of death and earth.
NOW THE BRAIN IS CLAY
Now that the burning brain is clay And the body's sodden veins are glue, Elbow and bone have gone soaked to sod, And I lie sandlocked, spine and foot, Unstirred by the insistent stars. Love has nothing to wake the dead Though the dead are waiting to wake. I'm stiff as mittens lost in a snowstorm, No burning for heart or for head, Though hearts at my wake are aching. Day's gone down on the chilling chapel And stone shadows pool east of forever Where we grave men wrestle the gods; Eternity flees, all triumph dispelled To the white gold of a maggot's egg. Night and death have put daylight out of favor.
Once in seething time, I came into my curse: A friend unfriendly wore his face reversed. And all my friends, the small fry fishes, Sieved themselves from the chaos bay. And the lone moon sang its fluted bone; And night's tooth conned the meat of day; And safe in my shallow's hollows, I Worked out corrupted wonder's why. Long in my wondering den then, Crying among rainbow shoals of corals (Each the quick color of a friend), I banded in briars my heart with hurts 'Til cursed and closed in mental hearse I heard the helpmeet of my wound's verse. Her samaritan's purse snapped ripe, And rosy were all her monies' colors: Those folds red-gold and green as apples. With her tender hand salving soft and softer, Binding the wound where wonder once was Healing with hushed touch scars' stars, she Paid my way out from hurt's solitude to awe.
The soul's weary weather--all heavenslight after The plumed owls' hoo, after starry cries stoppered above The black trees' stirless shadow Rise spendthrift from clear silences of night, Or come roaring down light-crafted clouds To drown My nickering wicked ways and proud. Hooded and hooved, my mazy footsteps arrow-trod, I walk awake yawning dawn's cadmium floods And break today's milky veils-- I tear all my spider's swagged bag of guilts Dragged from nightmare silts and dreaming dread To scrawl This crippled, ink-black shred. I've spent my whole of love on a half ragtag child's Green and runaway, grave-going hand I held Through the roaring tread Of the wild weather. Blown down breakneck winter's steps In dead trumpet air, my forgotten weathers Come round together And flood my flashing morning-mourning eyes.
Plangent star and argent ache, Ideal I reach toward and cannot take, Perfection's perfection without defect, Unblemished apple eden-made, Dean and master of my scribbled days: Shakespeare bearded, brightly rayed-- Star apart from earth's infections, Stationed steady above life's stone jetty Where my words lie washed, assailed By stale time--to dirty foam burst, Broken tidal pools my hearse.
SLIP, SLIP FROM KISSING
Slip, slip from kissing, thou, Part from parting, too, Accept that all that is but seems, Accept my image accepting you Is more than mirror, less than dream. Attachments are the Bhuddist's sins; Sins avowed invent the lens Through which the sin is sin-- More than mirror, less than dream, Accept that all that is but seems. Accept my leaving is but staying, And my love a kind of praying. I stood upon a departing prow And knew the moving wave Stayed in whirlpools of a now; It was myself I could not save Departing on the departing prow. I would keep here, kissing you, Upon the storm-molested shore Counting sand grains, counting stars As long as numbers added more, As long as you're the you you are, More than mirror, less than dream, Accepting all that is but seems. Slip, slip from kissing, thou, Part from parting, too. LOVE'S TOO DIFFICULT Love's too difficult to love, That hard unguarding of hearts; I look at you, and see what's above-- Of those heavens I have no part.
Tears melt unmanaged from her cornered eyes. Tears untamed infect her dusty cheeks. Tears fall like hair and cover her faint feet. Tears too tired to hide tell something here has died. Tears intense as terror, intent as saints, Tell a tale of living too long unwell.
IN KNEELING SANDS
In kneeling sands my whittled savior Gives first his whole love and then his whole life: Clicker of minutes in a clockless land Of blood the red of eyes the whites Of day the turning touch of night Of fever the calming palming hand Of marriage the untempted wife Of giving the savoir faire of favor. This best of whoever I was and am This holy most carved from my sheepish least This model who troubles my conscience the most Who sees most within where I wander most lost Who knows when I don't what I most might be Who throws my bevy of devils into the sea-- Of love the whole shadow and holy ghost Pinnacle of paragons, the one man undamned, To you I kneeled once among seagulls and doves; To you I kneel still, invulnerably loved.
BY MILKY WAY
We wrote it Feelingly in the fallow following water We scratched it quick in quicklime Tumbled words running in the sun only, all out of order, Words of life and rhyme. By the water Lemony and brown and warm and lovely Under the still, tall trees of noon We raced and rambled our hours our days unlonely Straying late and soon. Little, little we knew How silkily stalking our walks our woods was death Sly and lithe in regular sneakers While blind in the minutes of our timeless eyes the path's Pattern paced water that had no equal. We connected all The faraway whites of the uncaught conning stars We drew and called them by name Told ourselves the tumbled stories, the high adventures, Tales of whence they came. By Milky Way's White beard, by the sky's clotted unnavigable river Beneath raven-tressed trees of midnight We followed the constellations' endless chapters forever Companions of their light. Little, little we knew And less in our wold's heavenly wandering cared That Orion drew his sword That death through the pensive leaves yet wandered near And listened to our words. We rowed on Dazzled in the wayward spray of the clapping waters Mute swans upon the surge-- We felt, not knew, the wavery rilling river's cool disorder Where its swelling branches merged. We let The whelming carry us, the whelming water carry us Endlessly onward as verse While tree and bush and burning day went blurring in the rush Of the passing universe. Death swanned Beside, rowing in the rapid waters' surging, hungry And beautiful as tears; The bucking canoe at ease eventually beneath us, steady As the sun's one stare. We penned The happenstance pattern of our pacing days With quicklime wits of reason Lost in the lovely the lemon the brown, the water's lonely mazes While summer fell out of season. Beside the vocal River raving, beside the crimped dusk's cold darkening Beneath lean trees stripped of leaves We heard the softening drip of winter voices harken To frost's disordered breaths. Our days erased With willful ease erased like slipped mistaken words Erased, while sounded the river-water Behind us, and before us on the flood flowed the world With death pattering after.
ALL SUMMER IN A DAY
"One boy you can get some work out of, Two boys more. Three boys, none." ~~Dad's rule of thumb Working through sunsweat and neckburn, We unrolled a fence against rabbits, Against animal life conniving and hungry, Against raccoons and clever black hands. Against the vindictive eating and shitting of birds, We worked with our father all summer. We were impaling our vegetable kingdom On the graves of the grass we had buried. With chipped rototiller and rust-red tools We bit at what had remained unbroken, Churned arrowhead up, tore taproot to loam-- Dad's spat tobacco as brown as his coffee. With raw shoulders turned to the wheel, With shovels like diamonds scraping Layer after layer of untrammeled dirt, We called forth the spirit of seed With spray hose and angry commandment. With sky our indifferent accomplice, And time our old friend and enslaver, Our trowels dibbled like stitchwork Tearing the mother's side just enough. Our bleeding was part of the bargain, Knee and knuckle and elbow, Bright splinters left burning like auras. Late, late in the day, our sun-dragged Boots kicked off into brambles, Sunhats tossed down by pond-blackness, The mud medicinal, efficient, Covered us to knees, and our gossip Was smiles creased behind wheat grass. Frogs boomed cool and obtrusive, Echoes of wood and of shadow Where peep toads woke to their work As night fell on our dreams and dominion. On pillows as wide as those fields Our dreams saw tomorrow's tomorrow, Saw sunflower and carrot and rhubarb Burst plaintively furiously perfect Behind chicken-wire straight as a razor, The field churning all colors in sunlight, The dirt lifting life in a triumph: The bones of our enemies bleaching, Squalid tomatoes impossibly red, Staked pea-pods that rattled out victory. Our old buckets were full of new freshness, The trembling of too-much brightness-- Burnt cheeks were hitting cool linens, Our faces delighted and keen.
As brothers we rode the high treetops Where fields fell away forever. The pines were not weeping with time. The clouds stood still for the runner. As brothers, we rode the high treetops. We swam where water was giving, Where light was dappled with deepness. Wet rocks all echoed our chorus, And the river ran on in its sleeping. We swam where water was giving. We sang till we called out the stars, Till trees of our nighttime were shining. We perched in their arms proud as owls, Forever among clouds and flying. We sang till we called out the stars. Knock wood, we were loving and living, And life was just as it seemed-- The fields fell away forever, And night was an endless dream. Knock wood, we were loving and living. Through light that was quick as kindling, The river ran on with a shudder. All our days passed away like a dream. We climbed every night like a ladder, Through light that was quick as kindling. As brothers we rode the high treetops. We swam where water was giving. We sang till we called out the stars. Knock wood, we were loving and living, Though the light went quick as kindling.
HALF ANIMAL AND MAN
Half animal and man in my shambling frame I ache toward the open doorway; Wounded and wronged in my make-believe flesh, Blazed and amazed by a million teardrop eyes, My every ear alert to illumination In the star-flying dark and flak daylight-- I hunch against the wind of forever come.
GALLANT AS A CLOUD, PROUD
Gallant as a cloud, proud Before all the eyes of earth, death No more niggly than a gnat, hat Never humbly in hand, upstand- Ing I was born. Feathered in fiery skin, sin A stranger to my heart-knot I ran graced, and I crowed, crowned By loud Love's crying spires All my lengthening youth. Outfitted with a suit of ruth, death My wages on my way, away I gave day to moon-soothing night, lit By my scholar's candle, dull- Witted with ignorance and loss. O I knew nothing, nothing In my pinnacled prime, time My wings and my hearse; terse Time clocked me back to one; gone Was my youth like a cloud.
AS A CLOUD
When man-draped blood dripped Myself down from heaven with a dropping cry Spilling this body from pained hip's lips Crying life, life to live, life alive, Did any other come dumb a-tumble, Riding my shoulders, a capable wonder? And roaring unlovely all lonely's lessons, A dripping waxwork with a burning wick, My bone-alone prayers wrung, sung in session Where echoes creep cold to double and mock: Is it I alone who lives, who dies, Unlovely in my body's sack of lies? Upright in the everywhere-nowhere now With something-nothing thrown on shoulder and brow, And naked if I only knew how, The I behind I unfurls a brown shroud Dote-silent now as twice aloud-loud, Incapable as a cloud.
WHOSE BONES I BREAK
Whose bones I break bear the ash Breath first tongued in soot; Whose back I bare endures the lash Of days as quick as coals. Whose tongue I suck between two gasps Of bare babe's cry and skull's knobbed crack Vowels a violent void that snaps Babe, grave and groin in our kisses' black. Whose wormy, wasted soul I own Filched infinity from moldy bloods; Animal and man I dug for sup And killing and kissing gave forth God.
Chained to a walking coffin full of talk Stuffed glistening with wormy words Bursting from socket and wagging jaw, My living bliss ashed to bony calcium, I meditate the rickety syncopation of the clock, The wise zero that sums a twitching life: Time's iron hands, flags, drag Round the flat globe face to mock A farcical carcass self who stiffly lisps Dusty sayings of a nothing mouth-- The blundering tongue gone gagging blue, My mouth of thistles thick as glue, My speech a lesion spill, a drawl of scars, My loves the licked stamps of faces.
WHEN THREADS ARE CUT
When threads are cut that held us close, When the snapped hand snips the ribbon, The veiny net that pulled round wrist and bone Shredded is. When lungs surrender to a liquid ill And drowned men dead we fodder fish, The rose-red sea that we had swived Arid is. When words have ceased to traffic truth And goose to goose give gossips' proof, Our mutual tale told in the mirror Sheeted is. Alien we stand who shared one knocked breath, One saying syllable for our daily prayer, One look, one heart enduring Time's Omnivorous is. Alien we die: out of syllables, out of breath, Crossed as words, incompatible as knots, And no more face-to-face face each other In grave is.
THE VOICE THAT PUTS MY WORLD TO WORSE
The voice that puts my world to worse Sits alien in the ear. The jugging hand that hoists my heart I exile to a hammered bier. The eye that sees my face as sodden I pluck and damn its tears. The ear that hears my each word a curse Whispers its own fear. When that eye, that hand, that crooked ear Misperceive my frame, I crack each red rib and fish within To kiss her soul again.
The crayon crammed sun, dear, Roaring and soundless, fountains A crooked rivering stalk to the grave For it is summer and never Among the milkweed floods of grass Will everyday angels flame again Dawn wise and luminous as thread Out of the martian mysterious dark, So tall was the flying sunshine Spied in your crinkled eyes. The milky sun hung up the sour day With daylong hands played the harp grasses That plucked our praise soaked ears There on the floor of light For it was summer and ever Our milk licked unmanageable bones Pounded joy and adoring down The auroraed roughs of our breaths Till silk dripping souls announced Heaven commences at our fingertips. Oh it was dawn and noon, and night Dropped his forgotten trunk of darks Among the staggered stars as I came, The sun's brother, halogened as haloes Shining my wary wishes in the air For it was summer come and never In the pearly rivers of the grass, Will I silk my grabbing eyes again On the welcome at once loving Of your eiderdown sighing skin. Now ambergris and matchless The mirage trod moon emerges like a tear Over a mourning soul simple as sleep. And because summer is overthrown And night has leapt up like a cat Under the harp tongued tree of cells My vegetable hand now grows Mannerly and large to grief: O Time has denied me nothing Of his licorice whips and nickels Nor eboned one nightfall or fastness Shut on your ghost wasted alien eyes. Pulled by the spoken tide of the clock At midnight moonless rest I writhe Resplendent in my bent vest of ribs And hear both tomb and rumor tumbled dumb By the mild handmaidens of your sighs For it is summer gone and hollow And sorrow's gone down with the moon And though I tongue earth's dust floods For all those romancing eyes gone under Fate's timeline is still the grass on fire Burning where the wood was wild. And the crumpled sun, broken, bears Funeral tears in the brain That wombwise and graveward crawl Down the fiery alcoholic face For it was never summer or was it Under my coal thumbed universal eyes; And only the bigsouled sourceless moon Drowned and void in the jailhouse dark Remains and grieves derailed sighs Over night locked trees tall as grasses. Do not grieve, brave, with whys Or hemorrhage one ear with a sigh; No heavenhelp salves such ashes. O Let instead the dear uncandled dead Cry mercy up to my eyes.
HER INCANDESCENT BODY
Her incandescent body Tender under told time's one gigantic tick Incinerates hours and fables by swept, kept licks-- Molten beneath the moon's white story. Take all my lorn light unshorn (to you only belonging) Twist flame and flower and winking spring Into the midnight ivy of your dark, swung hair And into the blended candle's long eye at dawning. Twist every strand of the wild, wild air Into the midnight ivy of your dark, swung hair Until Love jumps out from spuming earth And mounts the lost, cross ways of my breath. All-at-once lovely in your loved eye, Awkward and able, spry and awry, My burning body like a shouted cross I move All-at-once lovely in your loved eye. Now out of sparring breath I pause to praise and honour all her ways: Whirled brave alive again from her inward world, I sing all loves sprung from her beginning word; And deep in the sacristy of her candle-hot breath I lay down my moons and worlds for the honor of her days. One by one the unspoiled stars spill from her side.
WRUNG FROM THE WALLEYED WAIT
Wrung from the walleyed wait of the womb Marooned to a prayer from god's grave side And all community of the duly good, An apple unpinned from its savior branch, I fall as I fell, have fallen, will fall Each rainy inch in angst against gravity. Born moonblind to majesty and mystery And deaf to reverenced heaven's sighs, Alone on the lovely ground crowded with brothers And blitzed by a gracing despair, I rot Blood-ripe and rosy beyond my own reach. Against this windy time will I stand again Who fell to a world wrung dumb by pain? I inch each word in angered prayer to a leaf.
I WHO STOOD ON SAND
I who stood on sand and said The God-word aloud in my shivering pride, Watch mansion and turret rook beneath the tide That roars above my body's fevers. Instead of dwelling in forever I came to the crooking shore of here As the last darks broke and dawn recalled Heats that create the damned and the dear. Now cool and straight as eve's dark grace, Now lumped as fever's lesions, I stand unmanned, unmade, in the shriving space-- A shadow man born of shadowed son. I who was sky and wind before the stars shone Before earth filled with grave and tower, Before my star-marked unmaking stand Alone and voiceless in unsaying sands. The wry wink is dead that fetched me manifest From darks surrounding shore and star; Now landward ho the shapeless foams Remake my manless nothingness. Never again will I crawl into a star And dawn across ages to a planetary birth. I am undone in both seed is and shared are. I have no claim to make but death's.
IN THE DARK
I held my child's hand down to the grave And traced his comet's roaring going with my breath, Sorrowing sorrow until the sea's moon gave Its thousand salt prayers up in sprays Scattering the brine-shrived gulls on the shingle To spread stars aloft, and each a different way, As the waves fell down from their mingle And found a thousand moons in their crossways splash And told my broken, washed heart hush. O I was a dying moon in the ocean's rove And with her million wants my wants still move, To her breaking crescent I still squeak my eye That dissolves in her fabulous crooks; Locked frost-cursed in my own godawful life I freeze grieving past midnight's strife, Until night on a moonstruck gravestone breaks And harrowing dawn gives my soul a saint's look And shines on all my wonderful lies like love. Out of the four-ways Jordan of my heart Out of the splendid cincture of my pricking ribs Out of the mercury furnace in my brain Out of my own dear hollow bailiwick rolling I walk stalking my bones' marrow-trail Scout brawling galaxies from my blind bloods Ride my star-fashioning veins to black skies-- And, stepping the pulsing pathways of the stars, I take my place among the meteors in the dark.
ROUND LANDSCAPES OF STRANGERS
Pinned to minutes and the clock gone mad, Round and round its stranger's face, Round the hours that ache for grace, Round landscapes of strangers, I go ghosted and lost in the flying dark. If found unlost at last I'd nail the heart Home with the hammer of the soul, Let hands build chapels as they soothe. But no nail shines, no hammer moves, No home comes kissing from a cloud. Strip the gilding from the stars, Let hands tear down the dark dim griefs That moored the heaven-faring lights-- Wanderers wide round stranger and sky In this strangeness that has no end. Now I move in my cool body's shroud Distant as touch in a statue's hand, A blownback bit without sail or keel; No nail glows, no hammer moves. Hands were made to fashion as they feel.
NOT UNTIL THE SEPTEMBER IS PAST
Not until the September is past And the grave dead all lie, unshakled, unburied, Alone in the frost's mouth (All dying done, all birthing begun) And every crooked, ear-marked child is led, By the dimming blood of a failing hand, To play away from the clock's haunts And stars are incited to shrink again The cragging moon's corruptible sphere To less than a pinnacle's pinched inch of sky (Not until the September is past) And every weed grows down to die Up where the miracle dead were tossed In a frozen field gone over to snow And the cold wind in a cold throat like glue, Dying of wanting; and the blossomless trees Lift their skirts to let me fondle The bark-notched knees of autumn's parts, Sold old home of my father's wants, Will I catch cure in the cuckold wind For inextricable laughter and hate.
WHEN INTO THE MOUTH THE DEATH CRY COMES
When into the mouth the death cry comes Unamazed and odorless, Crammed by the ticking fingers of perpetual crime Down the rattling throat to sound An agony of conscience in the unshelled ear Of too much unlived living Then will the eyes start up blind And hair sprout hands for the head Then the unmuffled will of the stilling heart Will damn activity, haul up dock to decision, Bless the unpaid mind with rest, tell toes to grow into feet, Knuckles reverse to blunt, loved palms, Shoulderblades dwindle to wings, Red ribs uncage to drop dead lust, And lagging heart kick all away To fall to a faraway sky, And all of these be mine.
SPEECH IS MISCHIEVOUS
Speech is mischievous, a golden compass drawn Across unmeaning skies; Speech exiles stars to constellations, pins Fabled limbs to nets of stories; No matter how Andromeda shakes her chains She's penned inside the teller's page. Speech is mischievous, a tattling bottle tossed Across the sawing sea; It hectors and pleads: Let me not be lost! Read me, though I tremble like the leaves! Speech each human voice confines in glass, Each human heart to myth dismisses. Speech is mischievous, quoth the rowing poet At sea on the blanking page; Chained through lip, by starstruck anklet clipped, He brays: Truth's my hammered swage! Gospel bottle, netted sea and star Stay where I say they say they are. ===Previous Edit=== Speech is mischievous, a golden compass Drawn across unmeaning skies; Speech exiles stars to constellations, pins Fabled limbs to net and story; No matter how The Bear may circle and rage He's penned inside the teller's cage. Speech is mischievous, a tattling bottle tossed Lost on a sawing sea; It hectors untold nails into each holy cross That decks the bleeding tree; Speech each human voice confines in glass, Each human heart to myth dismisses. Speech is mischievous, quoth the rowing poet At sea on the blanking page; Chained through lip, by starstruck anklet clipped, He brays: Truth's my hammered swage! Gospel bottle, tree and netted star Stay where I say they say they are. ===Previous Version === Speech is mischievous, a gold compass drawn Across unmeaning skies; It exiles the stars to quadrants, pinning them Netted into story; No matter how The Bear may circle and rage He's penned inside that telling cage. Speech is mischievous, a tattling bottle tossed Lost on a sawing sea; It hectors nails untold into the holy cross To deck the bleeding tree; Speech the human voice confines in glass, The human heart to myth dismisses. Speech is mischievous, says the knowing poet At sea on the blanking page; Chained through lip, by silver anklet clipped, Truth's his hammered swage; Gospel bottle, tree and netted star Stay where we say they say they are.
WHATEVER SPARRING LIGHT MARRS
Whatever sparring light marrs and death amends Pluck from the warring Hollows of my hand; Whatever of cooing good life plunders to extend And we wrestle like drunken divers to breakage Pull from the sounding mellows of my mouth Until death that takes all gives my stone tongue back. Whatever of love creeps from the lying wind Blows my coal, Lashed eyes to tears; Whatever care cracks from the cormorant docks Or discovering sorrow divots from the feathering shore And makes life spasm in the teeth of time Sights down the red waters of my blood. Comfort and mother in my manhood hums And I break In the tide's sprawls awake; My black veins wreathed in the sea's last knock I strut my shivers to their grave-finding breath Until, moon-man and bone-man, I rub my salt face off And lie down dying with my brother coral in the dark.
PAUPERS IN THE BLOOD
Paupers in the blood purse of the heart Lay their elaborate Shillings on the table; cardsharks pitched In the night-dealt tavern Spade their aces on the circus-lit flat. Time has sold my windy winnings to a torch And I listen as they burn; Desperation's lip mimes dumb prayers to the hands; Tucked and crossed Against age's gales, I kneel in the fiery kirk. Oh I'd lay any dollar in this sailor's booth To get back half my wage (Pained from all the paying days of my death that toss Annihilation's light), For one heavenhued hour of my Gamorraed youth. Now gambled out to the last most Moan of my soul And stretched to my shroud on the checkered cloth, I fury my winnings To the Bermuda wind, and all my cruel wishes scatter. Daybreak's word clatters drainward with my bloods Down to cluttered noon; And there my heart's argosy, almost golden in the hand- Hold of my ribs Repeats and repeats and the seas rise and break.
SHELTER THE SIGHS
Into earth's rude shelter slide my sighs Who goes, dead at last, a cold unknown, Far from the killing dale, the blistering hills, Feet first to paradise, and Eden a muddy hole. Into earth's rude shelter slide my sighs. Who can love who has not love's tongue, The syllabic kiss that sucked me cipher? In my green glut of utterance once I sighed the mustard canker from the rose. What loving hand will now caress my crass? Life was miracle articulation once Sweeping the little dale and choiring hills; Life in the rose sang to its thorns: There are no skeletons in Eden. Now life and death confound, all drowned, And sighs shall shelter all.
STARS IN THE CELL
Deep in the wandering ways of the blood Drill my veins to their dust mouths; Stars in the cell say "Love" and burn The kin-kept eons out of hand; Talk of the body may bless the tongue's lie And all the interminable blisses; Funneled by birth to a burning chalice I drink my red liquors though I am dust; Crabbing life outwits death but once Then scrabbles back to its sea-sucked hole. Thirty stretched years touch me to the poles. A Mardi Gras grin spins at my lips And the moon grins crazily down. Much I wonder at the bleeding need for love The mission of kisses, assignation's hours, When we meet and pair off to die; Both tongue and groin I wear like a star And walk star-struck to the place of ashes. Much I wonder at the wrinkled sun, Amoeba or man, no blind difference given, His acid shine drives all wases to once; Much I wonder, at my death-ripe age, Of the worded brine spit from the wasted lip, The low tongue's lie that sums us up: The fairy tale told down the bone. Much I wonder at crossed hands' touched cup Bowing the long faces together to kiss; When the heart-drum kicks in another's stomach Much I wonder at the restless licks; And still I move both tongue and groin, Rear star and eye out of one cracked joint. Prayering hands and downturned head, Circle-earth globed in a robing womb, Flood and world of farenheit waters, Dive their deep ends in a watershed birth Flumed down the shallows of her thighs. A Mardi Gras grin spins at my lips And the moon grins crazily down. And then I wonder at my crawling luck That spreadeagled hopped the flaming bush Fingering luminous maggots in the meat; Spurred on by the spine's insistent dusts Into the whaled oceans of another The burning bell tower went clanging mad Under a star-cracked sky in my scarring eye And all the parishioners jumped ship to die; And, a drowning wick in its wax ruins, I told myself twice the lie of life Among rafted congregations of my blood That swam their red ways to death.
A SPLENDID BOAT
We thundered through the hours' alleys, Sailing your mother's wicked midsts Where no one sees-- Chisel and balsam we built a ship, Your trim invitation to life's ocean. We carved you from the future's clouds With our bodies' motions; A mermaid prow from formless shrouds Landed in our harbor laps, uncurled The ball of vivid whites you are, My seafoam girl-- Twin lightnings in your skyey eyes, A naked god astride your splendid boat.
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; Let life snap the traces, Bring rut and germ alive Rough to the making place. 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; Forget the drab, dim failures of life To bring redeemed to time The infant's climbing vine And churn the grape to wine. 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 In sleeping seeded love Step from the narrow incision Where quilted corn is laid; Speak life in leap years From 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-- Scourge the yearning source, Scotch the wanton innocence Of the virgin's crumbling pride And step into any light. Say the grief and say the life Solemnly as a leaf's petrified face Ghosted on stones. Abide, though abiding cancer all, Wait, though waiting will not help, For the last hanged man To dive alive at last.
SO I MIGHT SUFFER
So I might suffer without fail the vengeance of leaves Crumbling, vein by vein, to the docks of autumn's dust And burn again in a rasping year My fled blood Both woke and broke Flood and voice over the sea-turning town. So that the wail of the crickets might knock and enter Each sad shadow passage of the pulse I woke Burning in the shining rivers that skip out of sight. In the helping hurt of the one-armed weather Flinging hailstones and adders Down the ocean-thieving tunnel of the sky Against this head I swore all summer dumb While the ministering crickets in the booming grass Chanted phylums of my blood about to be said And I stood in the summer's drum Surrounded By the roaring going of the year. Ignorant of thistlery we walked in our mystery Arm in arm like the burning boughs Friends against death in the summer's long breath, And like the sun we sauntered Drunk and wandered Through the closed book of the heart; And I was sky and sunlight in the chapters of the grass. And understanding I sang: Oceans in acorns my strumming mermaids are.
IN ZERO AIR
In zero air By the jaguars caged in their griefs And landrovers digging up bones in the park, Dirt salts the dime-hole of her going. By liquid cats, Emptied of minutes and prayers in the waking zoo, Both half animal and man in my shambling frame I pace to praise the honored hour of her death. Her grave grows hair And gravel marks the shadow where I walk, Freezing among moonbeams, while the icicles' stalks Rise from eye to eye in the blizzard's blast. Now how unsound By the gold-honoured straws of dawn unbound And looped from the walking category of sorrow By a drake's water-shilled beak do I stand and cry?
HEED THE WEBBED HAND WALKING
Heed the webbed hand walking in the corner Coiling its oil of silks; Attend decay, the devil in the flower, The spider in the milk; Tell to the tolling look in the clock's face How your love's forever; Inform the acid winds of your rock of grace As you together shiver; Known to the moon are your proud, puffed cries, Your spindrift web of inks; Counted in Atlantic's cracks lie heroes' lives That slick and sink. Stride dying, my mayflies, along the dead flower's rim Heedless in your ruin; And skate the tickling ice that bursts your veins My merry skeletons!
ONCE MANSERVANT AND NOW NO KING
Once manservant and now no king Since she the served and sweeping blast Has hurdled death's ribbed gates, slipped past The soft portals opening and entered The severed countries of the twanging grass. Once queen in the skyey seconds of my breath (With no pale maids attending), and now A girl with a hollow where her breasts had been-- I crawl into the hours of my grief, and lie In the rose lacquer of her lying-down breath. Once hooved god of the haunted barn And of my wicked pulse ice emperor, I drop the grey reins of my crossed-hearts loss, And drop my head unlead to the mealy moss To bite again the grass of our last, hid kiss And breathe all ways at once your lost breath.
IN THE BEGINNING CLOCK
In the beginning clock, love and wonder Trailed down each treasure of a tock And bastioned happiness laid everywhere easy as sand Although the ocean tore her heart out on a rock. But when in our word's wound another rumbles, When stranger letters push the pen like a ouiji's divot, When in the blood's barometer another thumps, Tapping largesse from our bottled small, Then shall we still love who loved us never? Carry Christs in our shirt like a pack of matches? Then shall we fathom affections in the deedless dark-- When not a hand, not an eye, stretched back to touch The burning vigil tears of our watch?
In the flicker of wicks in an evening's shiver When the old ghost moon rides out full to rave I hear your weeping quiet, my dear, my dear, Praying before the tree'sface to be heavensaved. By the river'slight nightly silvery slithering In the three-quarter's moon I come riding forever To sit at the feet of your star, my dear, my dear, Praying to be your quiet prayer's answer. Sodden in the trickling flickering flow Of your halfmoon silent tears trailing graceward I breast and crest your prayers, my dear, my dear, Attendant to your prayered words in the wood. Intent to touch, to wipe away the tears, the stars In the slender of the moon's blue embers I bring this silken cloth, my dear, my dear, Kneeling where you kneel and remember. Together in the new dark's togetherness Where no moon intrudes on your quiet star We press our answering bodies close, my dear, my dear, Lip to lip in our river of prayer.
A SINGER IN THE WEATHER
A singer in the weather Scented genesis and coffinsilk In the world's windy veins, 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 this closeted shout, my high echo Beats features of sinning man on tin. Pressed to anguish in a dial's sigh, A victim of time heretically cried, A singer in any weather Bludgeoned by suns My pauper's bliss cries Crimped in a penny's fear. My any tale of the world I cunningly sing Cauls in my scorpion sting Twisting its smile on wry man's side-- Graveturning in wishes As a wish is a kiss My manbones shriek In blooded inks, Alive to day's crack, and all The marrow-harrowing rue Light's brightness sings. Alone in my limber prayer, I climb the dawn's sides And trade tunes with the tide's tirades Shining in singing red As the blood sun comes. I climb this iffy steeple to sing Out of a rage welled and worsened As any bird's ratcheted turn Over the thumbing sea at dawn Crawls after clouds In inching desire, as each wingbeat clips In measured cessations, Spiraling among the sky's spires While the weary sea below Chews ships and bones to flour. Out of each brick The cold dawn shakes awake And each root tooth of daisies Cragged in the fingering spring Floods my pulse and fever, Feeds my singing mettle To ramshackle gods agog While saints in whispers Each aghast their closed wings keep, Plastered to statuary-- Never feeling, always fearing, 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 Singing in my steeple, Birthing the blood plant That grows from my vowels, 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.
ALL ABOVE THE BELLING TOWN
All above the belling town Day-doubling dawn awoke: The steeple soar and scabbing Clouds (whose mimic thunder spoke Satin ashes in a gathered mouth, Whose bugle bray unstuck time). Watch as daylight takes the town: A stranger who marks himself and marks His endless singing in a blackbird's book Stutters past with a crossed, lamped look, By weed-eating hours slipped And slipped. The storied dark Dwindles to dawn shadows. Seagulls simple as stars find a sky Turned blue. And the clouds, radiant As spokes, mouth strange mercury to make The packed sky Cry with the birds' cries. All above the belling town By a thumb-sucked sea-pool, By the marshing beach, the stranger stood-- And stamped in anger to blankly join The dance; stranger to the clouds Come down, who escaped the told dark Where nightmare stars gather gear, Escaped to tell, to tear From his blackbird's book White blind silence from the green hill's side. And the high lightning of his mind, Past flashed mumbles, past the drum of grief, Repeats in watered streets where rainbows quell Their origin in asphalt, not gold. Upward houses Tower the vocal dark, tall towards An obscure moon, made pale by syllables Bandied beneath his brow, teller of the light, Who steps and sweats alone from cancelled night. In a shoal of sound beneath etched waves In the dawn-doubled now of the town appears That impossible pinnacle miracle with a downswung strut: Man.
THE SYRUP HOUSE
We made new syrup in the crisp of Christmas. The long dark walk under sugary stars Through black maple woods stippled with buckets Hung on clotted faucets stabbed in every tree, Trudging noseward toward a warm sweet scent In crunchy rubber boots and wetted mittens Until the golden door under the tin shed roof Opened on suddenly summery snow, and we saw The great long room--one simmering pan Hot sweet and close as the world was cold: Icicles hanging off the wall were sugar, And the tipped tree sap was life and water. We stood in the heat's mouth and shoved logs in Fingertips red in the down-low glare, Moved loving paddles through the gold-brown skin, Nostrils fringed with the blood of maples, The blood of maples on eyelash and lip, There in the secret sweet hot church of life; Life pinned and poured, life of miles around, Sweet in bleeding the golden blood source That untapped stayed dry, cracked, dark.
WEEDS AND IVIES
Daylong in the waist-high weeds and ivies I ate the wonderfully buttery summer's bread, And bright as tears on sleeves I played and frisked And forgot the wolf in the clock. And windy summer ran out of the morning And the stag-breasted dew each dawned day Rode running and riotous from the cool of the moon Unwound from the darks of mouse and fox. Then the others, the pummellers Came unashamed with their wronging love, Sham-battering hands and scolding mouths And gave away anger for their deepest, hurt truth; With red apple hands, with bones twice broken, They strode hero-headed over the blown-down time Over the greeny edge of the faraway weather, Topping sun and cloud of the tumbledown town. Deep in the heartwood home, alone and knotted, As full of fears as a tit-mouse's shivers I kept the woods for home that kept me hid In the bone-lonely branches of my bloodred ribs. And dawn in its trial of summer survival Turned red in the remembered air, And summer sun crept crabwise until it was moon, And I heard the sun's hours ride down to their doom. But oh the woods were golden in their burning Beyond the drowned stones that cried aloud In the midnight riverbed's spattering blacks; In my heart-held woodhome and owlly hollows With my pockets full of leaves and string and talisman rocks, My vowelling dogs howled to adder and frog-- While all about in the understood wood House and wood flamed in woe everlasting.
WHEN HEARTBREAK, LEADEN, UNLIDS
When heartbreak, leaden, unlids The paraffin coffin's wronging box, And out of the slowly sown soul, inwound rolled, Twined and twinned in winding sheets And the bloodblack body's shroud, The heartbroken ghost like leaven flies-- What figure stands by the grave's haranguing sands? Harassed and houseless, unshrouded, What mood-doomed ghost in mist-shifted night, What quenchless kiss quizzed from soul's naught knot A sighing life could never quite unlatch Flies riven and shriven from the haranguing sands? Now risen simple and unadorned In the doorless moon (and dead and bettered By its dying damn) it stands on crookshanks-- The bold lie told to shelled ear from shellacked lip Slips up the grave-plot's tripping ladder like a thief, Moaning unknowing what some once-living kiss implored. It stands: in witness-winds, in sands, in silences. It trumps all bones or guesses. It lies down never in the manger's knot (Straw raw insistences of gods unbegot). It floats unmoated to the sea-shoved shingle Where are and were and will-be may mingle: Human and ruminant in the unready new, Sole holder of what we living dare not possess, Illimitable amidst its humanness.
Said the unopened poem in my patted heart: "Too dumbly comforted you lay your limbs Wet upon the sandy shoals of pain, Too fell, too full, too grievy and grim." Now hung christ-crossed on an electric cord And stabbed by life's lethargic thorns, I bleed my soul's mutinies to the seething sea, A leviathan on a rock, stillborn.
IN INTENDING SING
…let [the mariner] be called from his hammock to view his ship sailing through a midnight sea of milky whiteness–as if from encircling headlands shoals of combed white bears were swimming round him, then he feels a silent, superstitious dread.
~~Moby Dick, The Whiteness of the Whale Intending now to sing I hear how the mounting sky's Wool-soft words and haranging sighs With sotto voce insinuations sly Sing above my blind inhaling skin Whitely trilling beyond my trying Crabbing God's fittest notes For its impinging winds, remote From what breathings I may bring-- Such winds' gentlest trebles Intend a tempest's troubles Prouder than my poor endeavors, Clipping my attempting wings. I slouch in unmanned silence, A wounded mute lashed for penance, Leashed dumb by choking chance, Alone and palely listening To blue heaven's gonging choir Tumbling tones, hurrahing airs Impale me to a chair-- Hearing joy unceasing ringing So suavely move those sounds Come clapping from the clouds As though all silence drowned As drowned is my own singing That aches to lilt and lift uncaged Flying wide from page to page As down the raging ages From cloud to cloud go singing Jungle lyrebirds, whose range Encompasses the common and the strange, Chainsaws and angels. To dwindled silence clinging, Chained to mum nothingness, Void and vacuous, A singer singingless, I am a clarinet uncaressed Who should orison self-arising With honied mysteries on my lips And at holy fountains sip Where burning benedictions ripple Until, sulfurous or inspiring, With gabblings low or hosannahs rising, All speech and song and sounds Break at my beak, round With assailing breath and proud With every whichway singing In a blare-bloom boom of being Big as old sun's simmering At noontide midyear's shining-- Until I soar unsilent Radient beyond tension and intent My crested phoenix song unpent And so burst my muted being By dauntlessly daydreaming, Be fortissimo by seeming, By aching and by teeming, And, in intending, sing.
DOWN BY SWANSEA
[describe waking town]
I am one missus, and she’s another. We keep the high secrets of the town to ourselves.
In the summer it’s packed with tourists.
In the winter its cold as ashes.
Empty as a milkbottle.
I like the winter sea.
All the cheap establishments jammed with commerce.
So little to do but keep our secrets from ourselves.
My Marjorie and Alex.
And Doris and Alice my blessed twins.
All the boys and girls in their goings and comings tumble about the town today as everyday. All alive and alone in the holiday sun. All the boys and girls….
And my Shawn. [pause]
I never saw such a beautiful boy.
And there he is in the front door now. [Light appears on an empty doorframe.]
Mind yourself; you’ll bake red as a roast, your nose fat as a radish and your armpits still pale.
Finn, who is in the stodgy process of owning half the sleepy seaside town— from the sky-stretching white of the sleepy church steeple to the rotted docks snoring in the deep blacks of the ocean water— keeps a canary by her bed by her window to sing her asleep and awake.
Pip, pipe! Oh, it runs like a zipper up and down my spine. Pip, pipe! By the grace of God, I can hear it in my own house plain as the telephone.
Pip, pipe! The mean spitting chatter that pings from the shrunken golf ball of its chest! I mean…. I’d sooner believe an oak exploding from a pea.
My little Shawn himself is attached to the wretched thing, for the sake of throwing rocks.
He dawdles to a stop under the sill.
He imagines the lilac skull in his hands. He examines the eyesocket and all the orbiting, rayed lines of its empty sight. He tries on the bone wings skinney as widow Maggie’s spinsterish fingers, and takes a quick, panicked flight around the room with the uncaged bird.
That wild boy.
That dear chimp.
Flying a skeleton around my good sitting room!
[correcting] Flapping the white hollow bones himself.
That wild boy.
That dear chimp.
…Babystrollers ominous as whirlybirds on the dank planks of the warped boardwalk resound to the strong march of his eleven-year-old heart. In the silk ash rags of dawn, floating on the female sea, Benny the town bounceabout is jogging against the light for the recuperating sake of his heart and thighs. He pauses on the thundering boardwalk to salute Shawn in his Raider’s cap while last night’s date still lies topseyturvey in his bungalow bed.
Over the dunes and down to the receiving sea progresses young Shawn, all cartilidge and sneakers, with his battlescarred knee— flips round the wide corpse of a dog examined on elbows all yesterday, curls across the scolding seashelf of small speckled rocks, talking in washes, leaps conspicuous spikes of dunegrasses, bristling in swishes on the white spine of the continent, and, removing carefully the blood dot of his red Raiders cap, tumbles sunlovingly into the blue mutable surf.
That’s how Shawn walked in the acres of his knowing. His eye was as tall as the clouds in the sky; and sweet and simple were his curses and wishes.
Look at me. I’m a rum-runner smuggler that has come to this pirate’s cove with a tasty blade in my teeth.
He emerges from the surf.
Shawn arranges the whirls in a winking pond full of the ghostly bodies of jellyfish panting beneath the swirled surface flaming in glitters.
Ghost! It’s a ghost.
The creepy spirit of dead Mr Finches.
The scolding schoolmaster of the ill-educated town drawn to a study of stamps and empty seashells.
Passed away with his snoot in his books. He bends like a weary reed, quiet as an indian ambush, and glares like the sun into the tidalpool full of stones and blotched coral. He paddles the water with his coin-enjoying palm ready to buy Tony Andagili’s icicle licks with the warm quarter his mom had outfitted him with among the hydrangeas at breakfast. Wet sands slither through his fingers and a sandy cloud opens under the smoked glass. And the pinkeyed jellyfish squishes past his angry hand and pumps into a little dark hole small as a pupil in skirted distress. Shawn is tired of playing with ghosts and turns tiredly away from the opaque pond.
O I am a pirate that’ll slit your gizzard!
He shouts, running like an alleycat to where Timothy Turves is whistling through grassblades in the windy lee of the bluff.
I am a pirate that’ll slit your gizzard!
Prepare for a doom of ferret’s teeth and shark’s gullets.
I am prepared for my doom.
March to the plank. [Timmy marches to the nearest rock]
No, that rock. That rock.
Timothy scissors his yellow arms in the air, balletstepping to the flat rock that’s the plank in his duck jacket.
He believes in the eternal veracity of his demise.
His head is full of cowboys and heroes.
Samurais and sixshooters and noble endings.
He stands prepared.
He totters on the rock.
his hands go out before him.
His heart full of death, he hops in the water.
Dead as a doornail.
Extinguished as matches.
But like a seabird he gets up.
He shakes his head like a fish. [pause, the boys pantomime burying treasure]
Boys bury treasure.
And dig it up in the dark.
Patrick Kinney and me in the nude snow past the harvest hills and farmers asleep in their coats, milking the moon-bellies of splaylegged cows, spent a heated evening in the blank, snowwhite, snowblind night of my first, and most silent, marriage. God, in the toasty loaves of his arms I felt somehow loved and listened to at once. He chest roared and rolled and yearned like a furnace while his sparking eyes stared and smiled under muddy brows thick as cigars under the star-stabbed sugar-dome of the seasprayed night sky swirling above midges and winter and our soldered embrace hid in the quiet dark of the bed. On that syrupy evening, above green thistles and below the timed departures of the sobbing stars, making one by one their queued exits, was the sweet sodden lump of my Shawn conceived. Time stabbed and passed. Patrick Kinney knew the child was made that night, that that was the night of creation. Dandelions and frostbite, whispers and kittens, the years themselves came rolling in and out and I heard not a word from that travelling man. Shawn’s shape by that time had changed and he’d grown into a fine young thing.
They rose to race on bicycles humming down to the drumming boardwalk. They were caught, for a moment, with the wheels and spokes like spiders, in the amber sunset before I lost sight of them.
They leapt, my Timmy and your Shawn, about the rocks all afternoon being pirates and werewolves as the sun fell in blazing licks and they ate their jam sandwiches.
They bulled about the foxtails in the tarry marsh and practiced their howls for the moon.
Which one grew fur?
Which one got big teeth?
Did their snouts stretch out long as foxes’?
Did their child’s ears tuft?
Pads harden over their palms?
Did their hearts shift in their ribs?
Did their howling bring down the moon?
Yes yes yes. All the magic happened. The crabs creeped sideways from the sea; they cooed to the moon as sister and mother, low and fat in the rum-black sky of summer. Their swift claws knew the sin of blood, and sandpipers and infants dripped from their fangs. The moonlight on the snow frail as eggshells.
And pale and yellow as eyes, she listened to the high wild cries of their hearts.
But soon enough they all tumbled exhausted to home and their warm human beds after supper.
And there is Shawn’s burrow under the burying dark, under the burning sun, in the grave ground by the park where my people are.
The boys have come running over hills bunched as mittens, hunched against winds and wails and schoolmasters’ ghosts. And against the slap and sigh of the sea which buries us all they are hunched. In their shivvering boyskins bluecold under blankets they watch the clouds change shapes as they fall asleep.
Imagine my Shawn while the moon’s winking bone is still flying over marshes and midges, indulging our wishes, and the deep sea cradles up to the shore. Imagine my Shawn, boneweary eleven, closing his skyhigh eyes on the couches of heaven— after a day full of mysteries and spices and unassailable seas. Imagine my Shawn, in his britches and stitches, his brittle blood and rough laughs, climbing to sleep over pirate treasures in the feathered quilt we’d all sewn together.
All the world drowned in the sound of sleep.
And there’s my Shawn sleeping.
Dogs and fishes skip through his skull.
Trilled bug-thumpers fly east to west and spring to winter in his sloshing noggin.
A rubbed thumblestilskin unknown, unnamed.
He watches a bird with a clock in its belly.
He watches a clock with wings for hands.
He watches Mrs. Finn's blind canary, Sam. Birdslayer. Prestidigitator. Jellyfisher. Finch mincer. Moonhowler. Captain of tidepools. King of green hills. Prince of beaches. Sweet as an apple. Turned over in dreaming. Crying in sleep. As if wounded and bleeding. Noseful of weeping. Bleared eyes shut. Sweet as an apple. Pale and sleeping. [END]