By Gregg Glory
Copyright © 1990 Gregg G Brown
The world must change if we but imagine it. Copernicus squinting traded in his lamps For furious mysteries; galileo tossed Aristotle out For a swinging stone, back to the turbulent sea of thought Because his ghost had no bones. What new paradigm Will rinse us shining from the misbegotten foam? Unimagined things grow real, grow real. Nietzsche knew pale Apollo well, that he Must step lightly from red Dionysus' side; Michelangelo's high man and God, that mirrored touch, Poured the raging heavens into our daily cup. What matter that before unimagined things grow real They must first condense in thought? Man's a drunkard With his dreams and will piss them to the sod. Unimagined things grow real, grow real. Aging wrong and aging right cannot Endure our scorn or enhance our thought (Morality's an old, old play, with curtains that must fall) But new worlds imagined, that body in the breech. Einstein knew that his equation unraveled no new sky ---That were indifferent--- but was a chant to change his mind. Unimagined things grow real, grow real.
Say whatever turned round in Plato's skull Or mounted Mary Magdalene's heart, St Teresa's chest, Pours quickly away; chill vapors dispersed by day. Say chance is in our substance and makes us free. Say whatever terror that holds man by the throat Is shed by accidental antidote. That St John in pan's cavern dwelt. Vast plans that had Caesar's mind for habitation Or in Hitler's bunker slept, and map by map were built, Were map by map and town by town disintegrated. Say chance whirls in what strength or thought threw out. Who knows but that chance is projected indecision, Petty habits of the mind grown great, great thoughts grown worse. What do we know of history and fate? Did Venus, Who knew Adonis' worth, imbibe his dead sperm for bitterness? What in her belly purred? What from the great legs leapt?
Was there carnage in that shot World-leveling god begot? Stubborn Christ born in an abandoned lot. Old cross crows are drubbing in the dust. Cracked heaven the dividing splinter teared, All that riotous confusion heard Before the roaring droplet seared. Old cross crows are drubbing in the dust. Did that staring infant's head Dimly unwrapped above the stiff bed Know what it engendered? Old cross crows are drubbing in the dust. Pack-animals' musty blood Flubbed responsive where they stood, Deep in the passionless mystery. Old cross crows are drubbing in the dust. And was that woman bleeding there As in a tapestry, for the crawling god prepared? All generation in a wound condoned. Old cross crows are drubbing in the dust. Did that penitential infant shriek Climbing heaven's empty cheek Draw ecstatic thunder down? Old cross crows are drubbing in the dust.
Before the geese upon the water have begun their day, Before cold dawn could allay the winter's deep dream of May, Or any symbolical host fly out of the dark, as it must, The thoughtful song, drawn like yarn out of a beggar's breast, And which had illuminated pride, so weak was the world's way, Unseen ages, like the bird with the silver ball for a soul, Died dreaming in that beggar's breast, before he could awake from the dust.
I When Twyla Tharp begins again Her own sweet body to command, Charm of personality or face must vanish Into the reality of pattern. Soldiers lined up pidgeon-toed At the mosque, shot out their enemies' heart. What lies still beating in the cart? Was there passion in that slaughter? II There was a dream of feasting, and we fed on dreams. Instinct in the sculptor's palsied hand Creates where it divides, eating to the face of man As if stone were so much rotten wood. Although young, it seemed all dignity must be spent On sinking love or suborned monument. Where was the gamble if the loss lacked reality? We were young and solemn and did what we would.
If I were the son of God And out of that grand house came Tumbling with lions On Heaven's bursting lawn, At breakneck dawn I'd race From grave to cradle again Until to a moldy house I crept And turn the last clod.
"A seed of knowing out of our ignorant fruit must drop. My pear tree, not Sartre's, rises from the wrong ground, blossoms and rots in God's green affections; memorizing Cicero all afternoon, the lagging speeches, a fist of pebbles in my mouth, shouting at the sea.... a carpet-bagging stumper after my sweet fee. We threw the golden teardrops uneaten to the hogs--- all boys and wickedness leaping Huck Finn's fence whitewashed in north Africa. The orchard door yawned on darkness as we exited, loaded down and laughing: reality in the act, not the scenery. A tentacle of happiness, not nausea, gripped me then coiling my black heart in light like an extra aorta, fibrous and alive and dangling from God's omnipresence."
The world enlarged from a shell Is stripped and standing bare, A grinding dancer on a stage, Violent with despair And sweet to look upon. Is not every lovely thing, All gauzy prettiness and hidden force veiled And held from revelation as destruction By gyring chance By delicate strings?
Because I am blind and walk agape And beat out rough rhythm with my stick Like the fascination of the sea I can create, as in Yeats' dream, Man in the soul of God And batter out a place Among twilit immensities To dwell in that contempt, Giving bitterness a face. Stick, stick, stick, stick. Because I am a blind old man And came blindly howling hence To fumble with a stick, I demand, Passion of my decrepitude unsung, A gallery where bright heroes hung Stand each for that passion That pitched them to their deaths; And I demand it built Behind the eye and in the heart Of God and his burning son; All glory in the uneaten bud. Stick, stick, stick, stick. I have heard on the walks and ways That give my confession to a stone That some with bitter inward breaths And some in necessity of fashion Live slave to what words have wrung Out of man's contemptible mash And nail to each star each part, As if misery made flesh were all. Stick, stick, stick, stick. I can see because I am blind How each tiresome human vine In eyeless arrogance of its kind Sprouts like a worm in its own food, Divine soul all lumped with mud. Each blind root heaves its back to the sun In perilous ignorance of its own blood. Stick, stick, stick, stick. Although I am blind and cannot see Bleak wreckage of the dark tide, Rank human ecstasies and defeats, I know what mysteries abide And carve these rude words upon my stick: We must feed what we beget; Imagination shall provide Some unsought froth as yet, rank spillage Of the glittering sublime. Stick, stick, stick, stick.
Because I am old and refuse my death I have been bitter and I've been kind; Skeletal bitterness my enmities shook, Kindness flowed from head to foot. But of all those wind-gaunt faces I have worn as if strapped in the traces I most adore the look Of an old withered apple, its withdrawn glance, All sweetness concentrated To an unrelenting taste: An old bitten rind, bitten rind. But because I am bitter And dislike the taste Of joys overblown in any wind I have come to sing in the waste Of an old bitten rind: "Bitten rind, bitten time, Under stars or under sky The right emotion of a dirty crook Has nobleness to bless or curse, Confirm or rescind the pledge Made by our bodies as they lie Under this dirty hedge." An old bitten rind, bitten rind. Having tasted thus The fruit of an obscure look Or the sharp meaning of a song Under dull words in a book I laugh at all awhile And I myself forsake; For nothing's worth the riddle And no man's worth his wake, I stole a blind man's fiddle And sing what I forsake. An old bitten rind, bitten rind. I have nothing but am a queen: Monstrosities sworn must heel Forced by a hand unseen As dog to its master's whistle wheels. And although I am a great queen With stars on my fingers for rings And although I dance like a drunk And with the seen and unseen wink I am driven by passion to sing: An old bitten rind, bitten rind.
We have many problems, Both violence and drouth; Plagues upon our people, Plagues stuffed in our mouths. Democracy abandons men That lack remembrance; Behind us another mountain Crowds a fresh sky. Day in, day out, All the businessmen are stout. Politicians of utopia From every gutter shout: 'Join hands against the common slope A better world will out.' The strong man has his answer To the dream of a perfect state: 'Strike him without swerving, Lay him out upon the slates!' Day in, day out, All the businessmen are stout. Arjuna on the streetcorner Sipping at his smoke Knows the daily death of friends, Knows it for no hoax. What of all that rant and hiss Will strike him as sense? What blue Krishna whisper He died before for this? Day in, day out, All the business men are stout.
We've been shooting strangers Over waters and the wild; But conscience is forgotten In the tearing wind. We stood up in battlements of dust To cut down what would live: "Worms and tyrants all must die---" Nothing was as pleasure is. Said a dark voice hid in the bush. The mob is filled with insane joy, The banners in the street Hang from pole and lamppost Hang ripe like butchered meat. What happiness or bliss is there In conversing with a face Uncle Sam has painted blank For every circumstance? Said a dark voice hid in the bush. In a folded tent there's room For filching treachery; Standing near, the slaughter done We'll collect an oiled fee. Dead men lie face down in bed, A hole in every spine; How goes the empire's rate When we to cowardice decline? Said a dark voice hid in the bush. What if great washington lived, That stern face breathing near, What thoughtless sentence then Transform to pleas our cheers? Nothing was as pleasure is, And God's a neglected child; We've been shooting strangers Over waters in the wild. Said a dark voice hid in the bush.
"Wheeled cradled, blank-faced and blue-brained to the hospital chapel, I watch the ivory pastor's hands trace shadow rabbits in the air under the florescent cross and list my sins in silence as he drones redemption; maybe St. Peter will greet me in heaven with a new guitar. Something babbles into static as my stroked-out arm relaxes... A tumor dripping ink now fills my mind, a black bud swelling to blood-blossom, ready to costume me in blood--- Stalking back from the guillotine like a 50s zombie blitzed on my first part in the Bs, I wake socketed in the nMR chamber like a bullet waiting for the green light to flit my diagnosis on the big screen, the chart a map of Europe. I lay enlarged; drugged and irradiated like a fallen fruit. I still laugh when I hear a democrat's ill. I was worse: my perennial, emboldened humor ramping like a bull, I crooned Dukakis is bald from my black marshall stacks for the innocent fetuses at the Republican convention, dating Miss America still.... I'm sorry I kicked his Greek hynee. Sorry for all that."
Not the politician in his coterie Surmounting an elaborate chair--- A simple, elegant glass Choked in his unconscious fist, Nor revolutionary lunatic Standing tip-toe on the quay To out-face the beating sea (And has not the courage To stand half at ease) Has a fanatic eye Or golden stomach enough To sweat out the divine Night after night, or lick From all this tragic human stuff Some shrinking taste Of the glittering sublime.
The cardinal his scarlet vigil keeps That had no sin but singing; How much more should we march in grief That have said and done such things? The azalea extends its wild branch Against a wild sky; nearby Some libertarian pamphlet flaps Ignored by some more sodden door. A child is singing in the bright march air Some tune his father sung--- Abstracted with the politics Of that disastrous, forgotten war. "The soldier will soon be waking That fed on dreams before; A man kills a man that killed; All happens as before."
An azalea climbed up Into a silver cup, And blossoming died While the bee had sup.
Toiling in dawn's orange forge I hammer at the gorge Of silent kings and laughless queens. They come to me for pretty things, Pretty things; I have imagination's means. But the farther that I thrust That art I cannot trust Into the aching spirit's pyre The more my hand is burnt and hurt By earthly fires.
They study at a school Where waves are crest on crest, The fish half in the air As if the highest were the best. But every brooding oyster knows And every whale that spouts That although their high heaven glows Its because the water has run out.
Virtuous beggars into cold dawn swarm To chill their heated flanks. How do I know that they were warm? They had no stitch of clothing on.
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.
What has life's bitter disappointment brought Laid in a narrow, breathless bed? Shall we curse all our drunken, muddy lot Lain with long bones of the dead? At the end of a rifle or parting stream Pursued by a pursuing dream Man wakes up to find his enemies again, The end of dreams, and all friends dead. What stays hid in the marrow there, Thrust deep underground? Things purposed in the unpurposed air Die when those men are dead. Whether father or brother still pursue Their work, or others' work, I do not know; I read it on a narrow, upright stone Cast by the long bones of the dead. Fathers sacrifice long-loving sons To a nameless, breathless bed; Stand we under an island sun Or lie with long bones of the dead?
I desire to cast desire away, Having all that blamed respect Due my old age, hurled burning away Until I into the naked grass have crept. I recall how some sage hermit spoke, Under his mountain drift lodged alone, Of how all changing waters must Whirl up to the stone. But I am wrecked by discourse Of the sacred and profane; All love draws back to its source, Dry enmities remain.
Stand again at the old well-lip As one half-sleeping might And drop a stone among those images That lay hid in the night. When still a boy at the water's edge Cold with terror at the dark, The light was like a fish's hide That floated back to me. And drop a stone among those images That lay hid in the night. What has escaped the breath In hated words or curses, now rescind And let an older beneficence begin; Call that harshness in. When driven to that edge of speech The tongue half out of the head Recall what purpose pleased you best When time had not yet begun. And drop a stone among those images That lay hid in the night. At gasping dawn a boy again Swears all breaking light's a game And climbs before the mounting sky To catch a dreaming fish While the water's high. So sound out the plummet-depth With some stray rock or cocked ear do it Or hearth-stone out of pocket; But drop a stone among those images That lay hid in the night.
Deep dew fallen on the secret rose; Closed eyes open that cry again. Nothing here to bind the heart close; No bloom can I cut for the mist of pain. Cushioned grass beneath me, the pine my cloak, The wind a whispering skirt; The water waits emptily for an empty boat, The naked road for a coach as a shirt. A little girl is singing In the waiting evening: "I ride a grand coach With red lacquered sides; Without shoe or broach My love on a dark horse sighs. "Where are true lovers' hearts Bound and wound? Beneath the cypress, on West Mound, Beneath the brooding ground." Cold blue a candle flames, Straining its frail light; On the West Mound, rain Forced by the wind in the night. Deep dew fallen on the secret rose; Closed eyes open that cry again. Nothing here to bind the heart close; No bloom can I cut for the mist of pain.
What ache first calls us from rest, Bids us rise and dress As if all were solemn consequence? The mind that ages in its fears, Grows tired, rants and tears, As if every thought were sense? Until heart and soul and all Are beaten out of gold, No dying triumph's made. Until eye and mind first sprout Golden tenderness, there is nothing out That cannot fade.
Now that she is no longer young There is less of her In the measures of the birds; The partridges give voice Less sweetly, and the rose Grips more blackly the earth Now that she is no longer young. Now that she is no longer young Do new ships and unfinished men walk lost, The crippled dog mew at its wounds, And the sun go sick to bed each night? Does her pleading face fade away From its passion like this age Now that she is no longer young? I do not know because I am blind To crudities of the compass point Or the minor perihelions of the sun. Enzymes of their medicines cannot chart The chemic regions of her skies; The needle on the encephalograph Shakes no glory from her eye.
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?
When my voice is a troubled cup Who'll know my face? My wounds then sew up My scolding done? What lover listen To what I say? Clean bones glisten Under rank decay.
I've watched the swan withdraw To the sky's timid zone; And out of that sweet ether Fashion a dying call. I know not whether, My time being sprung, I shall endure together To sing that last song.
These gifts' attendance now allay And renew these broken eyes with day. What picture in the mind can make me rail, Now so out of love to overwhelm? Can one so old still declaim and rage, Let passion's mask drop or burn a stage?
There, amid the wrong middle of this wood, Where God himself must stand and choose Or find himself unable, caught between good and good, Sweet songs that rise from the geese in the dawn And travel without a quaver in the air Until they alight on some rich man's crowded lawn Or empty lot abandoned by all but the wind's stir Some ancient, contemptuous king or passionate Poverty-stricken man cries out his heart And lays his head bare in the miserable dust In eternal revelation of his time-bound character Before the bawdy wind can close the gate.
He cried to the sun to be no more A part of his burning misery. He cried to the brooding owl "No more Shake down your bony glance, your fingering looks That alter my heart's procession and my blood's course." And he cried to the moon, the scolding moon, "No more the tripwire of my conscience be Threading your silver circuit through eternity; Climb down, climb down from your bald perch: Come taste the blood shreds on the ground."
Now I am old In body and bone My stone muse sings Proud and alone. But when I was young My muses stood Medusa-struck And drained of blood. Neither face nor body danced On the barren grass Of the white seashore, All their stony terror glued in a glance. All that I had planned And placed apart In the sacred mysteries of the heart Sunk like a stone in the lost sea. All the beautiful pride of her speech That had seemed, so far above death was it flung, The haughty original of chance Closed in dark colloquy and muddied breath.
Patched out of forgotten things Old clothes and old stories and old grey rugs I have sewn my sable wings And soar where solemn things are bugs. But perhaps where blood falls From the human heart And wall gives on to wall Is the right altitude for art.
The climbing rose upon the tree Is symbol enough for me; That chaliced eye weeping blood, Proponent of diviner love. All the glory my old age needs A fisher-girl provides. What care I if angels, angels shove? Love's a lump of sodden clay. I am content with what I can catch And let the others pass. Old hearts and broken kettles sigh, Love's a sodden lump of clay. What care I for the spite of time That makes the humble bite their tongues Or loftier spirits trudge Through burning lime? The climbing rose upon the tree Is symbol enough for me.
And there was one Had taken up a song Could not put it down again, His heart had been harrowed So deeply and so long. And there was one Had a fine frenzy in his eye And leapt from blazing hillock to hillock In his mind, his imagination striding Dionysian, above the plains. And was there one Renewed all anguish in a thought Or with his burning blood made all the causes stop? His heart had meditated silence So deeply and so long.
On undemanding ground Shot through with hollow sounds Bird or bullet make Or some other keen cry, I take This man for model, though in truth A small man of the town; and although His grandfather was a thief And his father worse than that, I respect his grief, for what else can I That wander in the clay? There was a man had died Frozen to the mountainside And, nothing in his climbing pack And less upon his withered back, He ascended the wintry peak Sang a rich bar tune and died. It was out of pride The old man had died. He gripped a flute, knew God's great lie, And had a clarity in the eye. And at the last, a damned wretched gaiety Suffused his frame. Mountain echo upon echo Hollowed out his fame; Dying, trying once again To empty himself of troubles by the score-- "This joy of death Stops the breath." In the trees, excited laughter; And after, the silence.
"Capacious imagination's faces fete my famishing, take tea from a voice, a ghostly pour of steam rising and soliloquizing, misting the thirsty features drowned in their own pool of too-deep selfknowing. Unhandsome Hawthorne, with a vibrant lie and victorian necktie, I guess my susurrations linger over trashed vowels, marked harmonies giving my fine Irene her double edge of softness; how, sometimes, the right face can mean salvation! Howled down at the Imperial for my tea-tragedy last night, too cinnamon-delicate for the masses' meat, I know how our bodies will meld before our minds vanish.... Driving like a marathoner out of London into the foggy future, the lifted Dover cliffs swelling the meridian and loving my new auto's purring reach into the nebulous, I watch for constellations past the turning wheel while the shaky rearview mirror gives an intruding look."
The sky is blue. The blue man in the blue sky is blue. There will never be a stop to the monotony In all this abiding blue. The undulations in Uruguay Affect the meditations Of Mrs Rhinoceros Eating her ferina in highest fashion. Macabre puppets of Anaxamander Hanging lank in the spindled air Interrupt the impecunious questionings Of Peter asleep among the dorm's susurrations. Dripping dreams of doubters on the rocks, Their drub drub drub in blackest drams, Falling among rocks Scatters cats in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And never in Atlantic city O Never in Atlantic city Will there ever be a stop to the monotony In all this abiding blue.
Jefferson and washington, and all those famous men That out of obscurity came, and were on enlightenment bent As on some perfect woman's face, and had such holy measures In their drums, out of what dark hole began? Where had all that purposeless glory come? O, man's a thief of glory, and steals it from himself. Past turbulent lands and frenzied watercourse Man finds but broken solitude, finds his own soul hidden there, Gasps at his luck, summons all his wayward heart to swear To keep it sacred; and then, lonely with his own audacity, Perjures himself in the first company he meets. O, man's a thief of glory, and steals it from himself. Caravaggio's painted flank that struck God in a horse Shimmering, floating there, radiant sky made flesh Above the tumbled saint who crawled in dust away And in that abject departure made his prayer. What besides his human hand had put it there? O, man's a thief of glory, and steals it from himself.
Perfumed Lavosier sniffed A new world in, sighed a new one out. Caravaggio's rearing horse proclaimed Modern divinity. Peter Seller's gardener lost Compounded man and holy host. The Giant in the cradle Some sweet sanctity retains.
Some with horse-gestures and spiritual breath, A fine noble neck that will not bend; A fiery eye; talk that did not fade. Alteration upon alteration given No approving stamp, but in the house fine things Are kept. All is done as was done before. Those few by right of rank By every right that nature knows, That contain such ancestry and grace, Noble pause in speech and haughty face That in manor-house or tenement the tradition's kept; All remembered gaiety and high shows. Enmities mended that would wreck the worst; Beautiful things; beautiful books among the plates; A bell that calls the spirit home. All words a ritual word or look, or some Action presaged in story or high song. All is done as was done before.
Some say heaven is a rest, Bright clouds can close out light; But I differ with that crowd And contend my midnight's best. All men are dust and must pluck their theme From passing circumstance--- All that agony but a dying dream Unless it make a farmhand dance. The dervish and his spinning lash, His tongue twisted in trance, Repeats his antic rant before God's whirling face. Loveliness unbridled bore No such look as that; When heaven claps its bony wings Individuation is forgot. But unpopulated heaven, Bare sky among blank fronds, Floods my rebel keel from even--- Sudden with intemperate blood. Robbed of vision I can feel No palpable delight, But stark hands that catch at escaping heels Clasping in the night.
Once manservant and now no king Since she the served and sweeping blast Has hurdled death's ribbed gates again, slipped past The soft portals opening and entered The severed countries of the twanging grass. All ants and minotaurs, and each graved thing Is of its wicked pulse ice emperor Under green stars flying backwards and the foreshortened blast Of horse-headed winds that neigh each eye shut Loping its crooked trot to dark. 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 haunted god by the ramshackle barn Caved in centuries of twilight and worsted rust I rummage the windings of this moment's moss Bite the sands of our last hidden kiss And breathe all ways at once your lost breath.