Selections from an unfinished dialog
Venom and Agony
Innumerable inchoate feelings all seeking expression
and definition contemporaneously are here encoded for the
reader. But with myself, and with that art which I most
highly value, understanding precedes expression if what
is made is to be art at all. In these poems I was caught
in a curiously Edenic mode. I was surrounded and imbued
with a richness of griefs, and still had not one syllable
to name them. I had all the full feeling a human art could
cry to posses and none of the sensibility through which
to express it. The chaos of my grief had borne its lapidary
apple, but I had yet to eat of it and understand. Cynicism
is the crassest shortcut between a full heart and an empty
mind–empty but well-ordered. It is no coincidence that minimalism
is the reigning contribution of the latter half of the 20th
century to expression’s vocabulary. It is comprehension without
being comprehensive; it comprehends through vital exclusion;
it is a supreme form of denial and, as such, never makes a positive,
uncynical stand, and can never be ‘proven’ wrong. Invulnerable and
vapid, its objects glare in diminished insistence. Ashamedly,
I must say that this twerpy type of cynicism makes its debut in
lines of what follows here as well. Mostly in the toothless
conclusions of the poems there is the oversimplification of a scab,
and not the long-thumbed memory of a scar. Perhaps the elision of
a decade will help to sort my inner chaos into outer order; perhaps
selective forgetting and cowardly crowding-out of old memories with
new heartaches will perform the aesthetic grunt-work that poetry
demands and that my sensibility exhorts. But oh how my heart
cannot wait the decade out! Ruptured, not enraptured, I ululate
before my auditors–more full of sighs than songs.
Gregg G Brown
Nov 2, 2004
The Departed Friend Style Notes
There are lots of questionmarks in these lines, as befits my ignorance. A friend of profoundly poetic tenor pointed out to me the other day that I also enjoy employing negative statements that imply or outline a positive poetic feeling. If I were to have written Hamlet, for instance,
To be or not to be, that is the question.
Might have sounded something like this instead:
Not to be or not not to be, is that the question?
In the poems that follow there is much that is doubted, and many an assertion will not come unattended by its qualifier. After all, what king would step forward into such august company as you yourself provide without his page? Good my page, let us go forth like Wenceslas and provide for our poor and hungry souls the meat and wine of poetry, cibum et vinum. Notwithstanding all the misfires and queries contained in here, I know with severe certainty, as if gripped by a divine hand of lightning, that the feeling is true.
I will not wait for some un-looked-for good to come, but will make my present its own sufficing memory.
Gregg G Brown
Jan 1, 2005
She walked with me some while beside the wood, Knowing only what we neither understood: The way was dark; the path confused, but good. What'd tumbled down to make the walking trouble Came, at least, from above to have us stumble; At least, though lost, we were paired and doubled. All about us moved what we took as gloom, A dark in darkness beyond the dark of rooms --Unsure if ourselves or wood had bade it come. She sang in fallen night, the moon standing by, Sang of something farther on, past sky And night, past unanswered owl and me. Something settled round her then, some shine; A startlement in branches brought a shadow down; She was not the world's; nor was she mine.
The ReturnPale and leery, alone in bed, Alone in bed, pale and leery, Unawake and lively-weary, Selfless as coming slumber numb, My speaking self a word of wind Sighing simply "Nevermind" Til I one nothing do become, Selfless, single, pale and weary. The slow lightning of moonrise, The cloudscape depths of pearl, Consecrate my mood and room, Entomb me like a knight-at-arms, Cross-handed, on his final pallet carved: My feet in pale armor sheathed, setting forth To no Jerusalem. Dead men wail In the woeful wind that pushes All aside from the frowning moon. The moon in bone-blank vision nearing, Cold and haughty, a dead man's face, Through the pulled-back curtain shines Pale and weary and alone. The quiet casement looking in Unquiet undream apprehends, Forlorn beyond the memory of friends: Here my human heart in dread Lingers loath on what had been said. How softly sounds the shell of sleep Calling our visions to its verge That had not otherwise been so deep; How softly sounds the shell of sleep! Traffic of splashes, remote yet near, Small edges blent to one static shush As even now the boat draws clear.... Softly, softly, Windemere. When our causes, obscure as eddies, At last had crested to their crisis, I failed the fathoming! My love I let recede when tolled the tide, An unwinning and a winless game, In violentest crash the green reef Cracking, killing. Hush! now the frowning moon's a man, Shadow from wed shadow departing, Nimble-light as moth-wings darting: You come in sorrow into the room, Ghost of exhausted meditations, And at the bed's foot look sadly down, All silvered-over as if in snow. Dear live ghost of my living ghost, Memory sacred, not serene! Self-salving waters of the breast That spill in richness mixed with dust, Sigh your human blessing in the night! Come, tears! Let your salt effluence Replace the bitter pourings of the moon! Here am I in my human minim, Unperspectivized man Too naked now to endure the cold Howsoe'er endued with warmth I once was. Let salt pelt out salt til salt alone Weeps into being our green souls. The nightmare, the scar, is here, here. Like a battery's pile grown large With potential charge-- would but some salt water Soak and connect their shocks! Those memories are high-piled That wait for charitable water To flood from my unfortunate eyes-- Then-- oh what mystery and what light! The shore recedes, and recedes the day, Softly, softly in sweet delay Until all shore is shorelessness And a damping fog is in the eye Turned outward-inward in the mist. And then, what wetness?
Version incorporating Daniel J Weeks’ suggested cuts above.
Longer Version below.
The ReturnPale and leery, alone in bed, Alone in bed, pale and leery, Unawake and lively-weary, Selfless as coming slumber numb, My speaking self a word of wind Sighing simply "Nevermind" Til I one nothing do become, Selfless, single, pale and weary. The slow lightning of moonrise, The cloudscape depths of pearl, Consecrate my mood and room. The moon entombs me like a knight-at-arms, Cross-handed, on his final pallet carved: My feet in pale armor sheathed, setting forth To no Jerusalem. Dead men wail In the woeful wind that pushes All aside from the frowning moon. The moon in bone-blank vision nearing, Cold and haughty, a dead man's face, Through the pulled-back curtain shines Pale and weary and alone. The quiet casement looking in Unquiet undream apprehends, Forlorn beyond the memory of friends: Here my human heart in dread Lingers loath on what had been said. Oh! if only I then had known How small my love for you has been! And now this nightmare of regret Feeds my lifeblood to the moon. My sheeted semblance, silver-washed, In blood or moonlight palely caught Lies strict within my coffin-cot, Strictly lies in dead regret. How softly sounds the shell of sleep Calling our visions to its verge That had not otherwise been so deep; How softly sounds the shell of sleep! Traffic of splashes, remote yet near, Small edges blent to one static shush As even now the boat draws clear.... Softly, softly, Windemere. When our causes, obscure as eddies, At last had crested to their crisis, I failed the fathoming! My love I let recede when anger came, An unwinning and a winless game, In violentest crash the green reef Cracking, killing. Hush! now the frowning moon's a man, Shadow from wed shadow departing, Nimble-light as moth-wings darting: You come in sorrow into the room, Ghost of exhausted meditations, And at the bed's foot look sadly down, All silvered-over as if in snow. Dear live ghost of my living ghost, Memory sacred, not serene! Now I alone endure the contumely cold And taste recriminating bitterness; Remorse, regret; words unshared though said, Unphilosophic fiends! Here am I in my human minim Unperspectivized man Too naked now to endure the cold Howsoe'er endued with warmth I once was. Pale and leery, alone in bed, Alone in bed, pale and leery, Unawake and lively-weary, Selfless as coming slumber numb, My speaking self a word of wind Sighing simply "Nevermind" Til I one nothing do become, Selfless, single, pale and weary. Oh! that I had some moon-wroth tears To say in silence what I fear And feel! Had I inner rain enough I never would have fallen from us But ever-buoyant as our hopes Would have known my own love enough! Self-salving waters of the breast That spill in richness mixed with dust, Sigh your human blessing in the night! Come, tears! Let your salt effluence Replace the bitter pourings of the moon! Let salt pelt out salt til salt alone Weeps into being our green souls. The nightmare, the scar, is here, here, That I had pushed all day away As a child will forget his own Minor injustices at play. Forget but not forgive! Myself Self-damned, and now no tears will flow. Like a battery's pile grown large With potential charge-- would but some salt water Soak and connect their shocks! Those memories are high-piled That wait for charitable water To flood from my unfortunate eyes-- Then-- oh what mystery and what light! The shore recedes, and recedes the day, Softly, softly in sweet delay Until all shore is shorelessness And a damping fog is in the eye Turned outward-inward in the mist. And then, what wetness?
- i sing of him whose heart had hung
- i craned from pole to pole, with pale
- is it a death to know you gone
- but, yet, i’ve reconciled such loss
- i found little upon my mount
- when i am of my little life
- to rob a grave not yet stuffed
- hope that thrives in everything alive
- what resolution will recompense
- how many hours had snow blown
- an ache beneath the pain of years
- told i would not come to be beloved
- when the briar brave entwines my grave
- the book is closed and sleep has come
- forgotten friend! forgot beyond
- when the windowpane fills with light
- voiceless the vision vanishes
- in my heart, a false fable starts
- if some grave power left us here
- though parted by pernicious fate
- electra longs for her lone ideal
- i looked at life through stainless panes
- echoes of some diviner love
- can friendship live when friend has left
- then politics spilt its dirty milk
- enemies made by mild reproach
- life’s a marble in a bowl
- was it for those echoes alone
- you have moved in love to others
I sing of him whose heart had hung...I sing of him whose heart had hung Above all struggle or wonder Of our broken woes. Far oh far Beyond our little lays he'd sung. Yet here's no death, no reason, and No loss. No loss? No loss but less Of friendship than I'd lief confess, A faded castle, fallen sand Built up upon imperfect hope Toward another sky. Lost, the dream; Lost the meaning once deemed more firm, The promise more than swami's rope. We'd had heaven's ascent held fast: What we'd reared in reckless dawn As though God's own brave secret shown, Looms a gibbet now dawn is past And sunless exile welcomes me.
I craned from pole to pole, with pale Hurrying ear I sought the sound Of a friendship I had unfound, Lost in the maelstrom, in the gale. A song no longer sung, but known Down in where the singing starts, soft As an infant's finger held aloft To hold where the wild wind had blown. Where my limb was cut there grew A pain; where my shadow'd followed soft No image of myself now crossed. What I was was lost, was through. No zone of knowledge could commend Discovery of how I'd begun Nor tell me if I'd lost or won In this struggle without end. Now I knew I was lost; lost. Uncentered in the storm that blew Through all that was of me, all through. Lost is what I was-- at last, at last. . . .
Is it a death to know you gone, Separation's wail at the verge Where tide on tide may pile and merge While I sigh unsolaced, alone? It is death, or death's live semblance To trade high love for sorrow's hole, To peer in pits for the absent soul, Braver laughter, a brother's glance. Yet others before have I lost, Their unsyllabled all made death's, Pilfered lives that in coffins rest, Nor can I reckon up the cost. . . .
And, yet, I've reconciled such loss, Made grief my dish and my dessert, And lived to love again and cry hurt, Heedless of my passive loss. The hearse triumphal in the rain And heaven all one weltered bruise That threatens tears, nor offers dews, Takes hope from throats, gives hymns of pain. The author's pen cannot note the deed That seared the author into ash; He only sings how feels the lash: The sting, the wet, the heat, the need. . . .
I found little upon my mount That mattered, neither goods nor goal; Sharp hurt came sharp upon my soul: A little arrow; it little meant. My eyes centered where they were sent, Zeroed on that nothing 'All.' Some nadir in the sphere, some pall Kept light from my looking yet. I was the shadow cast down at noon, Crushed by the heel that casts it; Weary of my little life unlit, The dark I knew knew I was no one. When a friend departs the sunny vale, When a cloud rolls over the hill, When water past pebbles ribs and spills, When sun beyond one sunset sails, Whose grief shall give that going song? Whose voice vaunt such diminishment? Whose richness re-give what had been lent? Whose keen increase such goodness gone? . . .
When I am of my little life Bereft, and my soul in plumes Of darkness goes, as through a catacomb, None I leave behind in life Shall weep as I have wept. For I have known my second soul, A far braver, brighter soul, That looked within me, turned, and left. . . .
To rob a grave not yet stuffed With friendship, only full of woe For one no longer friend or foe Or anything, though breath still puffs,-- And somewhere past horizons dim He lives on like a mute reproach In caustic quiet, silently loath To burst with bounty I need from him. Unanswering wall, unhuman hate --Or so I paint him, as I must, Who have no knowing from old trust, As though Christ transfigured my Greek fate. I stand before the empty hole I lay myself within the dirt I say a prayer for my hurt To maggots, and my breath is stale. If I were all of misery made And could confound my final hour With a tear, then no more power Would he have than a shade. Instead there's lodged the sovereign sting Of hope betrayed, hope that will not Die, though hope's death and gory rot Would stop the hole of my being. . . .
Hope that thrives in everything alive Susceptible to inward gusts And outward groans and manly 'musts,' Hope that moves what cannot move or strive Keeps crimsons bright around my wound, That will not heal or cleave to kill; Damnation is: I was born to feel. Hope bathes these horrors with new words. Still, if he comes, even to curse The whole acquaintanceship of our days, No growling hour's pinched of praise Save when absence is our discourse. Come again, thou ravaging tide Who had a slope of easy friendship, A lope like a gull, a lazy hip, Till you rolled away and tore my side. . . .
What resolution will recompense His companions for the pang Of his departure? What chimed gong Will make his going make new sense? How after harrowed grief resolve To live whole again? Does the leaf Shorn from the trunk that gave belief Ever re-ascend to former love? Here's no parable to mumble; We make our dying sounds above The grave that garners all our love: The open door unable To accommodate return. Let us gather where we are blown; Let us hold what we do not own But a moment, and make return. . . .
How many hours had snow blown In at the unattended window, Snowing in to no more be snow, To flood the floor like thoughts none own? An echo came beyond the fall Of welcome foot or voice gone now; I followed soft to the night lawn --The street was empty, and the long hall. . . .
An ache beneath the pain of years Brings pang and poignancy to the fore; What I feel was felt before Dear earth brought forth her sufferers. As when a dove shakes off the rain Whisking silver mists to haloes Suspended in cool fogs of woe, Thus softly I stand in shine and pain. . . .
Told I would not come to be beloved I cried an unrecovered tear; Told 'death' was all I had to fear, I wept; wept to be so beloved. To've been in wind and run in sun, To've slept in shadelight til all's one, Doubling frolic with unbecome, Is love enough when day is done. If all into oblivion The body goes, trailing gestures Of absent soul in redder rose, I'm content to have once begun. Nothing did as I did expect. No quiet council of surmise Left me other than most unwise; A life grown rich in retrospect. . . .
When the briar brave entwines my grave, And heart, kept cold, is fallow laid Beneath the green and twisted braid What rose will come to show me saved? What rose from all the horrored heart Will fly harried from the dour hole? What emblem of the buried soul Will rise to tell my harrowed part? If twixt rounds of panting fight or dance All is 'catch our breaths' to kill again And love is all love unspoken We're but two tigers in a trance Who pace and leer and wait to leap Who've lungs for roar yet none for love; Who toy and tear the departing dove And too late let our anger sleep. . . .
The book is closed and sleep has come To lie beside me as I lay Thoughtless at the end of thoughtless day, A blessing of oblivion. I dropped the book that had told me: read, That had made a wonted offer As if neither knew the better: Knowledge is sorrow, living or dead. The mind too worn by day's report, The day too wronged by mind's own war, Apprehensions made real by fears That had lain still in latent thought Now wild as waking woes Ascend to startle sleep itself And mold from nothing nightmare's self; With silent step they come by ones: Wind at the casement inks with creaks What I had kept in lightest sketch, Through all the day of 'do' and 'fetch'-- Wind at the casement makes bold and bleak. Pale and leery, alone in bed; Alone in bed, pale and leery, Unawake and lively-weary, I hear a tune that tums with dread. The untended hurt, pushed away By strong strife of mind all day Tweaks and twinges as I lay; A small voice says what it has to say. . . .
Forgotten friend! forgot beyond The soul of solace in the cold, Friend whose tale is yet untold Resurrect! and before me stand. Let memory chalice the ghost Spilled to rumors beyond recall; He lives yet, he did not fall, Yet his bodying has no host. What is this absent creature then Who lives to others, shares their views Of russet sunsets, yet eschews The gravid face of his old friend? Damned by discord, torn in twain, Yet present to the fervid pitch Of inner sense, a lively nothing which Makes all mem'ry the mem'ry of pain. Reveal! From shadow, gloom and gloam Stand forth! and be again alive; Here, where your memory still thrives, Your dear self has yet a home. . . .
When the windowpane fills with light Sepulchral as a ghastly sail Full of dead wind that will not fail Despite the dark, despite the night, And skin and breath half swell with sweat-- Though in itself that has not been My own experience of sin-- Some knot inside the soul relents.... There in the insistent mist A burning mast in a gull-grey shroud Churns water and divides the cloud And rides the tide as I did insist. Be you friend or be you fear, Palely limber in the halflight, Almost fiction in false midnight, Stand pale beside my bed, be near. What you have to say, I would hear Who, rash and rough in life before, Sent from out this very door Your solider emissary. Wait, ghost, do not fade or fail! What you speak I will not unsay But hold in holy memory; I would hear, would feel, your tale. . . .
Voiceless the vision vanishes, An untenanted guest again Far gone along the moonlit plain, Sourceless as our dearest wishes. I stand untongued beneath the blank,-- At the balustrade, I reach for dark, See nothing there to hand me back The loss of hope that's left me blank. Piteous moon, shed tearlike light On those who live below the clouds, On us who circle in our shrouds, Though no thing's worth its being bright. Better still that grief... grief has come And tears the hair and scrapes the eye, Better we ourselves should wish to die Than no feeling at all should come. . . .
In my heart, a false fable starts That 'tween two friends, so fair, so fast, No rill of envy could ever pass, No trickle winter could make crack. Our summer was a million days That on two shared pulses shone; What was thought in the heart of one The other's tongue found fit to praise. Autumn's harvests had us chasing feasts In distant dales neither knew; The same sun and moon we saw Overlooked our separate trysts. December should have seen us come Sharing triumphs round the table Laughter-laden as a fable, Strong in joy to a single home. Too-far our wayfaring had swum, Crests and valleys and the green roar Held us apart forevermore, Derelict, adrift, who had clung. Iron frost the great granite breaks, Too-cold sap splits the broadest tree In solemn singularity; Alone falls the proudest rock. . . .
If some grave power left us here, Solitary seekers in the night, Lonely voyeurs of the light, Shall we blaspheme what strength appears? Far better, broader, more intense To see the sign of good in things; Amid haphazard waywardings, Love what loveliness may commence. If ever a bright butterfly Has brought you unsuspected joy Neath the canopy dark destroys, Bless its shimmer and bless that sky. If ever before brown defeat Some glower gives some hint of glow, Or all you are's not all you know, Listen still to that heart, that beat. If ever when wind's against us Snarling sails that'd happily snapped You feel amidst the clip and clap One soft kiss blow, then don't resist. If higher than twin towers' crowns Your hopes have ever heralded Only to be trapped back and barred From achievement and from renown, Listen still to what hope had heard, Lift aloft for the light you saw In premonition of your fall; Seek heaven though it be in shards. More lies in our looking there With lovely eyes, tho' full of cares, With hearts that have not ceased to share, More of consequence than despair. . . .
Though parted by pernicious fate And left no solace when you left, By your absence of solace bereft, Yet still I loiter by the gate, Looping hopes on echoes cool and slow Of your departure seasons past; When you went, you went at last By going where you had to go. Still I beside the gate am left, Still I lean and lick the dust; Still I wait, as still I must Until some change unpains my breast. The agile curfews of the night That wipe away the palest day And light's burning words lightly unsay Cannot cross out what you left bright. The moon that trod old empires down Or saw two loves woo, two loves despair Casts no changeful spell on my care That carves the ages on my brow. . . .
Electra longs for her lone ideal Impatient with passion on her stoop, Unarmed before the vicious troop,-- Cries from poor girl's woe for her weal. Antigone, tender to her core, Going round and round in grief Mills herself but sad relief: To kill the state with grief too pure. What value vaunts from remorse, or worse? Justice, with adamantine edge Turns crystal from a shaken tear Solidified from sighs, or worse. In a breast gone god-abandoned What good does grief reveal? What idol does a tear revere? I have not earned what rosaries condone. Never another lie to 'get along,' To manipulate the powerless, To add confusion to their duress; Never deception from the strong, Never after venial convenience to strive But all must be benign transparency And facts alone the obduracy. I resolve to struggle and to live With difficult fact and effortful truth. . . .
I looked at life through stainless panes. My friend and I then grew rife And in clumsy love had strife: Life's transparency in the littered lane Lay sharded. Never again Would sky suspend its peerless blue As though some heaven loved we two, For we two loved without sin. Each sweet self-enmansioned soul Came to battle in dire array But would not fight, yet would not stay --And each departed for obscurer goals. What finer, more enlightened path Might Life lend our wandering ways Than sheltered friendship as a stay Against galled wounds that make us wroth? What against gauche chance may make amends? What but friendship has the power To wipe the brow in feverous hour-- What else may ease us ere the end? Nothing else has friendship's function Nor can solace the absent pain Of friendship gone, not come again, Friendship faded to a fiction. . . .
Echoes of some diviner love Reverberate a quartered heart Confusing fonted loves with lower wants, Donning longing robes of doves. There is something then in something gone, A talisman to shake again The index of eternal pain; A hole in every good thought won. The grief, the grief is fresh to me As yestereve when enduing mist All the upswayed landscape kissed, Showing in shining deep tears unseen. . . .
Can friendship live when friend has left, When keel and sail are rudely stripped, A smiling skull without the lips, Love of its softness unpossessed? What new faces shall my face seek That found these fellow faces false? What mirror mimics faces lost? What redemption beyond such breaks? Does that departed friend, unseen, Unknown and homeless who's home's in me, Stop his step and think what we Once were, on all that once had been? . . .
Then politics spilt its dirty milk And still its deadly little tread Marches across my wounded head, Itching the sutures though of silk. As though one caustic loss, relentless In its riptide on my pride Were not hurt enough, my side Was laved in vinegar and piss. The hand that'd helped now held my throat As though to show me how naive One ever was to believe In friendship's blotting antidote. So he fingered his own quaint cause Until his heats gave fervid birth To a dogmatic cross unearthed, A cross whose crosshairs sought my source. . . .
Enemies made by mild reproach Never twice discover love (Like God, gone missing from above) Since the sin itself was mild enough. So I stare and swear in lonely rooms Filibustering dust bunnies, Each summation a swift surmise, Readjusting juries in the gloom. There is no answering passion In fractious pastimes of the mind Twirling and untwirling twine While sown unseen grow meaning's lesions. I am a shadow in a weft Of darks, a nullity who his own Nullity long long has known, And now no nothing here is left. . . .
Life's a marble in a bowl: All agony but a rolling chance, The bullfight no longer a dance Of misdirection toward a goal. Life's a story with no moral; Condensation's circles yet No ring of meaning can beget. Race to rail against the choral Loves hossannaed by the mass Of men, who see their circle Flout timid time and weary wrinkle, Whose dreams go buried by the grass. Know that your own nothingness A nothingness stays, a felt Backdrop or dead pelt Stroked by hands half calluses. There's no lesson to be learned From all the tarnished marvel Of our mayhem, still the larval Stage of chaos for we damned. Impotent in the pouring wrack Of disaster's icy hail Stripping deep with red-hot flails Splintered skin that'd been my back. I stand in draining anger, Half-aghast to understand Myself am likewise but a man Dreaming Fate is not a stranger. . . .
Was it for those echoes alone That your proud shout came and went, That my near airs with your name were rent? Was purpose pipping in the bone Ere clear breakage lamed the story, Castling attacks to faulty defense,-- Recovery all the recompense For our having augured glory? Unsmiling in slings and crutches, Fools blown brown by windy time Who'd been sheer kings of summertime Grimacing at lightest touches. Solemn cortège of cannons mum Roll evermore in breakless line: Wavy Life a funereal sine Unending, and airless, and come. Tacit disaster's stripped to trim belief, Memory turned to slave to serve The forward unknowns of our curve; This is given with what gives grief. . . .
You have moved in love to others, To new unnull pursuits you go In restless faith those whiter flows Follow you to fuller waters. My faith's poorer, my grasp infirm Upon the tugging rudder That guides me to my uttermost; I fear I sail far more in harm Than in health. Where is your dear hand Steady on the trembling tiller?-- Steering clear to vaster endeavors Beyond horizons, past sight of land. Where I go's no more than where I am, Nor faith nor hope proffer roses To blank the claims of fear's supposes, Or dare me greater be than man. May bride and child and wealth be yours And all the winnings dreams suggest,-- If I were but an infrequent guest I'd deem myself the treasurer. . . .
. . .
The Departed FriendEven now the wrestling winter wind Struggles in the window's flaw And the charity of the sun is given over To night's empty menace. My fingers In sympathy with the very ice Whiten and grow longer atop my coverings, Hoisting the sheet simply as a wave. Wind at the casement inks with creaks What I had kept in lightest sketch, Rounding to flesh with roars and moans What I had kept in a whispering skull, Dawn to dusk inside my soul, Kept locked below some workaday hum Whose once-amusing tune now tums in dread. How can the body breathe when no hope gusts through, Panicking the shutters to the outward sky? So my body and my bed lay together stacked, Mortised mates: the cadaver and mortician's table. So I lay at the nadir-bottom of my thoughts That had been high bearers-up before,-- Frothy self-involving silvered clouds Radiant as watered stones in moonshine; Now down in the sultry sinkhole bottom Of a stirless pool no unburdening breeze will bless, Over-crowed by moss-black cypress trees Dripping no redemption from their dank, So I lay, as now I lie in mental projection: In the reeking warp and bursting of my coffin-box. Here, in the mire, my meaning is near My hidden wish insists I miss him, Cause and consoler of my misery! A foulish pool of moonlight at my feet Shifts and shapes into his living shadow, A sad long form too full of thought; I stare into the abyss that I have brought. I cannot speak, weak ghost, frail light Overmastering me! All my mind's But memory of our untold hopes! Shape of my friend who shaped me so! Dear ghost, do not go, but let me rehearse Our storied history to your toneless face; Face whiter than the day gone blind. Many hours had we trod the wood, near twins, In each other's sidewise countenance Discerning ourselves! After a little onward way At a fenny brook stopped up we stopped Restoring its foot-light laughter to the wood That under many an autumn's confusion of leaves Had clotted to brown silence. Heave Of hands as wet as their work, as cold unfrozen As vapored breath! At the stoppage's heart In the very bolus of the blockage's glut A dead raven wormed, fat with drowned maggots Eating the mealy flesh that could no longer Hold the wetted velvet of its feathers together. Its dead eye was as sunken as the pit Where we buried it. An office of farewell Performed perforce in mutual accord As like our old friendship together then As unlike our alien parting now, Never vetted in the abstraction of a vow. Vengeance and ire are exiles to this mood That even in the hurricano's house Leave their livid imprints. Oh ghost Called up from the waterspout Of tears unwept and inly kept Deliver now no elegy of division That sunders life from life And vanquishes the vivid phonemes of our dreams! O newly denuded world Bereft of friendship and benefit Shorn of scorn and sorrow both That have no object on which to act! No syllable will tell The night hauntings your each look has cast Deep into the telling silence of my soul. My soul! And what is that? A hollow word More echoed out by poets than looked into. But when at nighttime and for all the night I search the remorseful strains of memory To find some babble that will heal Beside the note "Forget"-- that and that alone I say is soul-- the willful welding Of has been and is. If I could recall it all Neither in melancholy nor high-hearted joy And leave not one instant back to rot I'd count myself a thing beyond a day. How often has the robin's song come to this sill And I noted it not? From that oblivion alone I begin. Her redbreast puffed with expectation And with mirth, and song trilled out as water Spilled serially over the serried rocks. Flow back up the stone along thou's song! Let memory's viol play you as a tune Worn true with loving, Made soft-edged by your worth, our youth. Communal comminglings of sun and moon If each were source and both reflectors. To've shared what we have given! Day gathers day in its trooping hoop And rolls on, agile and endless. Although the spontaneous waterfall May loiter at its foaming foot Distilling a stillness in the tumult's depth-- Even so the swelling pool will whelm the lip In moon as in noon, seeping the pristine banks In affectionate and curious insistence. So what we are flows to what We must come to be, until our ruddy drops Beset the universal ocean, whelmed To give, and give all, and end all giving. What cares the bee for the blossom's nuzzle? What cares she or knows she how her work In honey laid shall see a spring That she herself shall never know? Still the flower receives and the bee busily does Whatever whiteness the one or buzz the other, Mutually do they do, and mutually know not. And yet, were they to know, to think, to care What pause would press between the passions Of their touch? What bee might meditate Alone and unpollinated on some barer branch? What flower shut to dawn its streaked pinks So warmly showed to the showering rays before? The mind remembers each tweet each note And each soberer lowing of tuba or bassoon No matter how distant the conductor's commencing click May seem to present ears and hearers. All's memorial from the moment of its making To its last, dashing regretful recall. No matter how blithely frivolous we live Or howsoe'er delicate or fleet or half-materialized, How subtle-soft, how hard to catch or kiss, How almost nothing as a faded impulse unexplored-- Each unknowing moment of our fluttering is In amber laid. Now in my maturer melancholy I long for the native joyance of my youth: A sodden blossom beaten by the rain, I sprang to the sun at its first clearing, The skyey vault light-washed as a robin's egg, I, who now am a rude sturdy twig froze round As a hoop. Too many winters Has my heaven-intending form laid low, Frozen with distorted weight to whatever Brambles crawled along the ministering dirt. Physician! How can I find the cure I knew so well when I did not know I knew it! Now within me still I sleep, A hibernate creature gone to moody caves,-- And cave and creature both wander lost within me! I wander lost as Oedipus over earth, heartsore When his crimes had cracked him to his core. Wavy lengths of my hair sweat matted To my forehead, heavy with road-dust; Hair this wild year had left unshorn, Numberless as the fruitless thoughts That have pursued me-- my own phantom-- As when the mirror presses darkness on my eyes. Stars of eve, once the ready angels Of my bedtime prayers, twinkling on my hopes In looking wonder from the firmament, Now cast chilly chastisements on my course And make each way onward a mirror fouled By the ignorant chance that moved me hence. Onward naught and rearward naught And oblivion within! In such state am I caught. I am christened "Lost." My want of self Haunted memory returned re-cleared to me, As when in a clearest pool silver-laden I saw what the world saw was me. And when some minor upset rolls the pool And puts the silver salver into sine That self may still be seen in highlights and lows Distorted but unbroken as it goes Even unto the edges in an ermine flash. Be it a leaf that loures upon the plane Done with autumnal ripening Or narcissistic lock let down From avid, too avid, self-scrutiny The result is still This unstillness and its bends. I stare at the soft frost edges of the room, A moody amanuensis to the moon Until elegant as a weeping pine My soul steps from its sleeping source And all the air is fraught with mist. This image past of spirited play Wavers in a mirror rude: Slipshod appraisal of apprentice days When love for love's sake came half-amazed And gazed the neighboring fence half-along Staring daisies into blotched sun-spots And not the bright warm things they were Themselves alone. A demarcation has occurred-- one unloves another. A "cruel neglect and contemptuous silence ever since." How can I respond to this new, denuded world? Oh! Full many times I myself have seen The glory's crown that old Coleridge taught-- Self-enhancing shadow of a thought-- When round my fallen shadow's head A rainbow glory glowed in the snow As I trudged with my sled up the steep To the tipped top of the wintry hill Ready to plunge again like thunder down Into the gulf from which I'd come. Convoys to their various destinies post Finding their ways as they make them Amid that startlement of the waves-- And to find themselves have lost the fleet That sent them seaward into mists, Sharpest demarcation of their long self-pursuit. Now with more constant heart and firm resolve My face may bear what winds upbraid me-- Or is this but a lie I level at my will.... The ghost is vanished! The departed friend Filtered out the window without a syllable; I lift myself and follow to the frame. Is there some silver-tinged disturbance Adding its fretted lattice to the leaves Of the windy maples all about? I cannot speak so well as shout And fear my voice will only tell Dead and final as a parting bell. To the porch then-under stippled skies I feel the clear vigor of the cold Where a thousand stars like errless watchers Pin me to my outpost. There, there Hope deludes me with a moment's wish; It was perhaps some serried sound Of household dog turning round To return to his hunter's sleep in peace. But still some welling white is there Besides the moon's. I see it blur The boldened boundary of the field Crowded with unfound flowers gone to weed. Some shape is there--oh surely there-- Not all I know of one is departed yet Still some mere shred lingers to be loved And take of me forgiveness in the night. Block all jealousies--all wrongs--all time Beside the moment we wear now, A gown new and mutable to our mutual need. --One moment's presence is all I ask! "Come! Turn your back to me no more, come back!" I cry and the cry is like a thundercrack Inside my grieving skull. No more turn away! This night shall be as first light and life Come from the most high into humanity-- Only let it touch what most remains Of what we are this instant. The silver swells At the field's end, growing larger as my Charging heart! Ah yes! Companion prime Of hope and heart-high hero of my contemplation Turn to return! But wait! Tis gone, tis fled All that was of brimming light has burst And the iron balustrade cuts into my striking thighs And the alien field lays darkened and undewed. This single tear has dribbled down my face. One friend one loss one parting! Not if all the world were mirror for our woes Could ten thousand lines tell the tale: How heart is rent and soul must wail, How in conversation with a blank There is no love to conquer all our labors; Amelioration is stemmed, and dead's the tide That had flooded all our flotsam and our hopes. No expectation had been too heavy to be borne Along the continual susurrations of such a main. Dawn herself, and her twin, dusk, Came and went well-colored by the clarity and depth; The clouds that cooled and shadowed us Were themselves sustained By the liquid intercessions of watery faith. The question of a quisling, of love Lavished on a lesser thing, the friend departed Who had been Palestine, home returned And companion of adventure in a world of deeds, This artificial death and detriment Of two who had been connected At their very source! The isolated echo made moody and alone --Gone the solidarity of arms embraced Twins insistent as the signal sun To burn our beings brightly and as one. Now by sympathetic charm of grief All friendship comes to this belief: That those who now do love me well Shall leave me soon in abandoned hell; Like a rosary I keep these words Beside me, counted close, and counted Over again in each hour that I mourn. Vain words that rehearse this rose That goes away the way the sunset goes.
Let us say no moreLet us say no more of affections at our door that flood and flit between heart and head between silence manifest and the unsaid, for those departed who live undead. Let us cry voiceless forever more who know no language can heal our injured cause whose unsuccess ungladly gives us pause, whose defeat's written out in eternal law. Let us, singing, through each cherished Christmas soar clear of friends and family, like a star that sees its freezing brothers from afar clinging to the deadened stems they mar. Let us in houseless nothingness implore no false civilities from our living loves who what they could of giving gravely gave and gave no more.