"Along the Hard Crust..."
Along the hard crust of deep snows,
To the secret, white house of yours,
So gentle and quiet – we both
Are walking, in silence half-lost.
And sweeter than all songs, sung ever,
Are this dream, becoming the truth,
Entwined twigs’ a-nodding with favor,
The light ring of your silver spurs...
Shadows, by D. H. Lawrence
And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created.
And if, as weeks go round, in the dark of the moon
my spirit darkens and goes out, and soft, strange gloom
pervades my movements and my thoughts and words
then I shall know that I am walking still
with God, we are close together now the moon's in shadow.
And if, as autumn deepens and darkens
I feel the pain of falling leaves, and stems that break in storms
and trouble and dissolution and distress
and then the softness of deep shadows folding, folding
around my soul and spirit, around my lips
so sweet, like a swoon, or more like the drowse of a low, sad song
singing darker than the nightingale, on, on to the solstice
and the silence of short days, the silence of the year, the shadow,
then I shall know that my life is moving still
with the dark earth, and drenched
with the deep oblivion of earth's lapse and renewal.
And if, in the changing phases of man's life
I fall in sickness and in misery
my wrists seem broken and my heart seems dead
and strength is gone, and my life
is only the leavings of a life:
and still, among it all, snatches of lovely oblivion, and snatches
odd, wintry flowers upon the withered stem, yet new, strange
such as my life has not brought forth before, new blossoms of me—
then I must know that still
I am in the hands of the unknown God,
he is breaking me down to his own oblivion
to send me forth on a new morning, a new man.
Portrait Of A Figure Near Water
Rebuked, she turned and ran
uphill to the barn. Anger, the inner
arsonist, held a match to her brain.
She observed her life: against her will
it survived the unwavering flame.
The barn was empty of animals.
Only a swallow tilted
near the beams, and bats
hung from the rafters
the roof sagged between.
Her breath became steady
where, years past, the farmer cooled
the big tin amphoræ of milk.
The stone trough was still
filled with water: she watched it
and received its calm.
So it is when we retreat in anger:
we think we burn alone
and there is no balm.
Then water enters, though it makes
When sun, light handed, sows this Indian water
With a crop of cockles,
The vines arrange their tender shadows
In the sweet leafage of an artificial France.
Awake, in the frames of windows, innocent children,
Loving the blue, sprayed leaves of childish life,
Applaud the bearded corn, the bleeding grape,
"Here is the hay-colored sun, our marvelous cousin,
Walking in the barley,
Turning the harrowed earth to growing bread,
And splicing the sweet, wounded vine.
Lift up your hitch-hiking heads
And no more fear the fever,
You fugitives, and sleepers in the fields,
Here is the hay-colored sun!"
And when their shining voices, clean as summer,
Play, like churchbells over the field,
A hundred dusty Luthers rise from the dead, unheeding,
Search the horizon for the gap-toothed grin of factories,
And grope, in the green wheat,
Toward the wood winds of the western freight.
I even hear the mountains
the way they laugh
up and down their blue sides
and down in the water
the fish cry
and the water
is their tears.
I listen to the water
on nights I drink away
and the sadness becomes so great
I hear it in my clock
it becomes knobs upon my dresser
it becomes paper on the floor
it becomes a shoehorn
a laundry ticket
climbing a chapel of dark vines. . .
it matters little
very little love is not so bad
or very little life
is waiting on walls
I was born for this
I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead.
FASTEN your hair with a golden pin,
And bind up every wandering tress;
I bade my heart build these poor rhymes:
It worked at them, day out, day in,
Building a sorrowful loveliness
Out of the battles of old times.
You need but lift a pearl-pale hand,
And bind up your long hair and sigh;
And all men's hearts must burn and beat;
And candle-like foam on the dim sand,
And stars climbing the dew-dropping sky,
Live but to light your passing feet.
Wandering wordless through the heat of High
Park. High summer. Counting the chipmunks
who pause and demand the scrub stand by
till their flitty, piggybacked equal signs can think
through this math of dogwood, oak-whip, mulch.
Children glue mouths to ice cream and chips, punch
and kick at the geese, while rug-thick islands
of milt-like scum sail the duckpond’s copper stillness –
Over-fat, hammerhead carp with predator brains...
We can wreck a day on the shoals of ourselves.
Cramped, you broke last night and wept at the war,
at the ionized, cobalt glow that fish-tanked the air.
We’re here to be emptied under the emptying sky,
eyes cast outward, trolling for the extraordinary.
Early Autumn, by Po Chü-i
Two gray hairs appear in the lit mirror,
a single leaf tumbling into the courtyard.
Old age slips away, nothing to do with me,
and when grief comes, who does it find?
Idle months and years emptying away,
loved ones from long ago lost to sight,
I'll play with my girl here, my little girl:
we keep coaxing smiles from each other.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Your everlasting summer
You can see it fading fast
So you grab a piece of something
That you think is gonna last
You wouldn't know a diamond
If you held it in your hand
The things you think are precious
I can't understand
Are you reelin' in the years
Stowin' away the time
Are you gatherin' up the tears
Have you had enough of mine
You been tellin' me you're a genius
Since you were seventeen
In all the time I've known you
I still don't know what you mean
The weekend at the college
Didn't turn out like you planned
The things that pass for knowledge
I can't understand
I spend a lot of money
And I spent a lot of time
The trip we made in Hollywood
Is etched upon my mind
After all the things we've done and seen
You find another man
The things you think are useless
I can't understand
When psalms surprise me with their music
And antiphons turn to rum
The Spirit sings: the bottom drops out of my soul.
And from the center of my cellar, Love, louder than thunder
Opens a heaven of naked air.
New eyes awaken.
I send Love's name into the world with wings
And songs grow up around me like a jungle.
Choirs of all creatures sing the tunes
Your Spirit played in Eden.
Zebras and antelopes and birds of paradise
Shine on the face of the abyss
And I am drunk with the great wilderness
Of the sixth day in Genesis.
But sound is never half so fair
As when that music turns to air
And the universe dies of excellence.
Sun, moon and stars
Fall from their heavenly towers.
Joys walk no longer down the blue world's shore.
Though fires loiter, lights still fly on the air of the gulf,
All fear another wind, another thunder:
Then one more voice
Snuffs all their flares in one gust.
And I go forth with no more wine and no more stars
And no more buds and no more Eden
And no more animals and no more sea:
While God sings by himself in acres of night
And walls fall down, that guarded Paradise.
A Dream, After Reading Dante's Episode Of Paolo And Francesca
As Hermes once took to his feathers light,
When lulled Argus, baffled, swooned and slept,
So on a Delphic reed, my idle spright
So played, so charmed, so conquered, so bereft
The dragon-world of all its hundred eyes;
And seeing it asleep, so fled away,
Not to pure Ida with its snow-cold skies,
Nor unto Tempe, where Jove grieved a day;
But to that second circle of sad Hell,
Where in the gust, the whirlwind, and the flaw
Of rain and hail-stones, lovers need not tell
Their sorrows. Pale were the sweet lips I saw,
Pale were the lips I kissed, and fair the form
I floated with, about that melancholy storm.
Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes
And watcher her perfect, half-clothed body say;
Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes
Blown by black players upon a picnic day.
She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,
The light gauze hanging loose about her form;
To me she seemed a proudly-swing palm
Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.
Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls
luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise,
The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls,
Devoured her shape with eager, passionate gaze;
But looking at her falsely-smiling face,
I knew her self was not in that strange place.
The gate of hell, so gloomy so cold so deep and so far away,
opening and closing at the bottom of the dry well
Girls dare not bend to look in
afraid of a hand pusing from behind
Concubine Zhen died thin.
Her husband was an emperor, her mother-in-law the emperor dowager
Widowed for many years,
the dowager feared the laughter between man and woman,
feared that Zhen's graceful steps and her perfume
hooked the emperor's eye.
She ordered Zhen to die
and the emperor to love another.
Crying she said she didn't want to die or pollute the well.
If she died the other person would also perish . . .
Before she finished she was pushed
into a long distant night
She's been floating ever since
in the news
a girl who rebels against an exchange marriage
jumps into a well
The Japanese Wife
By Charles Bukowski
O lord, he said, Japanese women,
real women, they have not forgotten,
bowing and smiling
closing the wounds men have made;
but American women will kill you like they
tear a lampshade,
American women care less than a dime,
they’ve gotten derailed,
they’re too nervous to make good:
always scowling, belly-aching,
but oh lord, say, the Japanese women:
there was this one,
I came home and the door was locked
and when I broke in she broke out the bread knife
and chased me under the bed
and her sister came
and they kept me under that bed for two days,
and when I came out, at last,
she didn’t mention attorneys,
just said, you will never wrong me again,
and I didn’t; but she died on me,
and dying, said, you can wrong me now,
and I did,
but you know, I felt worse then
than when she was living;
there was no voice, no knife,
nothing but little Japanese prints on the wall,
all those tiny people sitting by red rivers
with flying green birds,
and I took them down and put them face down
in a drawer with my shirts,
and it was the first time I realized
that she was dead, even though I buried her;
and some day I’ll take them all out again,
all the tan-faced little people
sitting happily by their bridges and huts
but not right now,
not just yet.
What I do not want
is to give you the words of day dreams.
Not to spread the image with my lips
on your face, nor with my kiss.
I take the tip of your finger
with pink nail, for my gesture,
and, in this manner of airs,
I give it back to you.
From the grace and the lightsomeness of your pillow.
And the heat of your exotic eyes.
And the light of your secret
Like the moon in the spring
gives us yellow light, and a heart
seems to flow back from you to me.
It’s not that. Nor will it be. Your true sense
has already given me the peace,
the beautiful secret,
the charming dimple,
the lovely corner of your mouth
and the weary
Unlike are we, unlike, O princely Heart!
Unlike our uses and our destinies.
Our ministering two angels look surprise
On one another, as they strike athwart
Their wings in passing. Thou, bethink thee, art
A guest for queens to social pageantries,
With gages from a hundred brighter eyes
Than tears even can make mine, to play thy part
Of chief musician. What hast thou to do
With looking from the lattice-lights at me,
A poor, tired, wandering singer, singing through
The dark, and leaning up a cypress tree?
The chrism is on thine head,--on mine, the dew, -
And Death must dig the level where these agree.
I KNOW that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My county is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.