PART I:  MADISON, WISCONSIN, 1948-1961

 

DO DOLLS HAVE LIFE?

 

Little doll, I wonder

If you each day.

Have your hour of work

And your hour of play

What do you do,

When the night is still?

Do it in front of me,

Do what you will!

I want you to do it, you see.

 

                                                            1948 (?)

 

 

*

 

THE FORGOTTEN WORLD

 

I, the wind, the cold cold wind,

I blow over the prairie, around dead volcanos,

I sing of a world,

A forgotten world,

A world long strayed beyond the sight of men.

 

I, the prairie,

The cold, stone prairie

Dotted with dead volcanos,

Earthquakes have carved crators,

Great, rocky crators,

Out of my surface

I that remain of a forgotten world,

A world long strayed beyond the sight of men.

 

 

We, the volcanos,

The old, dead volcanos,

We that remain of a forgotten world,

A world long strayed beyond the sight of men.

 

We are that world,

That forgotten world,

That world long strayed beyond the sight of men.

 

                                                                        1952(?)

 

*

 

                                                           

VENUS

 

The stars are little campfires

In the evening sky

Many of these there are, but you

Are first to burn, and first to die.

 

I sit by my own campfire

And watch you from afar --

O Venus, lovely Venus,

O silver Evening Star!

 

                                                            1952

 

*

 

THE DEDICATION

 

There hangs my star of hope, still bright

Against the twilight sky.

A year ago I saw that light --

How fast the days went by!

 

I see the child that I have been

And am less every day

Brush past me in the evening wind

To join the faraway,

 

Dead past that slips from memory,

Do what I will to hold it;

The formless future calls to me,

And I must go and mold it.

 

                                                            1956

 

*

 

I shall cast my heart to the sea,

I shall fling my heart to the wind,

I shall hurl my heart to the fire,

Rather than to my kind.

 

For my kind have knowing looks,

And keen, divining minds,

And they learn too quick to despise --

But the rages of Earth are blind.

 

                                                            1957

*

 

Despair, apathy,

Hope, despair --

Is it a circle

Leading nowhere,

 

Stamped in the mind

By thoughts without ruth,

Or the long, long spiral

Down to truth?

 

                                                            1957

 

*

 

SUSPENDED MOMENT

 

I care not what may come; it is enough

That day is done, and I am going home.

Though birds are whirled by Autumn to the south,

Though evening reddens hill and roof and dome,

Though time's thin roof, as the next day impends,

Shuts out the future now but cannot last,

I shall believe this moment will not end;

The future seems as distant as the past.

The wind is cool with night; a red sun sets,

Carrying in its fall another day

In my life, and though Earth does not regret,

One minute of her span has ticked away.

But in this brief peace Earth and I alike

Stand still, nor strain to hear the hour strike.

 

                                                            1957

 

*

 

LAST RADIANCE

 

No longer will the sun need all this light,

She pours it here between the autumn hills.

See, at our feet dark water flashes bright

As the great, brilliant tide its basin fills.

Light almost dims the brown and gold and red,

Even by profusion veiling from our eyes

The thick, stiff brush, its leaves already shed,

The valley floor, the pale and dazzled skies.

 

The world lies in a tired sun's dusty beam,

Whose light deceives not those who know the fall.

This glory is the last; the sun, it seems,

Renouncing now light's brilliance, sheds it all.

The day almost estranges soul and breath.

We wander by these banks and talk of death.

 

                                                            1958

 

 

A TREE

 

Gnarled he will stay until the last,

Strong now but warped when he was young;

To stagger under snow and blast

Was he at Nature's order wrung.

 

Thick is his bent trunk now, and black;

Now it is spring and he must bear

On that inflexible, tired back

The weight of blossoms far too fair.

 

Stoic beneath the mad caress

Of her who bent him long ago,

He can but shoulder loveliness

And bear it as he bore the snow.

 

                                                            1958

 

*

 

A spring storm rising in the west

Takes to lean upon hits breast

A tree with last year's leaves, still bright.

A woman runs to grasp and fight

Clothes flapping in the storm-fresh air

That takes her breath and sweeps her hair

Into the sun.  Some strands are white.

 

                                                                        1961

 

*

 

He and the moon looked coldly at each other,

and he said, "Put the shade down."  And they did.

Now just beneath the frayed edge of his lid,

casting a glare between him and the others,

 

burned the night-lamp.  Into its flame he poured,

like some rare oil, the hoarded power of sight;

and the light used it all, and there was no more light.

And then his eyes closed of their own accord.

 

                                                                        1961

 

*

 

 

HIPPODAMEIA

 

In presence of the bestial race

Apart from passions all, her face

Has no expression but its own

Beauty, inviolate as stone,

And Time, to all indifference friend,

Justified her in the end:

The Centaur and his lust are gone.

 

Whole, restored, she stands alone.

Upon her breast -- would she then deign

To see -- two bestial hands remain.

 

                                                            1961

 

*

 

YOU AND I

 

As you and I sat face to face

A wedge of ice came down.

I watched it come.

It was colorless and quite transparent:

Through it I saw you speak.

Widening it prie our chairs apart,

Pushed away my freezing cheek,

Tore from the planks a splitting screech,

Then it was gone.

The air in the room was enormous,

And we faced each other

From opposite walls, flat portraits

Pressed behind panes of glass.

 

                                                1961

 *

 

 

JUMP ROPE RHYME

 

In the curve

of the cove

                        bluebells cockleshells

Little shells seaweed thing

little waves come running in

now and then a bigger one

                        eevy ivy over

 

One by one

all in line

                        bluebells cockleshells

swinging rope took them in

swung and swung and made one turn

over each

                        your turn your turn

                        eevy ivy over

 

Hesitate

now  no  wait

                        bluebells cockleshells

the empty line swings endlessly

run in run in the children cry

but gulls are watching from the sky

but there is no one here but I

 

                                                            1961

 

*

 

LINES WRITTEN IN A GERMAN DICTIONARY

 

Listen, guest:

the hours are dumb,

the cuckoo's flown away

from his black house.

Here seconds pulse

with none to take their sum.

Listen, guest:

the sluice is raised

for unreturning waves.

 

                                                            1961

 

*

 

 

THE EXPECTED GUEST

 

All morning long she walked about the town,

pausing awhile in shop doors, entering

consciously, with lashes half cast down,

hand upon shoulder-bag; or lingering

seconds where panes to sideward glance divulged

her image, half reflected, half surmised --

upon her cheek the air was heavy with spring

and with vague thoughts a moment long indulged.

 

She bought a bunch of daffodils, sniffed a flask

of perfume, with some hesitation chose

a candle (yellow), searched her mind to ask

what she'd forgotten; but the air opposed

a March-drowsed weight to any clarity:

on the crowds hurrying through the vernal gloom

the vision of her room was superimposed

with someone there, too near for eyes to see.

 

                                                            1966

 

*

 

 

WITH BITTER WORDS

 

Why did you leave with bitter words?

Come back, though love be gone,

And speak to me one gentle thing

Before you travel on.

 

Oh, in this town are many roads

For to wander to and fro,

And one road leads to my true love's door,

And that way I may not go.

 

And through this town the people pass,

I pass them night and day,

And any of them would speak to me,

But you would turn away.

 

Love is like the falcon

That flies away at night,

And love is like the darkened sky

That cradles him in flight.

 

Why did you leave with bitter words?

Come back, though love be gone,

And speak to me one gentle thing

Before you travel on.

 

                                                            1966

 

*

 

I thought that I had got a harvest in:

So rich my store with fruits of air and earth

I feared not even your going, feared no dearth,

And wake to find all empty, barn and bin,

And wander forth to pluck the acrid Now,

Harsh fruit, unripened on the wayside bough.

 

                                                            1966

 

*

 

Yet I have heard the sea sing in your ear

with the voice of a singer of other times:

then the sea on the other side was grayer and colder

and the last of those that were taking ship

stood in the mist on the foreshore

and dreamed himself alone.

 

                                                            1966

 

*

 

WATERCOLOR

 

Concealed by archways,

awnings, eaves,

we watch the unsuspected space

revealed in silver faint striations of the air

above the square.

Later on a pigeon will descend

and mate with his reflection in the wet

and the mottling of pavements shine

like pebbles by the sea.

And we shall be able to watch our muddy footprints

melt on the new-washed gray.

Later

they will stay.

 

                                                            1966

 

*

 

DEAD SISTERS

 

Last night they came to me,

six of them, in a delegation.

A gleam had divided the darkness

into black skirts, dark eyes, submissive partings

of dark hair over the dead-

white foreheads of the dead.

They stood in a hesitant wedge

at my bedside.

The foremost bent her eyes on me

--hands wrapped in apron --

and behind her a ghost of gossip stirred.

So young,

they said.

 

                                                            1966

 

*

 

THE GIFT

 

I would enter your door

like a ray of light

falling on something already

in your possession.

 

                                                late 1966 (from memory)

 

*

 

THE COMPLAINT

 

Without love

there is only time.

 

Love, the pale saxifrage

prizing past and future apart.

 

Without love, a sky

crushes the flowers

like a huge gray rock.

 

Without love the words come out thin

like flowers

pressed between stone.

 

                                                1967

 

 

*

 

Angel, on the neutral

asteroid of our meeting

we touch

and our long

journeys tremble behind us

like wings.

 

                                                1967

 

*

 

when angels shall reseam these rags

warp of truth and weft of lies

then  not until  i will confess

that earth was less than motley skies

 

if god will swear the dog of time

shall not dig up the bones of love

then will i from vigil turn

move where crowds and rivers move

 

where perjury keeps its promise not

to pawn old kindness out to whores

there i will bid love abdicate

and for his consort take divorce

 

and i will kiss the stone stairs

of this consequent universe

 

                                                            1967

 

 

*

 

THE BERKELEY LANDLORD

 

for Sylvia Plath, whom I first read in that house

 

Behind his back I call him,

my landlord, Herr Tod.

His eyes have a blear keenness, his skin

looks musty.  He wears a broadbrimmed hat.

He lives in the rear of the house

with back issues of magazines, a plaster Venus,

a bed of soiled quilts.

You should have seen my room when I moved in.

 

Once, to startle me, he

winked and addressed me in German.

 

His voice is harsh because

he's a bit deaf.  Sometimes he gets friendly,

telling me about his grandchildren --

my age.

I changed the subject.

Then he offered me a pot of honey, which I

accepted but did not eat,

being no fool.  I know

he keeps bees in the back yard,

black bees I've never seen

and don't want to see.

 

The time I came asking

could I see the room, he corrected:

The question is not whether you can, but whether you may.

 

                                                            1967

 

*

 

TALISMAN

 

                        for Don Cameron, 14

 

You were born in winter

before Advent, in gray

quiet November days.

Stars of the archer moved

over the fine

dryness of woods,

frost cracked crystals

in the veins of the branches.

You were the youngest in the year.

 

That is why you were always so grayly

pale-brown, your eyes

the color of winter bark,

that is why you can walk through the woods

and not look over your shoulder.

A shy patience is yours.

 

You were born at night

in November.

I and your brother huddled

apart in the dark house

listening.  For your birth

among patient stars.

 

                                                1967

 

*

 

 

ARTEFACT

 

Silence.  The moving facets of the stream

contemplated for irony.

 

I would not have it said

I spun this, grey on silver,

out of mere

self.  Rather

 

a hermisphere, open, a bowl

or cup, with twig

and leaf, twin

and tendril some fraction

of the dissolving forest.

 

                                                1967 (?)

 *

 

The house of the head

settles: a crack

between mind and evidence.

 

Cliffs

without footbridge, banks

without water, the ghost-boat

ferries projections,

 

the railroad tracks

rear up, in a landscape

Euclidean, without

perspective.

                                                                                    1967

 

*

 

APHELION

 

                                    Ein Wort: du weisst:

                                    eine Leiche.

 

                                                            Paul Celan

 

1.

Then shut her eyes,

batten them down

and make for her earrings out of these dead

sun-stones.

 

Her hands are rigid.

Here are two seashells: clasps

for abandoned shoulders.

 

Channel like stone the flutings

of draped whiteness

over the limbs you arrange

as you will,

 

but turn her head sideways,

and her mouth: leave it

ajar

for the stone birds to build in.

 

2.

They found on the threshold

that day

a mouth opened

dumb

and on the tongue was laid

the flat stone

of a voiceless word.

 

Voices in hollow

sky-corridors, noiseless

changing of empty hinges,

wind --

 

 

3.

-- dry winds, sanding a time

into unsighted eyes:

 

what suns still turn in the stone,

what seas still

summon the winds?

 

(The lips crack

opening; now

fall

fragile, like snakeshells from

the dust-

uttering mouth:

words

 

moons,

waters move

in the stone

 

4.

a time when creations's furrow

lies still unsealed:

strange, mineral grasses sprout there.

The planets go dark in a forest

of dense and lightless crystals.

 

You must have been inside

the stone the dark moon and all we thought had

no entrances.

 

We are walking now

in the zone of broken glass.  Underfoot

it is lenses, figurines, mirrors, drinking-vessels.

We did not know they were broken,

we drink from them still.

One shadow, one eyeless

signpost:

over there, the words fuse

in black-cold, space-curve, night-obsidian.

 

                                                            1967-8

 

*

 

THE MAIDEN

 

The hours are swept, dust and sounds

settle, the world

enters a dark still crystal.

Now, shade of my sign, you approach,

your feet do not disturb the even dust.

There is cold

as if I had drunk,

o virgo,

your form's ether.

 

In my fingertips freezes a polar wind.

You had me neither the crown nor the ears of grain.

Once I drank the eternal guilt; now it empties my veins.

I am dark and transparent:

through me shine,

I cannot see them, a few

single

stars.

 

                                                            1967-8

 

*

 

A woman, sitting at her window, writes.

No longer to her lover; that is lost;

now that November counts the garden plants

she stares at panes opaque with growths of frost.

 

Before her, on the paper, the words stand

like stubborn messengers: they have turned back

at that same wall she cannot see beyond.

They stare to say no man can make them talk.

 

She thinks: a long, thin sounds, like tearing paper.

Words that fall, shuffled, a random snow.

A silence starts to grow, echoing itself forever.

Another leaf gets etched on the window.

 

                                                            1967-8

 

*

 

ARTIFACT

 

Silence.  The moving facets of the stream

contemplated for irony.

 

I would not have it said

I spun this, gray on silver,

out of mere

self. Rather

 

a hemisphere, open, a bowl

or cup, with twig

and leaf, twine

and tendril -- some fraction

of the dissolving forest.

 

                                                            1968

 

*

 

BALLAD OF A FISHERMAN'S WIFE

 

Paths meet in the distance,

rocks bow down in the spray,

and as we sat speaking

our thoughts went walking away,

Like leaves from under the tree,

Like rain we passed to the sea --

 

Two griefs, and a single cure!

 

The sky was gray, a dimmed pearl,

And our boat seaweed-brown,

Midships the sun was couched

And gave pale shine,

And hard under our keel

The flounder sang --

 

Two griefs, and a single cure!

 

Wind is cold and soft,

Soft and cold the rain,

Sea-kine rise and drift

Over a gray plain,

And the pale sisters drive them down

To the sea again --

 

Two griefs, and never a cure!

 

                                                            1968

 

*

 

GARDEN

 

She called him

a beast and, when he protested,

said she might not like him so well if he weren't one.

He was the beast. His arms went round her

like a sturdy fence, but it was

himself he enclosed.

 

Within that wide stockade

she was water, forage, was the stake

he was tethered to, and the slender, floral

figure of the maiden in the background.

But what most impressed her

 

was the troubled widening of his eyes,

what they saw -- not her, certainly,

it was beyond that fence but there was nothing

out there.  Until one morning

he did not come when she called --

or at all.

 

It struck her then he must have found

the white chiaroscuro form sleeping narrowly

and tried to think about her then.

Painfully she wondered

why he had not wakened her; if they could ever

have left that magical unhappy garden together.

 

                                                            1968

 

*

 

THE INVADED

 

They've got those suits now

                                    (Oh darling I'm so frightened)

that fit you from neck to toenails

thick asbestos-filled and very tight.

A blow through one of those doesn't leave marks;

they take you out, dead and perfect as a bad girl in the gangster movies.

 

Last night a car passed the border.

They took the lids off the suitcases

the sides off the car

they scraped the passengers down to the tendons

and sent them on still with suspicious side-looks

for the red on their bones

 

In a dream I came and sat next to you

you did not look at me

I took your hand

it closed on mine then

died

was it one of them

 

the people we cut out of magazines

 

They walk around there are more than I

remembered they are lifesize flat and very brightly colored

You must try to tell me if you see one of them

I will try to tell you if I see one of them

 

the last movie was thirty hours long

 

ARE YOU ALL RIGHT CAN YOU HEAR ME

NOW I WANT YOU TO LISTEN VERY CAREFULLY

THIS IS IMPORTANT

 

                                                            1968

 

 

*

 

A battle,

always repeated because fought

on the wrong battlefield

 

Each night the victorious hero

retires to his tent to weep

while the opponent slinks back

to his black furnace under the horizon

 

Next morning the hero rises

and goes forth to the field

which is green and untrampled

while the sun a flame-colored circle

rises

 

and the words

come stealing to the scene

disguising themselves as trees fences ponds

so as to watch the combat

and appear uninvolved

 

Pretty soon the sun is standing

at the top of the sky

shedding down yellow

on the ground green trees with their brown stems

on the sky-blue ponds with their silver ripples

on the backs of birds

and on the two fighting

in a vermilion mirage

 

                                                                        1968

 

*

 

black cannon in the field

over the hill

 

In the first winter

I found the minute cathedrals under the leaves

I touched their spiny spires,

wondering, and used them

for the mystery plays with small figures

 

The next year mushrooms appeared

in clumps where the little churches had melted

I had no idea which ones were not poisonous

you could hardly have advised me

 

                        without remembering, open your hands

                        where you stand in the shuttered house over the garden

 

the soil yields rusted metals

I want a fragment

of your glass heart

like a clear lens to look through

 

there were no leaves this year

 

                                                            1968

 

*

 

A HYMN TO THE ANCESTORS

 

I.

Isolde held the falcon's fire

 

mother grandmother great-grandmother

                                    golden-haired

paysanne blonde de Touraine  lacemaker

                        whitehand weaving the lace

            trying I am trying to finish this

                                                                        birdclaws

                                    tangled   breaking

greatgrandmother grandmother mother

                        fading rosary

                 chain of images

            break you I am trying to break you

                        fire opal cold in my opalescent fire

    mother  childhood   o cunning green fairytale

               in the arbor   interstice

                        of eternal burning

O ladies who wore the Rose of the Fire on your cool green breasts

O vanished heirloom rose whose sharp thorn pin sticks me now

O igneous demons you whom the green stem of life at last set free -

 

                                    LET ME FLAME AND FLY AWAY

                                                let me go back

                        to a green stem a single place

                                                    under der linden

 

 

II.

            Green trellis of the Fire

                        I arraign my witchtrials

lifted high on a hot draft over San Francisco.

Evidence! Evidence!

Forty demons press lava faces against my body!

 

                                    I am not like you. I am the family damnation.

                                    Love made conscious, its limbs lashed naked

                                    fast with its own twisted deceit --

 

what say you innocent Isolde?


 

 

 

                        I will not worship the Fire

                not chant the words that are sweet in the Jaws

            I will not give my pain in the lightning of the knife

    I will burn the flame of hatred in the flame of words

Burn the flame of words in the flame of desire

   BURN DESIRE IN HATRED AND WORDS AND DESIRE AND HATRED

 

o lords o ladies fair

dance now in this fair fire

a courtly dance

 

III.

            and once more I am home

beside the white garage long sold

steps crunch on the misty glitter of white gravel

the black tracery of the past goes up

a tangle of burning brush wires in orange flames

118 Linden Street

Ridgewood

               grandmother fixed

in the faded stuffed chair

                                                played solitaire

                                    played Crazy Eights with us

                                    -- vast, rapacious --

 

                                    I ran away

                                    fearing the folding white arms

                                    like floured bread dough

 

the fire the fire

 

it breaks out everywhere slow between the roses

of curling wallpaper faster the cancer smoldering

in my grandmother's uterus

 

she died

painfully

 

            my mother who choked as she told me

               walking  the trees red over the white ghost water of autumn

 

                                    this day almost estranges soul and breath

                                    we wander by these banks and talk of death

 

 

                        what was it choked you mother

                          was it tears pity love grief

            Or burning ashes?!

 

burn burn I too will burn

If fifteen year old fettered fury know it

O FLASH FURY O BURST METAPHORS OF WHITE HELLFIRE HIDING

 

                                                This

 

 

that we shall burn

                        the fat dripping off our nerve-ends

and pain ravish every

                                    brain-center, all love concept faith word all

                                                            self

 

cry shame    shame

 

IV.

            then said that lady

                        standing there

            go and find

                                    my jester's skull

                                    and tell

            in youth I did love

            did love

 

                                                            1968

 

*

 

POET, 23, IS BACK FROM VIETNAM

 

                                                            for Michael

 

You had been half in love with easeful death

for some time

 

Brown ghosts hovered

singing over clipped lawns

 

You used to speak

almost fondly of the face that was

a gray spot in the crowd

of the ashlight from invisible t.v.

live on stoned faces

 

Well I suppose it was

a surgical revelation

those jungle viridians

the shell-torn clay the different reds

soaking the retina

Now you are back behind your dark glasses

looking at us

                        fitted

with the ultimate X ray vision

can you see

                        anything

 

. . .

 

Where O death is

your waxed moustache

your umber fantasies of dead fish talking

in an undersea room

your anger

your gray dracula cloak

 

                        ripped away like a billboard

                        and i projected

                        into the landscape's

                        green violent NOW

 

                        red flowers of love and hate devour one another

                        and spleen heart entrails thrive nakedly --

 

                        the cloak the t.v. screen

                        the mirror Time

                        and your face

 

. . .

 

What does the woman standing

in robes of dark-green patina

at the mouth of the western harbor

hold

 

(A jug

mouth round and softly darkened)

 

What does she hold in it

for the soldier

 

(Midwestern street

midsummer night

the elm leaves' electric shadows

down the street

a dark snow to walk through

 

forgetfulness unto

                        red sands keep on spreading across a green desert

 

no

they're singing

again

                                                1968

 

*

 

MENDOCINO

 

                        for John and Maria

 

Miles following the coastroad

gray staves ran, the music

of fences

 

A swallowtail weightless

over the yellow weed

A hawk pinned to the sun

 

The blue table down there, the rocks,

the white spume-statute standing

pointing outward

 

                                                1968

 

*

 

ANGEL

 

                        (on a painting by Lucas van Leyden)

 

"New-lighted"

 

Not that

he has to rise, slowly, pulling

himself upright on remembered

ladders of muscles,

 

only the feet

are heavy and drag the ground

like a puppet's, the puppeteer

unpracticed,

 

and some

flesh, stretching

under the eyes, learns

gravity.  Observe

 

the wings: two great

evenings of darkening azure surmount him

limned with feathers:

                                    so many

as a man, all his sleep, can count

of dreams.

 

                                                1968

 

*

 

FOEHN

 

Why is the wind ransacking the bay of trees,

torturing them with his senseless questions?

They turn up their leaves to him, dead

fishbellies, little shimmerless mirrors

backed by a sullen summer.

 

The sky wants no part of this.

Its underside is whitish, like leaves,

the sun, caught in albumin,

coated, like the tongues that begin

uttering and uttering

 

that speechlessness where a thought walks,

turning and turning the images

not here, not this one, not that one,

as a wind,

changed in the night, drives

other clouds over the bowed forests.

 

                                                            Munich, 1968

 

*

 

AUTUMN WALK ALONG THE ILLINOIS CENTRAL TRACKS

 

                                                                                                            for Jim

 

Stalks shrink and rattle as the sky expands,

emptied by birds, scoured by cirrus. Darkness

adulterates the potions of the sun,

in the field the breathing of the seasons has stopped.

 

Double blade welded of rust and black azure

curving itself round the horizon's shoulder,

the railroad tracks, each autumn, draw us out.

The family shoulders winter coats, gets going.

 

I and my brother run ahead. Our parents'

faces, at wind's level, erase in memory:

I am ten, he seven. We climb the embankments,

looking for milkweed to stuff in paper bags.

 

There the burst pods, lined with brown satin,

like inside rooms in ravaged French chateaux,

there the green pods' unfledged stickiness --

but these just ripe, a crack

 

and the stuff swells out. Sap's whiteness returned

ready for flight, it cannot be woven.

We will find a use for it.  We will make milkweed pillows,

I sill spin it somehow -- already

we know it is to be wasted.

 

The sunlight mixed with darkness is draining away,

they turn, and we, like balloons on a string, must follow them

to a room where lamps beat back the nightfall,

the winter sky sucking emptiness like a lung.

 

                                                                                                1968

*

 

 

SCENE FROM FAUST

 

A space -- heart-contracted. Guilt comes true.

A stone rolls from forever. You watch it roll

right to your feet. It's for you.

The tone is the pain which is not real.

 

It is a minute remembered -- transistorized,

its voice still on, quite soft.

There's a flash. Your head hopes for a judgment,

the whole world's power off,

 

light to be restored, if at all,

on a sugar-=frosted plain,

the people, pegs, impossibly white,

small, equivalent, clean --

 

You give it up. You begin bending

toward the stone which is hard matter for you alone,

the faint unstanchable whimpering --

at your back a broken window. The sun.

 

                                                            1968

*

 

PFAUENINSEL

 

Peacocks, mounted

on cedar branches, sometimes

launched themselves like blue

ungainly meteors

down to the grass.

 

You and I -- a faun

dreaming of tundras

and lumberjack boots, a nymph

swinging a camera --

populated the perspectives

 

(when no one was looking

yours the grin

dodging from beard to eye-corners).

Koenigin

Luise, the dairymaid,

 

did not come out, but behind

the Gothic stonefront

closing a flight of dust-

and mauve-colored willows

a door stood wide,

 

the farmwife gave us news.

The English were practicing

-- at the water

air filled with shell-poppings --

shoreward

 

over our path, an oak,

Beethovenian, maintained

its massive

cloud-

counterpoint.

 

                                                1969

 

 

something vast

and imperceptible

 

out of the space between

sill and lintel of the horizon

 

that is where

you came from

 

                                                1969

 

*

 

HOUSE OF SOLSTICE

 

i.

 

Whether alone or far from water,

stick your key in the masonry

put

your question.

 

 

 

ii.

 

Noises of demolition subside:

move in

to a space structured by absence

 

there where the shelf was

take down some book,

read

 

                        outside the roses still tangle,

                        the creepers' silencing hands,

shadows move upward

 

then sleep

or wake, in the suspended

solitudes

 

warmed by that hearth's

scattered ashes

 

or the fires deep in the earth

 

 

 

 

 

 

iii.

 

under the leaning weeds

at the yard's end, they said, your

birthflower

 

aster

 

shorn rays, the colors

solitudes of descending

sun on old planets

 

 

 

iv.

 

sitting-room

red sun

under frost crystals

 

colors come out of things

darkness draws into them

 

the window

a wound's edge

 

 

v.

 

No fathers of mine came from your country

none of yours dwelt on my land

it's said we look alike

 

if you should ask me

I would arrive one morning

carrying only the few, mythical

flowers of a native valley

I have not seen

 

the rest already in your keeping

 

 

 

vi.

 

Over all mirrors let fall

the third eyelid

 

now is what moves in there

glaciers saurian thickness a forest

petrifies leaving

bones down in the hole

of an open eye

 

 

 

 

vii.

 

so

things shiver in themselves

as in mirrors

and i a space between

dissatisfactions

 

a statement to be multiplied

infinitely

 

 

viii.

 

i

it is one and

falls apart

 

 

 

 

 

ix.

 

bituminous illuminations

i arrive

subterranean stone swept

dustless, the scattered

rags, clockworks

                                    and what make i here

i artificer of afternoons

 

o light slow to travel

across a green dial a dream

of surface

 

 

 

 

x.

 

A star, which I

twisted of plantain bark, now

figures in

your name.

 

 

 

 

xi.

 

wachst auch du zu dieser stunde auf

denkst wie wir uns auf der treppe dort begegneten

wie du fluechtig mir den arm beruehrt hast

            wie kalt sind diese laken

 

 

 

 

xii.

 

each day the light's retraction

makes of us islands

the days like ice-floes driven

 

beside us the others

                                    eyes

gaped open in readiness

for the resumption of sight

 

in a cup at the hearth the final

elixir extinguished

                                    o

breathing bent survival

of an enclosed wing

 

 

 

 

xiii.

 

A young man with a smooth forehead

beneath which the eyes hide

like small animals under rocks

out in the country.

 

 

 

 

xiv.

 

Facade: where the wind stood

stone-encurled,

like soft gray buds in stone

the pigeon bodies stirred.

 

The pigeon voices' winter

chisels chipped

a gradual light,

the abandoned quiet

shone.

 

xv.

 

eilth', eilthe chelidon:

 

it will come again

that spring with the swallow

flying in and out of the mirrors

 

and outside the children singing

"the swallow, the swallow is here"

 

 

 

 

xvi.

 

an ache words cannot raise

 

sky and the

earth its template

joined steeled with still

violence

            then

 

those frail

levers of weightless horizons

 

 

 

xvii.

 

on the thruway alone

 

road line of sight draws to the horizon

silicate mists with brown dendritic inclusions

distances dead fields under yonder

 

half granular wall vague gape

yesterdays concrete choked

footpressure stone flung to past

alive

in regression forward

inside the shock of speed

silent

 

 

 

 

 

xviii.

 

 

love

incline your ear

 

impose

the infinite untouched

texture of your listening

between utterance

and silence

 

                                                1969

 

*

 

 

CARMINA BUFFALONIANA

 

Do our words mean

when we do not mean

them?

 

Your silence, frames you, feminine,

like your grandmother's photograph.

Your hands are still, your lips

poised above speech like the lifted

shaft of a machine stopped

in midgesture.  Your eyes move

like the eyes of my third doll, Annabel,

who is queen of the past now.

What is that dead glow

around your chest?

Has someone torn out

the heart that said, "Mama"?

 

No, the half-raised arm

which can hold nothing

commands me to dream

again.  Very well.

I dreamed of a space that had

no such place as here.

There was war in all three dimensions

but no battlefields.

And so on all sides

the soldiers ticked to death.

 

The dreams come out

on the teletype of the night

and are written down.

Or they are found like dead birds

in the gutters, they fill the air

like invisible billboards.

The cars gasp their way

along paretic Main Street,

scant shadows hurry along

under them.  Other shadows move

behind milk glass doors.

A dull red streak in gray linoleum

-- blood on crisscross horizons.

 

Everywhere

the inaudible

lullaby.

Now and then

a joint.

Something approaches

glaring like a speeding car

through the wind-tunnel in front of the eyes.

No, it's McKinley's hearse. Slow, now.

A painting -- "The Triumph of Entropy" --

hangs in the town hall . . .

 

                                                            1969

 

*

 

THE CAGE OUTSIDE MARRIAGE

 

Tonight your picture wanted someone to be in it

so I swam against the drifting junk of the streets

and played "which bone which beast" in the old shale corridors.

At kerbstones, at kitchen windows I calibrated

your changes, from the cage outside marriage:

Here's looking at you.  The contact sticks

like wax to the skin of burnt fingers.

Miscellaneous recall discs still spin

and now and then strobe to recognition.

Sometimes it's you I'm running backwards to hold,

sometimes a nymph of myself, sightless and shy of knowledge.

I knew you halfway, at some amputated distance --

a better catcher would have admitted being drunk.

 

                                                                                    1969

 

 

*

 

 

GIVE ME YOUR WORD

 

Give me your word it will be so:

Your birds will find the crumbs I fling them.

Their wings are on the wind, like snow --

Give me your word it will be so.

Tell me their markings, let me know

Which way to greet the winds that bring them.

Give me your word. It will be so.

Your birds will find the crumbs I fling them.

 

                                                                                    1970

 

*

 

LINES WRITTEN IN THE BASEMENT OF CROSBY HALL

 

 

Stormwinds, insatiate,

insinuated with sirens,

among the sheetmetal

carapaces of instruction.

Dark knots,

congregations of penguin voices,

talk of striking.

 

Against winter?

Too cold to stand here.

The snow, white as helmets,

brings up its reinforcements,

wind keeps shoving us along.

Let's have coffee.

 

This white office cubicle . . .

Strife of voices

and the silent agreements:

there will be metal twisted, glass broken,

a car turned to a smudgepot,

maybe a few broken heads

repossessed by the cold:

 

The leafless trees are skeptics.

 

                                                1970

 

*

 

NIGHT FLIGHT

 

Voice in the wings of the thorax, voice in the wings of the clenched cerebrum, prisoner within the wings, voice of my voice --

 

Tendon of pain, limbs scattering out of that one direction --

 

It overturns all synonyms like a wind among walls that have died standing up

I give it your name to play with

it flings the name away and goes loudly searching for it in the trees made from its calling

 

my name it has taken and denies this

 

yet it has promised me battle and I live by this:

 

All the ungiven glances like darts in a box

all the points of silence sharpened

towards the day when I fall

vanishing and they

fall past me flaring at equinox

over the dark sowing-time

of an alien earth.

 

                                                1970

 

*

 

at evening

shadows link arms, dance

away from the sun:

 

            goodbye my straight treetrunks

            my broad housefronts

            my polished windows glinting

            in answer

 

            goodbye my

            children I have never

            seen

                                                                                    1970

 

 

*

 

 

 

O and to answer

one absence

I would have dragged all things down

by the long hair of their shadows

at sunset.

 

                                                1970

 

*

 

RAINIER PARK. RUTHIE

 

Dogtooth violets, spitting

saffron out of a whiteness

thumbed back

by a concupiscent sun.

 

We danced on the spreading

page of the snowslope

like blinded letters. Then spots

with sight, and a brown earth

glistening, and the pasqueflowers

in fisted shoots like tiny

towheaded children

butting upwards.

 

In your green shift, old shoes, you

ran toward me beside the glacier:

sun-poppet, infant

priestess, your limbs turned

in a dazzle of spruce.

 

                                                1970

 

 

*

 

 

Mother, where did you bury

the cat?

You wouldn't take her to a pet cemetery,

you've too much class for that.

 

Nor would you plant on the grave

catnip and morning-glory;

I hear you say, "They're only

animals -- we mustn't grieve --"

 

You take a shovel

down to the yard's end,

pat it level,

careful

not to stare in.

 

                                                1970

 

*

 

CURSE

 

A darkness,

the most silent of waters,

in the jug whose mouth is open

expressionless.

 

The eyes in this head: black holes

where the world went through.

 

Why I am sad,

daylight, is

none of your

business.

 

Cruelly

that bird sharpens his song

before dawn, in November.

 

Now over its own autumns

the blood crouches.

 

Black hands of the east,

hold back the sun's head

behind the mountains.

 

Hollow I come, from the hole

in the hollow wind.

 

                                    Buffalo, 1971

 

I strove with my steps towards one

who overtook me.  My child

was in the world

before me.

 

                                                1971

 

 

IMPRIMATUR

 

"If all may buy,

then some may read,

sighed the Fly.

 

Spider smirked, "Indeed,

no reason why

the flies shouldn't read.

 

                                                                        1971

 

 

*

 

EARTHWAKE

 

                            in memory of Paul Celan

 

1.

 

All winter the scholars

kept their houses,

went out rarely, discussed

"the death of literature."

Ash of predictions kept sifting

into the bread;

trees, turned to stone, stood

in a stone-eating sky.

 

No yeasty poems poured

through the open doors of libraries

that cancelled equinox,

though midnights babbled of a tongue

torn out like a telephone cord

before all metronomes ended.

 

Then there was July:

along streets with their new constructions,

glass and concrete --

matter itself gone grey

and blank with pain

like the face of a clubbed peasant

telephotoed from Asia.

 

 

2.  (Shore Rocks at Corea)

 

Pegmatites. Over this edge:

ice-cataracts, then as now

unheard.

 

 

Under our feet,

exposed, the granules,

the quartzes, the feldspars, grown to eye-size,

stopped against sight.  Sea urchins'

bequeathed fragilities, gull-strewn,

blanched from their patterns.  The tide-pools:

green algae glares to the cloud.

 

Tidings, O tiny

far-traveled tsunami, here

curl to simile, die in the unrecorded

surf-gardens: a mind,

stranded and stemmed against absence,

beats in itself.

 

Cross-currents, there, the times

race through each other, kanntet

ihr mich --

 

3. VAE V--

 

I rock a grief far older than my heart,

like a pale relic in the mortal shrine:

many are they who pause here, kneel and depart,

to view this pride, which I cannot call mine.

I would not have suspected how your name

fits every grief, rings in each evening note,

this reach of dusk is quiet with your fame,

the clocks of autumn have your runes by rote --

 

What poultice now, of plaster or concrete,

could ever stanch that singing wound of song?

Ah, on all stages where poor slaves repeat

the lying, barbarous words, the ancient wrongs,

over the scene your cyphers now appear:

in these signs the cries shall be made clear.

 

4.

 

"Beyond humankind --"

Have you a smooth sheet of white paper

wide as the galaxy,

a pen of stars to write with?

Can you see this miniature earth, like the paperweight

on Montale's desk, with its distant

dark-red flicker of inferno?

No need now to hear the cries:  we are burning --

even the tears you gave

could not quench our greed.

 

5.

 

This be thy journey's lore,

after all,

whom praise cannot restore

nor grief recall:

we mourn one, when we mourn for all.

Mourning one, we mourn for all,

in mourning we recall

and in recalling, praise,

and praise shall all restore

after all:

these be our works and days.

 

 

6.

 

Friends, if you wander among stones again,

cast not the dice, lift not your hands for rain,

carve clearer runes upon the gates of hell:

Earth, hold this kindly, for one loved you well.

                                                             

                                                                                    1970-71

 

*
















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