INTERLUDE:  A VIEW OF THE HARBOR (SEATTLE 1971-1972)

 

NOUVELLES CHIMERES (I)

 

 1. Dulcinea

 

Falcon, fly where you will! I know the way:

A feather, a drop of blood each thousand-year,

And I'll find out your track in oceans drear,

And steer through all the dolphin-crowded bays.

Though but a leaf, a snake, a bird betray

Which way you turned, surmising no one near,

Yet I will climb to where your eagles veer

And sing your star at morning and noonday --

 

Dawn breaks.  I feel the movement of the wind,

I stand on peak or on wave-cleaving prow,

Foam-, cloud-white garments flutter out behind.

Image of victory, en route from one

Show to the next -- the waves like barkers run --

But if I live or not, I do not know.

 

 

2. Giovanni

 

Look on the mirror which I hold for you,

Not on my face, which is not fair to see:

It is the dark waste where no man may be,

The wandering tomb, the sprig of withered rue.

Donít look behind you, as the poets do,

Else my reflection never shall you see,

But this time, please, refrain from killing me:

If is my false reflection that is true.

 

Yes, that mirage along the ashen curve

of hill, called by my name: it is the light

That now is faded from a poor man's face

Coming to meet you where the highway swerves,

The road, the crumpled wreckage sinks from sight,

And you are rising into light's blind space.

 

 

 

3. Legend

 

Yes, there dwells a monster in this stone,

But you shall slay him.  Enter without fear.

The inward path you shall find out alone,

After the deed the outward way lies clear.

Above the door there hangs a spiderweb,

But brush it not aside as you go by;

See in your hollow hand the ball of thread:

Arachne, Ariadne -- it is I.

 

It is the castle of enchambered Grief.

Enchanted songs in jeweled silence stand

Along the walls, and stare with strangersí eyes,

But in the vaults there grows the herb Belief.

Descend, and pluck it with a reverent hand,

And in the joy of manly stature rise.

 

 

 

 

4. Proserpina

 

I am the bee that plies the fallow rose,

Yet nonetheless my motherís name bear I:

Call it not harsh though many summers die,

Though many times the hollow petals close

Before the nightingale bleeds to the thorn

A sigh of embers wasted in the night

Because the watchful votaress was not born:

All hovers in this humming of the light.

 

I sing the pain of her who bore me, and

lay long in darkness, dreamed me lost for good,

Of him who long ago, with trusting hand

Laid on the world, touched stone and missed the wood:

The shining letters on the Darkened Light -

I kiss them, as he kissed the words, good night.

 

5.

 

BE DAVID, not Actaeon; for the hounds

That kenneled near Diana's spring have fled,

They howl around Goliath's feet instead;

It is the iron, and not the wood, resounds.

Artemis' magic fails. Her orb still rounds

And shrinks, but moonlight in the streets lies dead.

Scarred is the sacred face with impious tread:

Therefore the tides of hell have burst hell's bounds,

 

And fiercely bright and ominous dawns this day.

See there a forest shrine: the votaress

Comes out to greet the traveler on his way

Toward meetings darkened to a woman's guess --

Desiring but to hear a tale, and bless

Some hero's arms against the oncoming fray.

 

 

 

6.

 

IS IT THEN TRUE: that he must wander hell

And I in rainless heavens count the rains

That fall on earth's dark furrows, and still in vain

Bind the dark land with many a healing-spell?

What echoes will I hear from that deep well?

To hold the star that lights that ear of grain

My hand grows cold; and will that crust of pain

Wash to the sky-shore as a perfect shell?

 

No; I am exiled to a puppet-show,

Mocked with a name, gloved to a mad ghost-hand,

Imputed to a voice I do not know

And gesturing what men will not understand:

Yet I will sing, though I see never again

The eternal smile between the poles of pain.

 

 

7. Chiaroscura

 

I ask for sleep, that I may wake again,

Not stare a madness into gentle eyes,

Not as a torrent shall this sorrow rise,

But clear the wine of night be poured for men.

They donít know what theyíre doing, don't see how

The threads as tangling between lip and tongue,

They have not thought of how the night was wrung

To free the trembling orb that rises now.

 

This thread will hold, wound upon spools of stone,

Those hands will read the patterns which we weave,

This night shall last until the work be done,

These words shall be the grain, shall be the sieve.

We shall not treat with Time.  We shall not die.

Blind to the end, we pass the Ancient Eye.

 

                                                                        1971

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

POST-

PENTECOST

depression:

on the beast-

forehead the black

fingermark of inferno,

bitter was the taste in my mouth,

bitter the tongue.

                                                                        1971

 

*

 

LA MAISON DE LA POETESSE

 

                                                            for Janine

 

1.

 

Windchimes converse above the lintel,

she is not home.

In the yard fallen plums

small moons eclipse into the soil

under pale weeds.

Within are seashells,

cool stones and a round clock

paying off the silence.

On the porch

two cats will preside

over their shadows until

sundown.

 

 

2.

 

This night

police sirens lash round the block.

We're cut off.

Inundated --

the brambles of your harpsichord

like a birdcage

caught in the ocean.

 

This lantern, this bunker,

this stone sticks

in the throat of that wind.

The light on the chair-arm says

all tunnels end here.

 

 

3.

 

Morning opens

one eye.  The cottage

hauled up like a fishtrap

 

darkness draining

 

 

4.

 

Cats,

sleeping

deserts,

 

stretching

 

to motion, the

sand-dunes, feeding

themselves to, receiving

themselves from

 

a wind

these eyes

inhabit.

 

                                    Berkeley 1971

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

IN IRONS

 

I sailed once, in a dream, off distant coves:

Fair was the day, bright emerald was the sea

And glittered; yet whichever way we drove

It seemed the wind came round and thwarted me.

After a time I saw upon the plain

Sails scattered, which did beat and run and reach

To every compass-point, yet none did gain:

That wind, false in itself, played false to each.

Then I beheld -- what terrified me more --

We could not move; but the green scudding floor

Was moving with us, dragging toward some ledge,

And vast jaws rose to snatch from the sea's edge

The frail ships, while a great voice without sound

Beat on the sky: "Fools! Fools! The world is round!"

 

                                                                                                                                                1971

 

 

*

 

SONGS MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME

 

I recall the time your mother got for her birthday

a doll, dressed in the prettiest clothes,

which a friend of her mother had taken weeks to make,

with finished seams, delicate embroideries,

bonnet and sash, collar all trimmed with lace,

and the first thing your mother did was to take the clothes

off the doll, and put them on the cat,

who leaped to the windowsill, dived, and was never heard from again.

 

I remember also how a friend of your father's family

arrived as a guest, after a day's riding,

and before he had even dismounted somebody asked him

"When are you going to go home?"

"Right now!" he answered, and gave the spurs to his horse,

and that was the last they ever saw of him.

That was how I learned to ask always "How long can you stay?"

 

"But what of the doll?"  "Oh, the doll by itself

was nothing special . . ."

Forever, sphered in your recollected voice,

Great-grandmother leans, horrified, out of the window,

wondering what on earth she will tell Mrs. Himady,

while Grandmother cries in fright and because an action

in the logic of play has had such consequences,

and the friends stand with arms and mouths agape,

staring at the retreating dustcloud, hearing the hoofbeats

fall over the edge of dismay,

and Uncle Al, who saved his money for fireworks

and on the dawn of the Fourth sneaked out to light just one,

and the whole bag caught fire,

remains transfixed in the rockets' day-bleached glare,

the sputter of snakes, backfiring roman candles,

while the family windows, blooming with sleep and astonishment,

behold him, not magnifico, but fool.

 

What is it clamps on laughter

like felted hammers, a glove from behind, Mother?

What is it neither pity nor time repairs?

 

                                                                        1971

 

*

 

CASCADE PASS

 

Late. The mountain wall

already dams huge shadows.

Along the roads bright autumn

poised like a diver.

 

Step off the trail: frostfire clings to weedstalks.

A small transparent fly

grips, rigid as a yogi,

the whitehaired nub, the tiny late composite.

Flick the resinous stalk, he'll scarcely stir.

 

Something is barking

on the opposite slope, where the white

soiled glacial tongues loll down.

You eye tastes their cold.

At your feet one woolybear has haste.

 

The trail is marked but you'll

not follow it to the end.

That repeated, toneless whistle:

a signal to winter, not meant to be overheard.

 

                                                                        1971

 

 

*

 

HE HAS GONE to live in a continent

of his own making: the past.

 

All those years he held up his eye,

that obsidian lens by  which

the dark was focused.

 

In the sky-split tunnels he walked,

in the Ile de la Cite,

in the blackened rose.

On the dark walls Israeli slogans

flashed their survival.

 

He picked up broken glass

in No-Man's-Land, where the voices

still came seeping.

 

And the words formed:

a sandstone

with the ripplemarks of his brain.

 

Now you may tease the earth with roses --

she will not speak of him.

 

 

                                                1971

 

 

*

 

BALLAD

 

Strange word, strange word was spoken

About my christening:

She will marry the Kingfisher,

The Fisher-king.

 

My mother wrapped me closely

In pain and fear,

She kept from me the story

I must not hear,

 

Her eyes whispered the meanings

I dared not think,

And ever she would draw me

From the well's brink!

 

When I was grown they sent me

To a starless plain

Where never ran the river

Nor fell the rain,

 

No joy was there in waking,

No rest in sleep,

All night beneath my eyelids

Cold tears would seep.

 

One day where I was walking

The earth cracked apart,

And water gushed, as the blood springs

From a struck heart.

 

Pure and clear was that water

As the light of day!

I knelt down in the desert,

To drink, or pray --

 

I know not; but beneath me

There in the spring

Was the face of the Kingfisher,

The Fisher-king.

 

Now Mother, put by your laces,

Your silver veils,

And tell you beads no longer,

For their magic fails.

 

Sisters, sisters, make bright your spinning,

For the time has come

For the moon to stand shining

Before the sun:

 

Aye, with a crown of water,

With a river-ring,

I have married the Kingfisher,

The Fisher-king.

 

                                                            1971-2

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

DEVIL'S TRAIN

 

My father was an honest man,

He rode the devilís train.

At the window high I saw him stand,

Saying, "When will we meet again, dear man,

When will we meet again?"

 

He said, "Dear girl, I do not know,

You way is long and hard.

Remember that I loved you so --

Remember who you are, my child,

Remember who you are."

 

And in a year there came a man,

He drove up to my door.

He said "I've news going to make you sad,

Your father won't come no more, my child,

Your father won't come no more."

 

He said, "Climb in and drive with me

To a land that's green and fair."

I said, "Before I go with thee,

Tell me is my father there, good man,

Tell me is my father there?"

 

He looked at me and shook his head

As if to answer, "No."

"Then you must leave me now," I said,

"To my father I must go, good man,

To my father I must go.

 

"My father is an honest man,

He rides the devil's train.

I intend to follow through this land

Until we meet again, dear man,

Until we meet again."

 

                                                            1972

 

 

 

*

 

 NOUVELLES CHIMERES (II)

 

 1.

 

Aye, stuff your pipe and lean back in your chair,

Tell me once more that it is sweet to live,

Although the bees starve in the stifling hive,

Although the angels shudder in their sphere,

Although my ancient name is made a jeer,

Although the buzz-saws shriek in all my groves,

That eye is pierced that sought my eyes with love,

That voice is choked that called me more than fair --

 

No, not my tender eyes nor my fair face

I weep, whom love's name lured here to the knife:

I weep the spilt seed and the tangled wit.

I brought the silver of my lord's sweet life

That they might gladly take, who gave him praise,

And this they said to me: Look thou to it.

 

 

2.

 

Thou who didst whisper through my earliest night,

Who held'st me fast when all else cast me out,

Mad'st soft for me a bed in thine own blight,

Gav'st the rose refuge in the shrine of Doubt:

The silence of my prayers shall never cease

To plead thy love, and to beweep thy dearth:

Cassocks may speak of victory and release,

I cannot but beweep thee, being earth.

O I have dreamed that we might meet again,

Though but to lay my hand against thy breast

And take my share of the unending pain

To know not all I was could bring thee rest --

And thou art not! I cannot say: Thou'rt free --

Thou wert my soul; O hadst thou peace in me...

 

                                                           

 

3.

 

"Rest, rest, perturbed spirit --" I might betray,

But this my sorrow speaks, and she is just:

There's not an item in this world's display

To check one tear from falling on thy dust.

The wide world wears that heart, those eyes no more --

Before what vacant mirrors should I pace?

Call me no better than the frightened whore;

At the dull eyes whose blindness quenched thy light

I stand unknown and by the years defaced.

 

And yet -- if words have voice to make this known,

If tears have virtue yet to cleanse men's sight,

Then -- the world young once more, and I a crone,

The passing stranger in the street might see

Whose friend I was -- and thus remember me.

 

 

4.                                                        

 

No, I am not Cassandra, though I gave

not to Apollo that which women give;

A hand outstretching held me from the grave,

And at the forked road's side a voice cried: Live.

Further I heard him cawing from the sky,

"Tell them a fair beast's carrion lies and reeks

Upon their plains; this let them quickly seek,

For he who will not eat of it must die!"

That is my news.  I am the Death of Time,

A dryad whom the dead tree took to wife;

This world's account, forged in your fortunes' chime,

Lies as a sword between me and my life --

Blessed is he who calls my rightful name!

He shall undo those paths by which I came.

 

                                   

 

5. Ismene

 

Sister, upon whose lips, as upon mine,

Drifted the coldest kiss, the saddest name,

Put from thee with strong hand the anodyne,

Take on thy tongue the wafer of my pain.

Shall all the loveliest pass, nor we regret,

Nor call Lament to mend the rent i' the air?

Sweeter is this than all we are like to get

From this dulled world, that will not say: Thou art fair.

Teach man to weep again, and call the dead!

For there be gods among them; shall these wait

Till we have nibbled the last moldy bread

And the last empty doorframe cry "Too late"?

Know: he who lay beside me, in the tomb,

Took from my neck a chain of tongueless doom.       

 

*
















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