ROBERT GLEN DEAMER



 

Robert Glen Deamer was born in Rochester, Indiana, and grew up in a nearby farming community.  He holds a B.A. from Wabash College (1962) and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of New Mexico (1972).  In 1978, he was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for "Literature and Culture in Nineteenth-Century America."  Dr. Deamer has published a scholarly book, The Importance of Place in the American Literature of Hawthorne, Thoreau, Crane, Adams and Faulkner (1990), as well as other essays on American culture.  His vision of American culture is reflected in his four volumes of poetry:  Place-Dream and Other Poems (Mellen Poetry Press, 1991 and 2004), The Black Riders and Other Poems (Mellen, 1992), Sugarloaf: Poems (Mellen, 1995), and Songs for Sugarloaf (Mellen, 1997, 2003).   Dr. Deamer works as a humanist with patients at Oaklawn Psychiatric Center.

 

from PLACE-DREAM AND OTHER POEMS (1991, 2004)

 

MARILYN

 

1

 

Quiet and shy, dark of hair and dark of eye,

Kind and good – she lived down a lane and by a wood.

 

2

 

At a small school she soft-seriously smiled

(I look-listened) of her shameful neglect of Latin:

Soft-dark charms, and too too white arms.

 

3

 

Now down a country road, near a wood and by a field,

A small graveyard and a grave-Stone may be found:

To her gentleness life suffered no shield,

To her hopes it gave only the ground.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

PLACE-DREAM: TO ELENY

 

New was the country. New were you.

Two– it's true– no longer two.

 

Boys rode small donkeys

Pulling wooden-wheeled carts

High-filled with sugar cane;

Gypsies blazed and danced on bright plazas,

And sold hand-crafted pans;

Solemn stone churches,

Circled by stark prophets' statues,

Stood on purple-green hills;

Shy girls served us breakfast in secluded villas;

Peasants drank by candlelight in country bars.

 

Fog-lost, soul-found, at midnight,

We wound down mountain roads:

Discovered inland villages:

Drank coffee at numberless roadside restaurants:

Found beaches by the sea.

 

A soft, voluble, musical strange language surrounded me.

Waves washed on white-sand shores.

Water fell from secret falls.

 

Yes, I met you in a new country,

A story never old:

Life – like you– a vibrant blaze of being,

Its beauty still untold.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

STEPHEN-SONG

 

Chant you loud of his Irony’s black bitterness,

Of the Fates’ barbarous punishments,

Of Fame’s envy-fierce ice-sword,

Of his creditors’ crushing revenge.

 

Then sing I of the supple-souled Stephen

Who charged at the Fates.

– The strong, strong Fates –

– And the supple-souled Stephen –

 

 

--------------------

 

 

PLACE-SONG

 

Walden and Quincy,

May you ever stand strong as symbols,

Shaming us with purity, with principles,

With truth, with perennial youth

And Hester too, in the dark forest too,

Wonder-given, reverently given to great Nature's

All-embracing bright wildness –

And the Merrimack too, and Henry and John,

And Nature's eternal dusk and dawn.

 

– More: May my own river ever flow through me too, the Tippecanoe.

I've spent as much time there, Henry, as you

On the New England streams;

And we have a sandy bottom here too,

I must tell you,

And our shores are not without Indian

Arrowheads; and Time's current here too is thin

As a wren's wing;

And like you I'm not much for fishing:

There's more at stake,

Like wildness and dreaming awake.

 

– And, Henry, there are more deer than ever here in Fulton County.

I saw a white-tailed drove immortally leaping

Across crop-sheared fields, just north of the river,

As I drove last evening on U.S. 31, carefully keeping

My car at the proper,

Legal speed.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

OF SPURS AND BROWNIE

 

Now as I was sitting saddle-high on Brownie,

Down by the creek,

Wearing my straight-brimmed, string-tied cowboy hat

And my small red stirrup-inserted cowboy boots

To which I had just attached

Bright shining new plastic spurs,

Such spurs cried for sharp quick legendary

Gallop-inspiring, outlaw-chasing skillful new use on Brownie:

 

Wherewith did I find myself flying

High, heels over head, over Brownie's own head, and falling

Hard on the Ground before I saw Ground.

 

Suddenly, then, did I perceive Brownie

As a person –

And have thanked her

Indeed, over the years, numberless times,

For that astonishing

Tumble.

 

--------------------

 

 

RIVER-SONG: TO ERIC

 

Last night the River said to me:

 

Back off! Back off! Put your son's spirit

Through no more Testings, Trials, Expectations.

As if American Society itself will fail

To shower him with such treasures,

And mightly try to turn the swift current

Of his Being

Into a dull sluggish channel

Or a black back-water hollow.

 

Pray rather for his soul's bright Wildness.

And may it break wherever it may,

Be it sometimes even on a father's heart.

May he ever amaze – may he ever confound –

The hired pedagogue, the corporate paragon.

May he crash, may he smash, may he fiercely fight on!

 

And may his Spirit ever stay a bright mountain Stream

– Rushing, white, filled with light –

At one with the hawk and the mountain lion.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

RIDING-SONG

 

(For Stephen, and Eleny, and Eric)

 

A black rider too, O let me be:

What else is there to make me free?

Last night it was vivid – yes vivid, and livid:

I rode for my life;

I rode for my wife

(She knew it was true:

She smile-waved at me too);

And high on a blue mountain

I saw my own son.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

 

OF WOMEN, AND MEN

 

There is a female principle in the universe.

It is called Reality.

(And what after all can be Sacred

If not that which is real?)

Do not expect reality to be continuously kind

To you.

We are talking life-principle, life-force,

Life-energy, life-joy: Beauty, passional Belief,

Creativity, sensual-emotional-aesthetic Fecundity,

Bright, blazing Wildness, and fierce, unrepentant Freedom.

You will not find this in your lovey-dovey honey-honey:

 

But oh, how craven men do try!

 

 

--------------------

 

 

STEPHEN'S SHIP

 

Oh, that ship of love shall

Leave a far waste of waters, Stephen,

No doubt about it, a far waste of black sad lost waves

Softly lashing

"For long and in loneliness."

 

And those rich beautiful heartless vain Eastern girls

– Helen and Lily and Nellie –

How calmly, how cruelly, could they stare you

Into invisibility

With their conceited slighting sightless eyes.

 

And Amy, poor thing, was insane.

And Cora in "Intrigue"

Is your leaden doom.

 

But there was morning-loving young Willa – out in the West!

Recklessly wonder-given to you,

Desperate to know your heart, your soul

Knowing them even –

Breathlessly hanging on your every word.

 

So what I want to know then is–

Why did you not give that wondrous,

Brave, bright-souled, deep-hearted Western girl

Her chance?

 

 

--------------------

 

 

ON BEING SELF-MADE

 

It is time to get Time

Turning in upon

Itself

 

– As it does in any case

– Like Space.

 

Do you think that Walden’s ripples,

Ocean waves, or the rhythms

Of a Corn Dance at Zia

Are for nothing?

 

And only success-bent soul-spent modern men,

In the astonishing impiety

Of their amazing conceit,

Have decided they can be

Self-made.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

WAGES FOR STEPHEN

 

But, Stephen – since when does life have wages?

What's your soul – what's freedom – for,

If not to find life's wonder?

You, "nervous as a race horse," courageously were seeking

Life's sacred creative energies:

As you well knew – and Willa too.

So why pour out all that unseemly unmanly silly bitterness

On bright, life-thirsting, Western-souled young Willa?

– Just because the mail failed to bring your money that night! –

Willa really life's wages – as you should have known.

Eastern fashion-dress as you told her yourself mere scurf of life.

 

And did not Willa's love of horses equal yours?

And why then did you not ask her about horses?– about ranches? –

You who went West to "see a cowboy ride" ?

 

– And more Willa-like life just then blowing your way!

– San Antonio and Mexico and mesquite and mountains and mystic, silent Mexican Indians!

– And a tranquilly lively little horse smoking you across morning-damp, day-breaking Mexican plains!

 

And what were those lines?

What were those lines from The Black Riders

That you repeated to Willa out there in Lincoln?

"It is not fine for gods to menace fools"?

I think you must have quoted that,

Of your own life's bitter battle,

Of your own "tiny throes and struggles."

I shall hope you quoted, too, the piece defending

Your defiant brave striving

For greatness –

And the one showing the right-stance

Of war in our life-struggle.

 

And I know you failed Willa

If you did not recite

The wild excitement of those wild riders

Rushing upon the wind

From the raging sea.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

LOVE-TIME

 

Oh, yes, yes, it is bright-true!

My sight, rose-hue, it was of You.

Time then was made free-wheeling:

My true Time is my feeling.

It takes my very soul from me –

Your purple dress, your perfect knee.

And time will break before we break:

I love you for your lovely sake.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

TRUTH AND POETRY

 

You can’t write Poetry out of a lie.

If you think you can, you’re welcome to try.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

LOSS

 

Leaving is she,

Lilting away,

Dark and slight,

Long flowing dark hair,

Deep haunting dark eye,

Swift and slight

And silent-eyed,

 

Shadow-swift

In silent dark night.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

LOVE, DOOM, PRAYER

 

"Even to the edge of doom" – oh, yes!

 

But let doom stay – so, ever, do I pray:

Stay its long – long way away.

 

Here, too, in eternity’s

Moment grant that we stay:

 

– Lithe lilting white arms;

– Bright lilting white voice:

 

White arms:

(Gods whisper envy, amaze);

White voice:

Gods pause to rejoice.

 

 

--------------------

 

from THE BLACK RIDERS AND OTHER POEMS (1992)

THE BLACK RIDERS

 

We are riding down, oh down! into darkness:

Wildly riding, fiercely charging

Into the black

Night ahead –

 

We can hear the furious surf,

We can feel the sleeting wind,

We are armed for the fight:

 

And then, Stephen then --

Tell me then:

 

Shall there be no delight

In that black – black night?

 

 

------------------------

 

 

THE BLACK ROCKS

 

Black wet cold rocks

Down by a raging sea:

Being’s my being

And I am meant to be.

 

---------------------

 

 

SACRALITY

 

The nerves of God;

Gray-blue jags of lightnings flashing

In my heart.

 

---------------------

 

 

A MODERNITY

 

You reeking arrogance of disbelief

You steeled in irony at all things

You for whom the bough has no leaf

You for whom the Tree never sings

 

---------------------

 

 

WESTERING SONG (3)

 

Oh, David, I am here headed south

On four-lane 31,

Doing right around 60,

Off to my workaday day.

 

With windows and vents wideopen,

Smelling soybeans and corn,

And sometimes trees’ leaves,

At one place even pines,

And sometimes,

And best of all, hay:

 

And trying, trying, trying, I say,

To work through that "great and cruel sloughing":

 

And tight, tight, tight upon me,

I tell you,

 

Is that Old Skin.

 

 

----------------------

 

 

VIOLIN

 

You can argue with my Words

– Yes, Words

Will get us no Where –

 

But never can you argue

With my Body:

 

When you see

My Body

Stripped down, thinned down,

"Rasped down exactly to a shaving"

– Like Thoreau’s own Cremona Violin –

 

Then will you see

– Inarguably –

My striving to dream

Some music within

Life’s magic Violin.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

TO HENRY

 

My Mind

Is rasping down

My Body

 

– Yes down, quite down –

 

Descending

Into my Body,

As you say,

And redeeming

It.

 

--------------------

 

 

WAR-SONG (2)

 

So what do you suppose

My mind

Descends into my body for?

Thins down, strips down, rasps down

My body for?

 

Wonder ye no more:

It is for War.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

ORLEY-SONG

 

Bring him back, bring him back,

If ever you can,

Bring him back right now:

Orley, my Orley,

My energy-

Bursting boistrous deep-voiced

Life-loving man:

 

A voice so deep

It shall toll through your sleep:

 

Full of dusk, full of day,

Full of fresh rich hay:

 

(Drowning, oh yes, any tractor, hay-bailer,

Or grain elevator).

 

Then body, too – then heartiness, too:

How they answered – oh, fully!

That deep strength of voice!

(Could the spindly little Chalmers

Match his mettle?)

 

And what were body and what were voice

But soul that rejoiced? --

At health, at strength, at breath, at sweat? –

At hot heavy sticky arm-stinging sweet-smelling hay?

 

So now as I drive daily by

These wood-bordered fields

– Now winter stubble, now summer hay –

I look and I wonder,

And I can almost say:

 

Orley, is it you?

 

 

--------------------

 

 

OPEN GRAVE

 

Yes, I did it, yes I lay

Right there, right there all flat

On my back,

All fully, all dumbly

Laid

To rest on the stark

Floor of that fresh-delved

Deep damp dark, black-dirt dark

Open grave

 

In the small square weather-beaten cemetery

Up on the crest of the hill

North of the creek

Running by

Our large square white two-story

Farmhouse:

 

Earth smelling as rich – oh, yes, rusk-like

(So give me, then, this day my daily bread)

As fresh-plowed fields.

Orange-yellow sunbeams slanting,

Barely slanting,

Across dire black-green edges

Of the mouth of the grave,

And hard, close and hard, all down my back

The wet cold of the black

Grave's bed.

 

(I must have been five or six:

It was not a fine experience.)

 

 

--------------------

 

 

A LIFE OF FIRE (2)

 

You, Stephen, were then on fire,

Throbbing, burning with creative desire,

With your heroic boyish brave

"Ardent admiration and desire,"

An undying desire

To –

"Build up."

 

But –

"No talent,

No equipment"?

 

Oh, plenty of these!

 

And an astounding toughness

Of character too

That would see you through:

 

See you through hunger, see you through cold,

And give your talent its chance

 

As you stood desperately ready

To "eat

The front door."

 

 

--------------------

 

 

WHY STEPHEN STRIVES

 

My Lord, there are certain barbarians

Whom we shall call Miss Helen Trent

And whom we shall call Mrs. Lily Brandon Munroe

Who tilt their noses

As if the stars were flowers,

And Thy servant is as a beaten cut cur

At their white lovely feet.

 

Fain would I have their radiant cruel eyes

Confess a greatness in me.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

FOOTNOTE TO LOVE LETTER

 

Yes, Stephen, you did something:

You wrote a book:

 

And whatever, dear boy,

Could have made you think that Lily

Would care?

 

 

--------------------

 

 

THE BLACK RIDERS, LXI

 

There was a chorus girl, oh young!

Named Dora Clark

("Why, she was really handsome,

You know, and she had hair –

Red hair – dark red –"

Who wrongly – wrongly was accused

Of sin.

Then did one Stephen Crane stand

With her.

As upon her head, so upon his,

Fell blow and blow,

And all people screaming, "Fool!"

 

He was a brave heart.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

HOW PLACE IS LOST

 

In "Improvement,"

In high-heaped prosperity,

In Progress –

In relentless, merciless

Ever-

Accelerating pioneering –

In mind-driven, male-driven

Profane

American westering

 

There is

Less and less of any living sense

Of place.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

NELLIE CHALLENGES STEPHEN:

THE BLACK RIDERS, XL

 

When she asked you that, Stephen –

When she asked you in your love

Letters to be

"more plain" –

What she really

Meant was,

 

Did you love her?

Love her – as love loves?

 

Were you ready

To deny,

Forget, ignore,

Repudiate

You own vibrant tight-stretched rushing soul,

Your own passionate blazing creative

Life:

Your obsession with War,

With Life-as-War,

Repudiate

Your bright burning drive

To fight,

To fight and write:

To write your fight?

 

Would you dare,

For her,

To leave all this

(She is frankly asking)?

 

And could all, for her,

Be lost

"Save thought of love

"And place to dream"?

 

 

--------------------

 

 

AMERICAN WOMAN: A SALUTATION

 

Nature

Every dusk and day

Does out-grace

The steely Winner’s smile

Upon your face.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

You tell me this is success?

I tell you this is a two-story house,

A large wardrobe, and a smirking man.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

 

from SUGARLOAF (1995)

 

TO ELENY

 

O downy lithe smooth girl from lush tropical home,

Such a lovely strange language as is yours alone –

Wine-drenched rich hushing purple-hued soft syllables

From the sun-drunken South –

And how you do trill them, how you do thrill them,

From your full luscious Mouth!

 

 

--------------------

 

 

 

SING, MY SOUL

 

Sing, my soul

E’en till thy string

May snap –

 

Sing, my soul

E’en till thy throat

May bleed –

 

Sing, my soul

Of thy downy lithe wife –

 

Sing, my soul

Of a waking dream –

 

 

--------------------

 

 

TO ELENY (2)

 

Radiant, in flaming red dress, before me stands

A lithe smooth girl from lush tropical lands

 

 

--------------------

 

 

TROPICAL GIRL: ELENY

 

Thrillingly dost thou dream to me

– O tropical girl, from the tropical sea

 

 

--------------------

 

 

UPON ELENY’S CLOTHES (2)

 

In a rose-hued purple soft dress

Of clingingness,

She is the very flaming carmine

Upon Sugarloaf Mountain.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

SONG: TO ELENY (4)

 

Mark how her full lips lilt the hours

– And how her voice is moistened flowers

 

 

--------------------

 

 

from SONGS FOR SUGARLOAF (1997, 2003)

 

To Eleny (3)

 

Voice of flowers, voice of carmine sunsets,

 

Dream Time-drenched rich hushing purple-hued soft syllables

Into the blue hushing night –

 

Voice of flowers, voice of carmine sunsets,

 

Dream Time-drenched rich hushing God-truthing soft syllables

Into my woof, my life! –

 

 

--------------------

 

 

Brasil: Eleny (3)

 

Daunting, dauntless, lustrous

Gypsy’s eyes,

 

May they all cry their wares, and die...

 

Daunting, dauntless, God-lived

Gypsy’s eyes,

 

Dance gleams of being, as I strive...

 

 

--------------------

 

 

Brasil! Eleny! (3)

 

Stark prophets’ statutes! High stone church!

Lush warm rich husht glowing purple-hued hills!

Carmine voiced alive bright dream awake girl!

Trance me into scorn of their mean transient aims.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

White River: Eleny (2)

 

O downy lithe smooth girl from white mountain streams home,

Silv’ry voiced alert bright lithe smooth dream,

 

Fain would I cherish the God-lived shining brightness

Of thy keen questing mind –

 

 

--------------------

 

 

from The Neovictorian/Cochlea, vol. VII no. 2

 

SONG OF ALMEDA

 

Cemetery sod – yes, sod . . . thick, keen, rich. . . ah, God!

Ancestral sod . . . God bless that sod!

 

And there by the river, too, the Tippecanoe.

River of my youth – youth spent there, an Island-

 

Time. I told Almeda of that Island

And by her life she’s sent that Island

Back – a life true and sincere

Beyond all modern measure

(Books and family were her soul’s treasure):

Holy as Thoreau’s . . .

 

And she sends Time deep-pulsing, too: right through

The river and the sod . . .

                                          Ah, dear my Henry –

What name for this but God? . . .

 

Almeda, dear my Almeda,

Bind me to this one dream! . . .

 

Lead me beside the quick-water . . .

 

Almeda, dear my Almeda, –

Honoured by the high-treed rich-green Island

By the high brown bank;

Honoured by the translucid keen meeting of the river

And the limpid green-minted field-keen cemetery-keen

Green keen evening-cool small stream;

Honoured by the rich blue mist over distant

Dark-green forest-edge midsummer-evening clover fields,–

High fine pure shy soft-eyed Almeda . . .

High fine pure shy soft-eyed, alone . . .

Subtle, sensitive, keen pure shy soft-eyed, knowing, alone . . .

Noble, high-thinking, taintless, awake, deep-souled, knowing,  alone . . .

Pure shy soft-eyed Almeda! –

 

Lead me beside the quick-water . . .

 

 

--------------------

 

 

LILY . . . STEPHEN . . .

 

Song 4

 

The Black Riders, XL

 

You are, then, cold coward:

 

If love loves,

There is no world

Nor word –

All is lost

Save thought of love

 

Aye; but, beloved,

When I strive to come to you

The great moon is climbing the wide keen husht night-tide blue western sky

And a long silence is brooding upon the purple gloom of the moist western plain

And the ancient fire chorus is truthing amid the lucid God-sinewed

Silver-misted vast distant blue-purple blue night-tide’s mesquite –

The keen gods’ wild keen dream-high keen holy orange-crimson

Night-tide fire chorus

Is truthing amid the lucid silver-misted vast distant God-sinewed

Blue-purple blue night-tide’s mesquite –

 

And I stand tranced before the truthing of holy places –

And I stand tranced before the calling of the lucid true West –

And I stand tranced before the Beauty that creates the world –

           And I stand pierced by wild keen creative deep God-breathed yearnings

To render Beauty into words –

 

And this stays me, beloved –

 

 

--------------------

 

 

STRIVING FOR A WOMAN

 

Song 1

 

Ah, dear my Eric,

I am bringing through,

I am striving to bring through this dark beautiful

Dark breathless alive dark-eyed dark beautiful deep woman.

I am striving to bring through this dark vital rich-voiced dark beautiful

Dusk-wooing dark breathless vibrant dark-eyed dark beautiful rich woman.

I am striving to bring through this deeply mentally ill Death-wooing

Dark beautiful uncertain bird-quick dark breathless love-reft

Black-tombs-weighted

Death-wooing dark beautiful sorrow-pierced rich-voiced

Soul-wounded deep-seeking dark beautiful rich woman.

 

Ah, dear my son! be with me, send me Godspeed,

As I strive to bring through this dark beautiful uncertain bird-quick

Love-reft dark breathless black-tombs-weighted Death-wooing soul-wounded

Dark breathless desperate rich-voiced rich woman.

 

 

--------------------

 

 

WESTERING SONG

 

Song 7

 

Stephen – ah, dear my Stephen,

Listen . . .

It is the keen gods’ wild keen dream-high fire chorus,

         It is the eternal keen holy orange-crimson fire chorus

Truthing amid the lucid God-sinewed silver-misted vast distant

Blue-purple blue night-tide’s mesquite –

 

O pale tense keen brave taintless wide-awake nearly emaciated

High-striving Stephen –

Alive to the high keen brave taintless pacing white horses –

Pacing in the distance –

Alive to the high keen brave taintless silent white horses –

Silent in the distance –

 

"You of the finer sense":

 

Stephen, my dear Stephen,

"Pervaded by the nerves of God" –

Alive to her of the white arms and the dark, slighting eyes –

Tighten into fine fierce scorn of their soul-dead contented ways –

Tighten of divineness of the fire –

Draw thy soul-cords God-tight –

Go by them in the night –