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 (?)







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.









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!








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.






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.





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?








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.








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.







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.






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.






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.









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.








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.








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



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








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.









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.









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.






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.






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.








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.


they will stay.








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.








I would enter your door

like a ray of light

falling on something already

in your possession.


                                                late 1966 (from memory)






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.







Angel, on the neutral

asteroid of our meeting

we touch

and our long

journeys tremble behind us

like wings.






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









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.








                        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.









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.



without footbridge, banks

without water, the ghost-boat

ferries projections,


the railroad tracks

rear up, in a landscape

Euclidean, without








                                    Ein Wort: du weisst:

                                    eine Leiche.


                                                            Paul Celan



Then shut her eyes,

batten them down

and make for her earrings out of these dead



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


for the stone birds to build in.



They found on the threshold

that day

a mouth opened


and on the tongue was laid

the flat stone

of a voiceless word.


Voices in hollow

sky-corridors, noiseless

changing of empty hinges,

wind --




-- 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


fragile, like snakeshells from

the dust-

uttering mouth:




waters move

in the stone



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


over there, the words fuse

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








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








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.








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.








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!








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.








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


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











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



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






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









Isolde held the falcon's fire


mother grandmother great-grandmother


paysanne blonde de Touraine  lacemaker

                        whitehand weaving the lace

            trying I am trying to finish this


                                    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




            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



o lords o ladies fair

dance now in this fair fire

a courtly dance



            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


               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



            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






that we shall burn

                        the fat dripping off our nerve-ends

and pain ravish every

                                    brain-center, all love concept faith word all



cry shame    shame



            then said that lady

                        standing there

            go and find

                                    my jester's skull

                                    and tell

            in youth I did love

            did love








                                                            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


with the ultimate X ray vision

can you see



. . .


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



(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



they're singing








                        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








                        (on a painting by Lucas van Leyden)




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



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.








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






                                                                                                            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.








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.







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).


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 --



over our path, an oak,

Beethovenian, maintained

its massive







something vast

and imperceptible


out of the space between

sill and lintel of the horizon


that is where

you came from










Whether alone or far from water,

stick your key in the masonry


your question.






Noises of demolition subside:

move in

to a space structured by absence


there where the shelf was

take down some book,



                        outside the roses still tangle,

                        the creepers' silencing hands,

shadows move upward


then sleep

or wake, in the suspended



warmed by that hearth's

scattered ashes


or the fires deep in the earth









under the leaning weeds

at the yard's end, they said, your





shorn rays, the colors

solitudes of descending

sun on old planets







red sun

under frost crystals


colors come out of things

darkness draws into them


the window

a wound's edge





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






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








things shiver in themselves

as in mirrors

and i a space between



a statement to be multiplied







it is one and

falls apart








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







A star, which I

twisted of plantain bark, now

figures in

your name.







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







each day the light's retraction

makes of us islands

the days like ice-floes driven


beside us the others


gaped open in readiness

for the resumption of sight


in a cup at the hearth the final

elixir extinguished


breathing bent survival

of an enclosed wing







A young man with a smooth forehead

beneath which the eyes hide

like small animals under rocks

out in the country.







Facade: where the wind stood


like soft gray buds in stone

the pigeon bodies stirred.


The pigeon voices' winter

chisels chipped

a gradual light,

the abandoned quiet





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"







an ache words cannot raise


sky and the

earth its template

joined steeled with still




those frail

levers of weightless horizons






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


in regression forward

inside the shock of speed











incline your ear



the infinite untouched

texture of your listening

between utterance

and silence









Do our words mean

when we do not mean



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.



the inaudible


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 . . .








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.










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.









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.








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.






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









O and to answer

one absence

I would have dragged all things down

by the long hair of their shadows

at sunset.








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.








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,


not to stare in.








A darkness,

the most silent of waters,

in the jug whose mouth is open



The eyes in this head: black holes

where the world went through.


Why I am sad,

daylight, is

none of your




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.







"If all may buy,

then some may read,

sighed the Fly.


Spider smirked, "Indeed,

no reason why

the flies shouldn't read.









                            in memory of Paul Celan




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




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.




"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.




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.





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.





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