Marc Widershien, a native Bostonian, began his studies of art and music at an early age. His principal teachers–Helmut Krommer (art), Sarah Mindes Scriven and Linwood Scriven (violin)–highly influenced his thought and development. At the age of 18, he met Samuel French Morse and later John Malcolm Brinnin, studying poetics with both. Widershien has had wide experience in publishing poetry, translations, book reviews, articles, and visual art. His work is archived at SUNY Buffalo. His recent book, The Life of All Worlds, is set to go into its third printing.  Of the poems on this page, "DrumBeat," "Of Songs," and "The Crystal Lily" were first published in The Neovictorian/Cochlea.  See for more information on Widershien's life and work. 


Drumbeat       Of Songs     The Crystal Lily      The Bison Knelt     Prayer for My Mother     Morning in Babylon      Last Day in London     Elegies     April – Parkman Drive     Larz Anderson Park     The Child     Charlestown, 2000



                          In memory of Ann


It is a political year. The climate is bedded down

in dark irrational cold. I turn up the gas heater.

By noon the sun has splashed the living room windows

above the upright piano, and the music of autumn beguiles.

The leaves, impaled against the sky, seem more golden.

It is the last drum-beat of autumn on the earth.



Torrential rain. The violet iris with its yellow points

leans out of a half-filled glass. It cannot live

outside the crystal. Today rain, tomorrow rain.

The bloom cannot risk the insurgency of the season.



October 15 – the sun has gone terse

the squirrel is laid open on the country road

the fiery goldenrod has come and gone.

The season of the malcontent,

it has been an angry year.



Search for consolation.

Kneel at the altar of Jamaica Pond

and imagine it as it was a century ago

like an impression caught in a shutter,

an eternal moment out of time

that makes the current day

more bearable. Meanwhile,

the water at midday

offers up its absolution.



Stone arches of the Fenway,

a gazebo in the middle of a field

and the mystery of feet without faces walking



Is there a rebus about dying?

Nature's pictures speak

but I cannot find the voice,

my mouth is stopped by salt.

Today there is a regatta on the Charles

while a heavy storm approaches.

The rowers are in tune with the bell horn.

There is a natural rhythm to every event.

But death is undefinable.

Unleavened dreams expire on a hospital bed.



The days of autumn

are coming to an end.

The leaves are auburn mush

on the flooded roads.

Many lives are lost in torrential

rain as the bituminous clouds have

shown no mercy to the faltering breath.

There is a moment of light, however,

for every hour of distress.



The hours of pain have come to an end.

She sleeps peacefully, a white rose and a red rose

on her bosom. Her blue eyes once open like the sea

are now introspective. Her hair still scarlet

blows in a room still as a mausoleum.

I walk to the window and look out at the Boston

skyline engraved with early morning light.

I walk back and stroke her forehead.

The tubes are now removed

as she no longer labors for breath.

I ask her to speak, but can only realize

an empty silence. My heart implores her

not to leave, but if I must be alone

I must accept my own vacant stare

into the rich abyss.



Tonight we set back the clock.

We drive to Salem, home of witch hangings,

of the Scarlet Letter and the Industrial Revolution.

The last weekend before Halloween,

there are tourists, and fairs, and museums.

We are jittery, but feel light surround us,

the light of a deceased woman who relished

the Gothic

We dine in Swampscott over an ocean view

with a tide that now envelops the shore.

The light begins to fail. We have

enjoyed the day vicariously – which uplifts us

for the time being.



It is Tuesday. She is ashes.

Locks of her hair are all that is left

of her envelope. I try to find her

in my dreams, in music, in the abundance

of acidic leaves and the African violets

that have survived this long.

There is nothing left she can call her own.

Her soprano voice descends on me from the heavens.

I call her name; it comes back to me.

It is the memory of a voice or an expression –

enchanting, everlasting. This is my supplication.

It is the last drum-beat of autumn on the earth.


                                                    October 29, 1996 Boston







                         In memory of Paul Celan



Orphic man

how the rivers of his nature

rise up to shelter him.


The ghosts of morning

walk with him,

chant with him,

while the sun slides along branches

and the world slithers of its own accord.


Return return

                       the pomegranates are in flower .

Grasp the circumference of air

in your hands;

spirits rush through –.

You are the neck of the hourglass

slowly the nectar –.


      Walk up

from the wilderness

into the garden

by the mountains of spice –



slowly slowly



        forever in my weaving.









So many stark beautiful

faces gone into the worlds of light.


Man made art out of the materials: rockweed

anemones, the herring gull, pink coral, the bark

of a tree –


until the jackboot summoned you

to the kingdom of the night – .

The child who saw the skeleton in the mirror

still haunts us with a question


What have you done with my life?


A pond crystalled with lilies

or a swamp maddened by flesh

rotting into rags – it was here


that the madman found his destiny.

The child we were asks us:

What have you done without our lives?


Blackened sun against a full sky

of suns too numerous to count

too radiant for the eye.



grieve a moment

a millennium

you generations of the Diaspora


          then go on







The bison knelt at the water hole by the treeless plain

and finding no water expired,

but woke in the hunting ground

where the spears were made of crystal

and the human shed his skin.

Stars addressed the skies

and the mountain peaks touched them.

In the past the night sky was a violet curtain

with rips here and there, but now

it was all one sky one day.

The dead were not here to be seen,

and what one had taken as given was not.

No deer shot on ranges no one shut up

behind gray walls, for this was a place

of no men or if they looked like men

it was only an appearance

incorruptible as diamond –

transparent as air.









You enriched me from the busy womb

fed me nutrients

and birthed me into 1944.


To go back, to try

to walk that curving shore

that brought us here

would be defeat.


I have learned to walk

the world outside,

watching the autumn dyings

feeling the forgiving bliss.


Preying on one another

we cannot soar higher than we are

at this moment.

I would follow you into the next garden

– which would be a violation –

there where thought becomes a way of saying.

Torn from the walls of our loins

language still prevails.

We touch what we cannot see,

yet we touch – we touch

the abundant space

and achieve redemption of a kind,

a growth of another kind

that tells us how to live


It is not the fact of our dying

but of living that endures.

On the charts of human consciousness

all the totems are inscribed.


From the broad windows of a hospital room

under the constant stars,

soaring buildings in their graceless light

become fragments of Olympia.


So may my mother taste of the sun

before its birth.












Behind the casket walk twenty Jewish men

some bearded as if just off the boat,

others clean_shaven: the mystical

and mundane.


The tanager is an unmusical bird

that alights on their waistcoats

and yarmulkes.

                        They take no notice;

they walk through towns

and valleys,

mountains that overlook

the snaked rivers.

Still there is no music

as they bury their dead,

for the soul is a bull

breaking through its outward



The washed body

is ready for deliverance,

there is no summer shooting

of the wild fowl,

and the nests are undisturbed.

Twenty drops of blood

sewed once in Zion

course through history.

Nothing has changed.

Today is a mourning day

and there is no music on the earth.









Across the sea of cloud,

over the island

vulnerable as peace,

jagged edges below

give a puzzle shape

to the abyss.

I find a civilization

at 35,000 feet

among these rocks of a distant world.


The 727 is our earth for now,

busy cubicle

always on the brink

of extinction.

We're bound for American shores,

the tradesman's coast

rich with jewels and insanities,

but all one knows of saneness.


No high gates,

city walls,

its bounty of democracy

an infection.


A Haitian immolates himself

in front of Boston's state capitol,

to protest fascism

in another land.


The clouds have given way,

each frontier is like

blue air over a godly beach,

and a white ribbon running

across the empyrean.

No twisted track

and unused chimney stacks,

round arches and graffiti on tiles

inlaid with Spanish art,

no turrets, archways,

flags at full mast over Buckingham,

no towns: Gants Hill, Wanstead,

Leytonstone-Mile End-Bethnal Green,

medieval woodcutters at Charing Cross.

Coming home to America,

its starvation of the spirit,

somehow gives the spirit sanctuary –

tired hopes are at full mast.









The oak tree dwells

in the lapidary skies of November,

its bark coarse and toughened

like an elephant's hide.


What prophecy rings

inside that trunk

as out of the innards

of Leviathan?


From the breakfast table

I am watching myself watch you –

the oak leaves last to fall

in the orphaned year.


Is it for love

you share the perilous growth?

Then you appear

in a miraculous spring.


I am that blind brother

who walks toward you,

Thoreau's tree made divine.

You bear acorns, your leaves are lobed.


The gods run in your veins

and elevate you toward the summits

toward those barely imagined healing










Nature confesses harmony in the April snows,

music dresses the unstill waters under advancing

clouds. I drive along on a knotted road.

Mozart prevails with a solitary clarinet

that rises over land and water and prevails.

Reality: a row of gulls on a sand bar.

All is a proclamation, told with subtlety

for which I cannot find the word.

It must be a constant aspiring.











diagonal dance of a kite

bending colors


               over the horizon.


Skies determined me that day


hiking the hill

of birch and berry

in the foreground

where sky confronts earth


What happy configurations of families

bickering over kites

as one by one

they rose

and fell.











                           the peregrinating child

in whose debt you are.


Say no to the sun's aphasia,

but turn it on a lathe.

Bathe in a sea of dolphins,

swim in the nectar of your own delights.


Turn those rings of fire at a concert hall in hell

where all the dancers meet.


Deny the blood,

                         its spiny branches,

of a past too ripe with lineage,


and walk, astral child,

share calliopes and dazzling nights,

walk by healing places, and you will revive

all that is essential.


Brief outcroppings of time

and antiquities are not enough.


This time make it right.









Rasping, grating gulls break through our sleep,

making ever widening circles,

ship's bell out in the harbor of the Navy Yard.

Early summer morning breaks like kamikazes

over the USS Cassin Young

decommissioned after the War.

Navy barracks have transformed themselves

into rows of luxury condos.

Bricks are torn from buildings

and the bare ground reminds us

of our unfinished compositions.

Tracks rusted out, boat launches,

these were smoldering, booming navy yards

where 300 ships were built from 1939-1945.

Thinking of the wastes of metal and timber,

I am, nevertheless, wooed by fascination. I keep walking.


SS Nubska was a coastal steamship.

It sits in drydock, with bleached logs for ballast,

rusted out, insides gone, steamroom gone

rotting black stacks.

Maybe there are ghosts in the nearby cellar

of Three Cranes Tavern. The water still retains its sickly green

with spools of spit and ropes on moldering piers.

The tracks are rusted out, boat launches in disrepair,

tenon secured into the keelson

which is the backbone of a ship.

Ghosts sing out of the sailor's cenotaph.

But joggers appear like morning glories,

pigeons cross my path, and ghosts in the galley

of the Cassin Young serve up a hearty breakfast

before heading out to sea, steaming toward

Okinawa and certain death.


                        May 20, 2000 Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts