Locked in the hot sweat of a rocking arm, love, you lay,
Rocked in the hard, hot play of a scented tuft,
Straining hard in the ruff of your curling hair,
Pulling your loose curls from your ruffled mane,
Love, we were one and the dirty sheet enclosed us there,
Hot on a hard, hair bed in the covenant of spring,
That smelled of April and spoke to us of May.
There in the smell of perfumed sweat we lay
Till we were rocked by sleep away, and came
Later to life, surprised to be so cool
Lying in April with summer so far away,
Eyeing the last cool flicker of the day.
Blue eyes in a long frown and the red
Slash of a mouth, cheeks hard, high,
The sly arrogance of a fine line and a fine
Tight waist, you speak to me, leaning
Forward in excitement, a bit unedged perhaps,
A bit aware of the unedged leaning, you
Know what you say in unaware spurts of your
Black intensity and what you do.
Love done, you lean back on the pillow, now
Side seeing the blue light on the squared ceiling,
Watching the crossing of the lines, seeing
Sideways the clock in the chilled room in dead
Winter. Hot in the white sheet, cooling
Hands on the sheet edge, the rumpled
Waist resting in a momentary
Pause from hot desire.
You love . . . not me, but the hot impulse
0f a rush thrust in the white light shining.
And I know, I know what the strong desire
Says to the lean waist, and I know reclining
On a cooler pillow from long years of such gaming,
Hot as you now, that the aim of the long years
Tells me to watch you now with a kind smile smiling.
The dark moon rushes from a cloud, breathes
Black fire over the shadows of the trees,
Which falling in rippled shadows on the
Black earth, stand reeling there
With their agonizing arms paralyzed in air,
While in the warm grass sunk in spikes of uncut hay
I sleep as you reach a warm mouth on my waking eyes.
Everything lies between the circle and the square.
You touch my hand, I pull it straight away.
You coil your hair gently around my shoulder.
How far and straight the train tracks lie,
While the wheels roll on from there to here
And off in a scurry. The flowers swing around
Dangling on the straight stalk in the ground.
Living, we find life becoming circular but there
Is always that unforgiving square.
When the moon swims slow in the velvet sky
My love lies near beside, and I slyly eye
Her milkwhite thigh on my hip, while the white
And staring moon glides on the velvet sky away.
The pine cones tingle in the fond embrace
Of evening's chill, as maple blows a kiss to birch
And mist of evening beds them softly down.
I drive away from all this harmony of trees,
Back to my bed in town, to try to sleep alone.
Love is for
Nancy you are very
We have a real
You were in my room lying there
Your eyes seemed to me
We could be, but you feel so little
Why all the glances if
Your own captivity
Seeing your kinkling hair down your midback, I
You can be horrid very much oh.
Try to hear this half bit piece of halves,
Halves always matching yet a chunk is lost.
Come swinging long steps to the garden, love
And hear the evening in.
Lie with me close and make one whole day real
And if you like all whole, make more with me
With chains of kisses panting in the night.
The delicate smile of your eyes,
Touching me if you like,
But if, Nan, you do not, then go
If you can never, stop
I ....... you.
Thinking how well she looks in dungarees
I can hardly see her in a cocktail lounge
Serving a drunk boor drinks and for a tip
Picking up eyes and glances of abuse .... But I,
You please me girl greatly, and for gratuity:
All of my heart and priceless fantasies.
A covenant between us from this moment
Love, to keep separate all our secret things
Together, and what we share,
Share miserly. This secret eye, made public here
For two and known to all, knows secretly.
Secrets are shared or secrets not at all.
I shall be publicly private as the cell
Of any monk who sat and starved and stared
In private at the universe, or stood
Tall on a tower to look upon the land.
Love, you are lovely far and near.
Sitting in clean isolation I hear
Rustle of your presence in another place.
I have now lost the figure of your face
But not your footstep's footfall in my ear
Or the breathing around your sheetfolded face.
A strong man about to run a long race
I stand and wait a moment in my place
To hear the signal and to also hear
Something from someone else, far yet near
Somewhere a watcher who watches as I race,
Not to speed me on but to see my face.
She races too a different finer race,
Like mine in part or subtler perhaps. Near
Me, my love, more than your woman's face
I want your subtler slow and gauzier pace.
I give you strength, love, you give me grace.
My new love rarely speaks, talks spare,
Lean. Her dark eyes
Flash indecision, questioning she feels
Newly. Love in her black eyes
Flashes. Small span of time and
Small the times of feeling full and fair
Flush of black love feeling. Now I watch
Her bright litheness of waist and turning neck
Until she whirls and her black eyes bright
Break the silence with all her body's smile.
Tell me, O Darling, where the magic grows.
Our age of bombs, hate, warfare and the air
Heavy with poison. The world is like the men
Who foul it, obsolete before our time.
These things have cloyed our patrimony and despair
Stands by the jail we live in. From your heart
Show me where still the magic fountains flow.
Lying awake all night I saw pure gold,
Not yours perhaps nor hers, but all the same
Gold in a glitter of dreams shining on black velvet.
Where was the alchemy which once made gold of lead?
Where came this vision of light and glittering?
It came from nothing more than you to me.
Bitter the poison of a suspicious soul
Eyeing itself in fear. Joining two you make three,
With plans and scripts of chattelled mortgages
Heaped on you? Be free, recede in freedom?
I lie quietly, counting the scores of secret pleasurings,
Hundreds of kisses and loving glancing eyes
Piling the numbers of wealth in love. But hide
The tally lest the hexing crowd inspect the list
And curse our gaming with an evil, evil eye.
When we are gone, and no one thinks of how
I have loved and you have tried to live
Honestly or a little less, or a little piece
More, there will be mercy shown to new shrived souls
That struggled in their incubation clothes
And tried to breathe a little air to live
Or love a little. But you will be forgot
Because you tried to live a little more
And missed the loving a little more or less.
And if I love you, Love, and love you not
More than I would and can and bear, yet not
More than I should, more than you would, but not
More than you love me, still more than others do
Who love long years of nights, losing the gleam
Of pierced emotions and exacerbated souls,
I'd love you still more than any sad soul knows
The prize or cure for, more than my sanity
Tells me is good and right, and not
Merely enough, or just sufficiently,
But love as I breathe in love and breathe the air
Free in the morning and long at evening time,
Not as they do or as the world requires,
No, but to ease my spirit running free,
Which is life's blood and work and life to me.
I will not help you magic moment make longer
To speak in tones of soft modulated poetry.
Clash and the clawing of blind mad nails
Tearing the heart of stone from pith of flesh.
There is no magic growing in the forest green
Where you will find translations of the blood.
If you've a mouse's mouth, all chatter and no credit,
Seeking a small purchase at a mere pittance,
Talking out loud but not much sign of thinking,
Hanging around faculty club swilling weak coffee, and
If you don't mind being pecked out in a pecking order,
All gas and no guts, well, I can tell you, brother,
You can have my job right now, because I'm leaving.
I live out in Cornwell and my daisies are coming up.
You can't see my daisies because I have two hundred acres
Posted against daisy watchers, the daisies are mostly there
Somewhere near the center where they are safe from you
And voyeur hippy types and pissing dogs and kids.
Even to call them mine is a sort of blasphemy,
So I'll just say I have lots of God's daisies there
Out on my place. Watching them morn and eve
I've learned not to spin but just sit here at my typewriter
Weaving words. It is my craft of poetry you know,
You might say my Preference.
I love to see them all neatly lined up in a book.
Nobody reads them I know, they stay there unread,
But I ..... I know that I can open the pages some winter eve
And garner what I've gathered to freshen up the cold.
A daisy (God's.....) pressed against My words. Tell me, friend,
Which will be fresher, the pressed blossom against the page,
Or the verb with half its ink run into the flower?
I always says there's nothing like a dried daisy poesy quite
To freshen up a room when things have got a little stale.
I was talking to a poet once and he said: Mornings
I cultivate my muse. He had mews and the whole house
Was ridden with the reek of ancient kitty litter there
In a corner. These oracles with their mephitic fumes
Give a certain zing, he said, to the poetic stew.
I thought he was joking, and so pursued with caution
The matter. He said: Well you know, sometimes
Morning is a chore, no harm in a little aimless work
On paper with pencil, and if it happens to produce
Something ... well .... printable, publishable, let's assume
There is nothing wrong ascribing it to the Muse.
(I guessed she didn't visit here much these days.)
The discussion lapsed and I left glad to get fresh air.
Next morning with a coffee at my desk, wonder if I too
Should get a mister cat to cultivate my rueful Muse.
Three people sitting in an office late in the afternoon
Catching a flash of something brilliant or some chaff
To blow away and burn. We really saw
Something of dreams put together with the spit
Of common phrases, and how it seemed to be stuck
In our perceptions. Time passed us by, the sun was dark
When we retreated. And then we thought of you ---
You somewhere else, possibly sunk in solitude,
And I said I'd write you a poem to tell you how
Intense we felt about the poetry we read and hammered on.
I just can't let myself think of you out there, in the cold
While we are all here, rich in enjoying the afternoon.
Lo all these years Ghisbert d'Anvers we have been fighting
Choosing words to put things straight right in our understanding.
You did not understand the meanings of the numbered words
Which the Cordovan Jew said were written in the bible.
I told you but you retorted with false wording.
I lied to you about the writings I said I found in the closet.
I spoke of the Byzantine scribe. I was he, no other.
You were wrong to believe me for I told lies. For truth's sake?
When the window was thrown upon on a summer evening
And the rain came in waves through the window,
We picked the manuscripts from the floor in your study.
I knew you better then by the shape of your fat calves, brother,
Than all the words on fine paper running ten years between us.
I burst intoxicated upon a group of them that night
Wearing my Commander's jacket and an orange shirt
Untucked, above bell bottoms --- Oh, the sheer
Hard front of their stuffy startled disbelief.
I waited in the doorway, standing there just to see
Those monkey faces posturing outraged pride,
Each one his brother's other-image, all the same
Pop goggle eyed academic gawkingness.
My gaggle of academicians, sometimes you must know
We wear our different sets of monkey suits,
Your academic topper borrowed from a plasterer,
That black funereal gown that trails you as you go
Down the long aisle to sit out graduation in a sweat,
The bright sun bearing down on your over eyeglassed eyes,
Ears gone deaf from too many platitudes. I know
Your uniform was part of your obedience to the rules,
A dress-code. Mine had a bit of wit, an act of disbelief.
Each teaching Jew's at heart a rabbi's son.
Terrific intensity from coils of talmudic web
All directed toward the apprehension of a day
When there would be only words to take with you,
A manuscript of great worth in suitcase or in head
To take across the border to another land.
He grooms his manuscript all the time, he has
It in his head and grooms it all the time,
He bores the gentiles with his insistence all the time,
Always for honesty lets no small thing pass
In sour committee meetings if heresy to mind.
His accent lacks the smoothing gentile tones,
Cadences of his mind mark him when he speaks,
He knows the world has watched two thousand years
Unforgiving for the chosen people's choice.
Others would christen, find a secret way to leave,
But not this rabbi father's talking son.
He dressed smartly, a quiet academic suit,
Black shoes usually, a tie of red lined gray,
And for a face he wore a purple scarf.
Under his arm a scruffy pair of books,
These things supported him from day to day,
His other crutches were an air of gentility
And worn out inbred manners from another age.
Guru in scholarship, his student called him a bore
Soothing the best wits of his class to sleep.
Awake and aware he was not of the genius stuff,
He thought he passed the business off well enough.
Now, what's the flaw in this quietly assumed ease?
I think he does not really like the man inside.
I saw him hurrying through the hall, elbowing by
Me and some others, late to class, the bell
(He mopped his forehead, gulped a paper cup)
Was ringing and the students ducked inside.
He paused, checked the minute hand, and then
Attacked the door, room, lectern. Then whirled
Startled. Wrong pile of notes. Christ those was what
I did on Friday. Sweat on palms. The students waiting.
"Good morning class! ". Pausing with chalk in hand
Turning from the board (recalling he had forgot
To stop at the toilet on the way to class) he said
Casually: This might be a good day to have a quiz.
He is a very conscientious Dean
Wears gray suits, black shoes shined,
Handkerchief folded, hair brushed straight
As if unconscious of the bald spot it tries to hide.
I'd say he's selfless. Why those long hours
Poring over some memo under the solitary light
Of top floor office flooding onto the campus night?
Devoted he is and worth his office but all the same
He jerks out words in such an uneasy frame of style
Talking in faculty meeting from a clammy noted card,
You'd never think he knew his Shakespeare from memory.
Or that on a warm springtime afternoon he stares
At some blond Freshman boy: Jesus, I wonder how
The clump of hair at his nape smells when freshly bathed.
He blushes slightly and quickly he turns aside,
Walking to faculty lunch with a constipated gait.
None of my business, this committee meeting,
None of my business. Let them talk
Endlessly into the winter afternoon, talking
Endlessly, while the afternoon fades
As the frost of February is coming in,
While they are talking endlessly, aimlessly,
Making some point, some minor point that shows
How pointless was the point the pointer made.
All this is training in patience. When I know
More about patience I may be able too
To sit and listen to what I can't endure,
Learning the longdrawn out endurance game.
She spoke lightly, there was
Something amiss, her breathing held
Half of her back. Sitting across from me,
Her breasts rested lightly on my desk
As she ruffled through her notebooks papers,
Telling me something odd of no importance.
The orange sun of late afternoon was coming in
Through the window, and there was not now
Time to say more things in such a cut short day.
You perfect little imitation scholar, that's my boy!
You put it all together in such a fine B-minus way
Saying the obvious but making it seem a little new,
Never troubled by a deeper truth which just might be
Incomprehensible. You have assembled the claptrap of
"It might be said" and ".... so it seems." and "perhaps..."
Robbed from the papers of some not quite perished
Published professorial journal. You play our game well
To get your grades. But when you're out of here,
Out in the real world which never hesitates,
Slits throats, knifes backs, comes quickly down
To the bottom line , where are you with your used ideas?
If you do survive, what are you then going to think?
"Why, college was the best time of our lives."
I know you're not really here, you take a seat
At the back of the class to be unnoticed and keep it warm,
Watching the wall clock to see when the class is done.
Must be an awful bore for you. The time of four years
Also is running out, but still you fall asleep in class,
Your fraternity brother has to poke you when I give a nod,
Your head snaps up to give me a fatuous smile, like
"Sorry, Sir" but you're not sorry and I am not "Sir"
In any sense. It's just an academic inconvenience that goes
Along with the dorm, dining room, tennis court and pool.
You think I don't know you? I know you very well
When next term on a spring morning across the campus walk,
You pass me by (recognized from afar) now with no Hello,
No feeling bad for sleep in class, no need for "Sorry, Sir".
The poet has a funny role
He goes from door to door
And reads his verse for best or worse
And if they seem to smile
He reads them more.
They smile but know that all the while
The man's an awful bore.
He intones Cornwell pastorals
And songs of pain and woe
The kind that no one ever felt
At least the ones we know.
The postures of increasing pain
At feeling this or that
Are not so bad as what we show
Beneath the old rainhat.
Oh, there's the rub, oh there's the catch,
The secret's lurking there,
Beneath the cap there's nothing much
Beside a clump of hair.
Recipe for an Asst. Professor
Take from a hundred collected dossiers of
Aspiring Ph.D.. candidates (any graduate school has more
Than it can remember) and pick out one ....
It doesn't matter which, they are all the same:
High verbal quotient, low index of ideas, some
Experience but not much of the world as it is,
In academe neatly dressed without a trace of style,
But very clean, especially under the fingernails.
First degut the sample, since there won't be much need
For that where he's going. Some debone
But we advise against it, he's got to stand
Somehow before a class when lecturing.
They say he can sit, but I think a lot of them lie.
Marination in Freshman courses which no one wants
Does soften tissue, makes one better able to yield
To forking at the table. More it works the better,
Since we shouldn't make this Jack into a dull boy....
Passing reviews and yearly intervals he learns
The academic password: YES! and he says it seriously
Whenever some business needs a good supporting voice.
The YEA's have it. And they really do and too bad!
Not worth having nor wanting especially not suffering for.
Now it's time for tea and tenure, what do you say? Yes?
Then out the door with him, we don't want yes-men here.
But no-men die early, I suppose that's true.
We want yes-men who can say no. But convincingly
To those who make it through it's a long set of NO's,
From this point on to retirement or imbecility,
Whichever comes first. "Young Bratsworth's coming up
For tenure you know. Brilliant chap, list of books
Long as your arm, and the students think he's great. NO!
Wormsley would make a good chairman, he has a flair
That reminds me a bit of leadership. Volunteer fireman too."
NO! "I know you hate Funk's guts, let's transfer him out
Let him come down in Drama, unnoticed. What say?" NO
CHANCE! "Rodney, you've been slipping a lot, we think
Retirement might give you time for your own needs....."
No need even to wait for an answer, scuttle for the door.
Our innocent, clear-eyed lively Assistant Prof.
Has been changed by some hidden alchemy
Into a tough old bird, which no cooking now,
Even with the oven thermometer in the appropriate hole,
Will ever make palatable. Strange that he of the
Interminable potboilers can't be boiled. Nor stuffed,
This lecture stuffer. No fryer he, despite churchly tendencies.
Thank God for bacteria or he'd be there for all time
Crammed into his Dean's chair where they stuck him far upstairs
Fossilized with liquid dripping apathy. He has what they always
Said he had: Consistency.
If you've a taste for exotic dishes, friend,
Try at least to avoid Academic Cookery.
Showing a poet friend my poems, I said
This might interest you. He said: Sure.
Don't feel you have to comment. I know, he said
I'd feel uneasy showing them to a professional.
Hey, don't worry, I'll read them as a friend.
I saw him one day later in the week,
He handed me the pack back, but I thought I saw
Something uneasy in his eye. As I usually do,
I asked for it, saying : What do you think?
Well, I read them pretty carefully,
And I think they are very interesting.
Looking beneath his eyebrows carefully,
I knew he thought ........ and I said inside
The world is replete with birds and beasts, rocks and trees, the rich foliage of lush summer and the resplendent colors of October, all living and peopled by things alive, some of which are in fact human beings. Not to see all this is to be in the fullest sense --- un-alive!
Willow, willow, o'the wisp again,
Sorrow, oh, t'wIll all win well at end.
Narrow, the harbor's crossing, the wind
Blows cross, hemmed out we sorrow again.
Cypress beam holds us on through the rain.
Narrow beam keel oak boards rope sheet.
Out to the wind again my friends, the harbor holds
Nothing more for me, the bright wind's raining
And the sea swallows with a tear the sky's freshness.
Out there especially its the smell, the fresh smell most
That breathes us inwards. Masts hold
Strong with wood that does not bend. Planks
Bend always. Masts stand still. If you'd rather
Be sure, cut is soft, woodsman, cut it springling,
And if its a slick mate's whistle you'd be making,
Cut it green, youngling, and cut it willow.
I recall this poem distilling itself very mysteriously out of the sea-world of Moby Dick coupled with the atmosphere of Aeschylus' sea-ode from the Agamemnon and I now think this is my best poem overall. But it is mostly music, so it may not come across right away to a reader looking for theme or idea, I suspect.
They cut my eye open and the light swirled
Around in the room in a fit of dead nausea.
Holding me down they pumped a shot of something
Into my shoulder. I heard snip on the right side,
And the man pulled something together.
It hurt a lot later, and kept on hurting
A long while. Later slowly, slowly
It mended and felt a whole lot better.
I see the world better now, a whole lot better
But I still feel bad when I remember the matter.
Each day teaches us new greenery
And the blue kiss of light anew.
When you walk evenings in the black tracery
Breathing cool air brewed by the day's fire
You breathe free as ferns and the branch's water.
Apples breathe scent in the dark woods' coldness.
Two yards tall I stood on the wet turf waiting,
A thousand miles walked on her breadth rolling
Under me. Four tons hammered of hot iron burning,
Went down under the hard earth quick slipping.
But each day alive, each breath of each wing's stroke
Flying, croak in the dark night hiding
Housecat in tall blades, or mice hid sitting,
These saw I all in this short life --- smiling.
Plants that grow in the sun have cool mornings too,
When the morning is heavy on the hills and dew sprays
Back to the sky. Underneath each grove of leafage
We lie at last to rest, see the giant window panes
Of green embroideries, and hear the buzzy boys
Chirping in the cornfield. Their little violins saw
In perfection. The back kneed conductor pauses,
Struts for a second, and tsssssssszzzzzingggg
Hurrying through each cadenza of quarternotes
Resolves in a blurry pitch of feathery gracenotes.
When they are done they put the music sheets away
Folding their score stands this way and that. They say
Congratulations to each other, while they're resting up
For the next day, when the opera starts again.
Comes autumn soon and the play's all done.
Old owl, what do you know?
Have you seen the mice scamper or muskrat scramble?
Are there other things you watch below
The tall branch where you perch listening.
Who whirrs, owl, who hoots hollow
In the tree's cupped leafage?
You heard well the raw caw
Of the black crow above circling.
His day circles night while your day slumbers.
Mice watch your great wingspan silent moving
From the pines down over the new seedlings
Where micebones drop in the oakleaf scatter.
All those nights in August I saw from my window
The hot spotted theater marquee light blinking,
And how I hated that damned light flashed on the ceiling,
Night after night. There was no good loving
With that damned light plastered on the ceiling.
Soon I found a place down the street on another avenue,
Life got normal again by bits and pieces.
But when the house lights all went out one evening,
Why did I look to see if the marquee was still blinking?
The field is damp, the grass spangles the dew's chill,
And while the calf rubs on my pantleg her warm nuzzle,
I still remember a slab of gray glass building
Leaning toward the eager sun in a far city.
Tell me, old man, tell me what is it I be doing?
Thinking, son, and when you've thought, the doing.
But if I know the adze not?... how find I the cutting?
When the time's right the wood will ask the cutting.
Wood, father? what wood should I be cutting?
Wood that's fit to the kind of cutting you know doing.
Men carve wood in figures, and I know only faces.
Where are figures?
With faces nesting.
What man will pay me, for whom am I working?
For him who pays you. For him alone? O never.
For whom then? For him who counts most to you, son.
For my darling?
If she counts most.
And how not, old one?
(If she counts most....)
In the long pause that flickered on his features
I saw him real as a face in the tan wood carving.
I reached the chain and pulled hard, there was
Water and sodden paper swirling. Cough!
Then it all came up in yesterday's bingeing swirl,
Drano nightmares hidden for centuries,
Old papers with pencil writing on the back,
Torn envelopes with postmarks, wooden nickels, nails,
Cram notes from college, baby's blanket edging,
An ancient yellow photograph of some one once young
Far off, smiling stiffly and unidentified,
Brocade of glass doll's petticoat, the stench of fear
Because last life they tried to do him in again.
I pause, gasp, retch from that ugly slug
Of all that splattering aimless on the floor,
The drifting gross detritus of the universe.
Honey is pure and clean in its yellow jars,
An ancient crystal amber for a million years
Sweet on the tongue of bees who taste it gingerly
Putting it up in combs of perfect hexagons.
I think I'd like to try the clover crystalline....?
Yes, this one? No the larger size!
A dollar please.
We had a fine, quiet Sunday, binged on a couple of beers,
Walked in the snow a while and she was doing dishes when
I said: Clean up the cat shit on the grey rug, dear?
LATER. No, now, I said, before it sinks in. A plate
Large as a sunset was winging over my way
Grazed the light and lumbered toward the wall,
Crunching the wallboard. A splather of splintered bits
Of ovenproof, microwaveable earthenware beside my chair.
My God, what a bomb of an idea, I said.
When I got up one morning, the window flew open
And away a crow yapped caw. Off on a branch he stood,
Calling me up there. In a flash I flew up with him
Looking over the neighborhood. Today this morning
First thought was crow and he was sitting on the window sill,
Returning the visit. This gentleman in black,
Knows how to return a visit ceremoniously.
The dough is kneaded in the morning sun
Soon starts to rise. Daylight flicks and filters in
Hours before midday. The night repairs
Silently sun's damage done to each leaf's furl.
Against the cliff the ocean licks at stone forever,
As each day buds open, close and open anew.
And you, O Man, how stand you stiffly there?
The cat's paw knows the whole tremor of the land.
Finding the chill morning warming and the rocks dry
She licks her coat as the sun moves sideways
To the edge of the rock garden, she gazes
Long birdviews with furtive assessments of the odds.
That crouched mouse got off this time. We all pay
Sooner later. Cat knows how to sit and wait forever,
Understanding the stretch of time, never hurried.
Undignified that such a philosopher should have to go
Outside the warm house on a damp day to urinate.
Leaning over my shoulder he calls
All the moves and details all my words.
I did not know he was there before.
Very polite fellow who knocks lightly,
Dines, drinks light and leaves early.
He does not inform much and does not bore.
I find him a very pleasant associate
To be around. I think....
We'll work together on and off as time goes by.
I'm just not sure I really want to be
Amanuensis of such a clever clown.
My friend is a big robust laughing august guy
With something jingling loose inside, but you'd never know
Observing his hearty beef and potato apple pie mode.
Yet 1 know there's a Horatio Alger boyscout there inside.
Lost in his own backyard, each year the panic grows.
But don't let on, the world's a friendly place
Except for the panic. So he plays dead fire games
All with a great activity, but his secret eye
Is haunting all around his own backyard,
Looking to see it's safe and keep it so.
He dresses thin, crops his beard rarely.
Cuts cordwood in November, he spits hard
Into the wind, considers how much a new tire costs,
How far a man can walk warm in the evening cold.
Coming out of the market he looks to the hills,
Drives an old car watching out the side window.
He has written a pile of poems no one ever sees.
People talk odd about him, feeling something more.
Don't suspect he jacks deer with a flashlight after dark.
The old dog takes a crap on the crusted snow,
Paws about a bit and trots along down the road.
Later that afternoon as the sun goes down
He's coming back, cautiously sniffs the air
Noting where he had been, where a deer crossed.
Raising his nose housewards he smells boiled beef,
Sees the light go on through the jackfrost window pane.
But not yet time, still far to go before I sleep
When I came down the back road from the woods,
I noted some car must have been in the drive from the mud,
Must have gone through the puddle, steered around the stump,
Gone back the road to town. Who had been in my driveway,
I wondered, but then I thought maybe I'm better off
Not knowing who had been in my driveway turning round.
The rich man put a marble marker in the field,
I saw its top of six inches square sawed stone
Looking like nothing that should be standing there,
And wondered why he wanted hairline marking on his land.
We were used to surveys with yellow paint on a birch
Or wire fences which had rusted off their trees,
A stone a short ways north of that elm, markers of that sort.
He sent a man all around those square miles, walking
Transit on his shoulder, cursing and blazing a trail
Scattering empty beer cans, charging him royally
For all this damn fool useless survey work.
Why did he do this unless to emphasize the fact
Rich men put marble markers in their fields.
Hard life up here in the old days,
Much work, small fun, did everything themselves.
Wonder how they stood it wintertimes.
Under the broken tractor Peter spat again,
Told me of oldtime uncles doing three months logs
To finance winter's all out dead drunk spree.
Above the falls where the rocks rise sharply up
There is a vying between the pine and stone,
Each raising odds against the other one, as you lurch up.
But stone prevailed up here, and far above the rest
One precipice of rocks wins out hands down.
Ten years ago some agile numbminded ape
Climbed all the way up here to paint a swastika.
We worked half suffocated in the woods,
Each foot cost yards, the big trees fell
Crashing amidst the buzz of saws and gasoline.
Cutting the saws, we rested drank beer joked a bit
And noticed how quiet the forest was just now.
We did not hear the agony of dying trees,
As each trunk felt the bite of chain in bark,
Creaking aloud in protest, while others screamed
With all their branches twisted in disbelief.
Dying they fell to rest assembled in repose
Waiting the decades out till saplings rise again.
At last it is quiet
At least it is quiet
Quiet ..... quiet at least,
Will it last? That last
Quiet passed too fast. You inquire
Why I do this, why I endlessly lust
For that last silent moment past.
I do not know, but I feel it happening
And I am.......I am EXCRUCIATED!
Vermont is a special place nestled between two ranges of mountains,
bordered by a river and a lake, a visually beautiful place to live, and
in many ways a Shangri-La of the mind. There is a high density of poets,
musicians and composers, essayists, novelists, sculptors and painters, in
this low-population state, where deer outnumber people. These poems came
from the ambiance of Vermont, I wrote many as I got older and more
appreciative of the seasonally green or white world around me.
Summer Sounds in the Valley
They say there was nothing else in the July valley then
but the whistle of sharpening stones fine-tuning the scythe blades.
You could here that whirr everywhere in the hayfields
before the Ford tractors came thumping onto the land.
To a scythe man, this whirr was a prelude to his work,
work which you must have practice in since a boy,
and a natural talent for. Some men just whopped grass down flat,
while others with the hand for it laid the long grasses down
neatly in rows, each spike in its place. You could call it
cheap labor and hardly worth the pay. But I call it art,
a country style of dancing with a pole hooked to a razor blade,
the body swinging with unconscious ease, advancing just enough
at the right moment of the swinging pendulum of man and tool.
Tolstoy knew about this craft, yet you don't have to be
more than a country hired man to see the tresses of new laid grass,
smelling your sweat fragranced by the scent of hay.
The young virtuoso concertized, went back to his native land,
telling the press (if we translate aright) the others played wrong!
In art there are no kings, we all of us ---all--- peasants.
She fine-tunes her
cello with what seems insouciant care,
Attending the minute changes which the pegs make clear.
From the yard you can hear her testing
the intervals again.
A few strokes with the bow just to see if ready, and
Her hand swings the horse-tail instrumentum we call a bow
strings, in a single sweep from foot and floor,
other hand on the ebony
in absolute precision. This was the prelude to her
work which you must have practice in since a child,
with a natural
talent. Some just whop across the strings,
while other with the hand for it
lay the long slurs down
neatly in rows, each note in its place. Endless
endless reaching toward some perfection which I call art,
never paid in common coin, since art is paid in art.
Swinging slightly off
the front of a chair, moving arm and hand
in different quadrants of the
mind, making sound ring out
ordered and disordered, the right nuance of the
bringing a touch of singing into the air.
I can recall her concert playing, and now I see
more clearly her cleverness,
her wondrous mannerism,
her newness, those enchantingly well wrought
that captured us all that evening in the concert hall.
By some odd chance my young son in the other room
this moment took his cello
up and did once more,
in his slightly erratic fashion, the first Prelude,
his teacher mimicked yesterday somewhat cruelly.
Tonight he is
tuning his playing more carefully,
and I think he is learning about the
kind of care
which all in this world demands. The notes are slow,
thinking of the bow arm, it is all very tentative.
It is more listening
tonight rather than doing.
Next summer we will go out in the hayfield, I will say
(putting my best
scythe into his surprised hands)
Son let me see you mow. Do it the way you
and think of the Prelude as you sweep. To his surprise
bet he will be a talented mower, and I guess soon
he will ask for the
sharpening stone, knowing that
you never start work without tuning your
Requiem for an Old Fellow
The old man decided to take Hunter out for a long walk
Before going to the
vet. Thirteen years was a good time
Dogwise, and the puppy who had come into
Frisking pissing licking, looking in everyone's eyes,
slowly changed into a fine old gentleman- - -
Gentledog- - - who had enough
sense to understand
Nihil admirari without translating Latin. He
All the same things, the wind, the new smells, the
in the area, unsaid, indefinable.
But he knew to keep it all in, there was
so much already there
That this was just an addition, stick it in on with the
And let it be because it won't really matter.
In spring he lay in the new grass, no longer rolling
But just lying
there, smelling the
freshness, and glad
To be there again, having made it through the
Now the evening was cool, there was wetness,
A raccoon had crossed the road. They walking together,
The man on
his leash, just walking together.
A fast pickup truck swerved around the
And the trip to the vet was unnecessary. The leash
Had to be
detached, and the crushed Hunter who was,
Was carried back to the spot he
liked most and buried.
That's the end of it, from then on it would all
Farewell for an Old Pickup
Well, that's often exactly the way it
always turns out.
You see, I had just fixed up the fast idle cam on the
ancient 2.2 Aries station wagon, and had already typed
A list of its
excellences to go in the back door window,
I was going down to the store
to get a red
FOR SALE for the front door window. It was a cheap car
bought six years ago, a faithful servant, bearer
Of bags of cement and
nails, puller of a trailerload
With sand for a chimney, long lengths of
Its heartbeat still strong but some softening of the
Which go to the brakes, lots of places
Where alchemy had
steel into a rusty red powder.
Thirteen years is a good time for a
car, which had come frisking
Home from the dealer's, shining in everyone's
Slowly sinking a little in the springs, the paint spotting,
carpets rotting, the floorboards disappearing, it was all
"- - -old- - -"
suddenly. I had worked
Endlessly on it, with new parts from the Depot,
timing belt that took two days to install when the old one split
hopeless in a drenching, blinding downpour.
But I persisted more from habit
than from love,
Until this morning I decided to take it down
highway and get a sign, put a sign on it and sell it off.
the good part, thought I would tell
A buyer about the weaknesses
took his cash.
She was hard starting that morning, as if unwilling to
Finally coughed into action, went down the road
felt wrong. I later thought
I should have known, having had her around for
Down the long hill after Senecal's Oil on the hill I felt
crunch like a kneecap splintering, she went down on one side,
I grabbed the
wheel to hold her still, but she stopped herself
Groveling on the roadbed.
A man I knew somewhere
Was following, stopped, and told me the left
Was sticking out, lying like a fractured leg on the
So there was no proud selling, but quick call to Willie's junkyard.
half an hour with his truck, took her off the road,
Paying me forty dollars
for what remained. I went home
Glad it was no worse, no accident, no rolling
in the ditch
Turning and tumbling. No recriminations from an incensed
Pointing at the broken wheel and telling me he had hoped
an honest man.
It was all over and I was glad. But I remembered the
We had got up early morning and loaded her up with tools,
build the new house two towns over. Even
The radio worked and I could hear
On Public Radio. She was gone now and I was relieved.
It was a little like a divorce. It was time to go, it couldn't go
Forever. It was the right time, it was OK and I was relieved,
the back of my mind I missed her, actually
I thought of her a lot, and the
fact that she was no long there
Gave me more thinking than I had thought
I was tied to her still,
By that odd contraption, the lingering leash of
In Silent Sympathy
Wa.....ll, we was going down the road, and I says to him
"Henry". You see his name was Henry, or at least I thought it was.
"HENRY" and he don't say nothing, just driving
Squinting down the road like he was looking for a squirrel
Or something else to shoot. 'YOU mad?" Nope.
"Then why you don't answer when I talk to you, Henry?"
He don't say nothing again. I'm getting annoyed
Thinking that it is a long road down to Troy, it could be
Damn sight longer if he don't talk at all. Sure
There are some silent types in Vermont they just live
Minding their own business. Don't do no harm
I guess, just a pain in the butt if you want conversation.
Looks like he might be of that persuasion.
Then he says "Joe...." out of the blue. I'm looking out
The window down toward the meadow, wondering why
He's saying "Joe". After a while he says "Joe" again,
And I think this is a pretty peculiar kind of guy
Driving a 1973 Chevvy pickup down Rte 149 saying "Joe".
Maybe he sees something odd and is saying "By Joe!".
But there's nothing odd. You know, he's damn odd,
This Henry keeps on saying "Joe".
Then he says "You mad or something?" looking right at me.
ME? Not at all. Why you ask? "Waa...ll, I keep saying 'Joe'
And you never says nothing. Thought I might have said
Something that offended you."
But my name ain't Joe. "And mine ain't Henry."
Waa...ll, whatta you know, he can actually talk, and then
He starting telling me everything about his wife's illnesses,
And what a fuck-off his son is, and how that guy
Down at the Ford agency cheated him on this truck,
Saying that it was an antique, but it was just an old
Piece of crap. Gotta watch out for those city guys,
They'll try to sell you anything. Flatlanders! Ugh!
After a while I began to wish he'd shut up. "Henry", I said
"How 'bout a little quiet, I might take a nap." He kept on
About something the vet said about his herd. And what the bank
Wanted to do with his mortgage. And his stomach ailments.
OK! if you ain't Henry, what the hell is your name.
"George. And yours...?" It sure ain't Joe! I'm Hector.
What I'm trying to say, George, is shut the hell up,
Will you? "OK, Hector. I hate talking about nothing,
I was just trying to cheer you up."
The rest of the way to Troy we sat in comfortable silence
The way two Vermont men should, and when we got there,
I got out of the truck and gave him a nod, he inclined his head
Slightly to show he noticed my nod. Saw him again later that year,
He looked me right in the eye and said nothing.
I guess we both had learned about talking, although I still
Take great pleasure talking to the dog. He listens well
Cocking his head from side to side, in silent sympathy.
A Merry Christmas
We live on narrow dollar margins, which is what I thought
Waking early up on Christmas eve. My wife was waving an oil bill
Before I was awake, it showed the date
The oil came last. O My God,
It was back in October, we're running out.
And the propane too? Which first?
I unscrewed the plug on the oil tank and slipped a stick
Into the bottom, "FOUR INCHES" is what it said.
The oil people thought that would last a few days more
Even with the cold snap. But this was Christmas eve!
We have wood for the house, but what about the stove,
No propane means no turkey! Imagine trying to fry
Pieces of the dismembered bird on the woodstove top,
Smiling and telling ourselves it was part of country life,
Son listening to the problem and saying inside
"What a fool my father, is letting this happen to us, just now!".]
It was just dark when the propane truck came. I went out
To talk with the man as he poured the liquid in.
Talking about the tank, I found there is always a trick
To everything. The day had warmed up, so there was a line
On my tank where the cold liquid lay, above that sweat.
"That's how you tell if the tank is empty " he explained.
I reminisced as the gas pumped in, about how they used to bring
Small tanks in a small truck, wrestle them into place in the snow.
But here he was with a monster truck, he easily ran
The liquid gas with a red hose over the white snow. Smart,
Saving all those extra cans, the mileage and the labor too!
"I own the truck, subcontract to deliver. It has a Cummins diesel,
Lasts ten years or so. I was a diesel mechanic, rebuilt it myself,
Big garage, lots of time to go over it summers.
If I take care, I can get fifteen, twenty years out of her yet.
If I had to go to the dealer, it would eat up all the profit.
I work on a narrow margin.
So long he said and "Merry Christmas" I repeated,
Put out my hand, his glove was off, we gripped a second,
As I felt three missing fingers. Everybody asks
How you can tell a real Vermonter, is it accent, walk, job?
Well, I can tell you. A real farm boy Vermonter is always short
Fingers, happened when he was eight or ten,
He thinks nothing of it, wears it like a Purple Heart,
A sign of service, something lost in action, no big thing!
The Kitchen Range
The man with the two mules brought it, Pa.
It wasn't heavy so Janie and I skidded it in
And Ma and Henery used the hatchet blade
To prise it open. It had the stovepipe all inside,
So we put it where the old one used to be.
You like it, Uncle Joe? Wa'al I suppose
You can't get much for fifteen dollars any more,
Still we should be careful, myself don't know
If I'd a spent all this. Daddy, why does this one say
Model 1911? 'Cause it's two year old, you see Nancy,
It's the old model Home Comfort stove from St Louis.
That's why this feller brought it over here
Figured he'd sell it to the country folk
That don't know better, and he sure was right.
It's OK, Nancy, I do like it fine with the old one gone.
We needed a new one anyway. Now you go
Henery get some wood, start a blaze first,
And Rob you run out to the buckboard for the box,
That case of whiskey. Paid a buck a quart, Ma,
Useful to have around if someone's ill, or if
Your wife surprise you with some great expense.
Nice fire, boy, and I'll just settle down a while
And enjoy a nip or two of that Southern Comfort
Enjoying our brand new fancy Home Comfort stove.
One day I smell this new dog with a grue smell on her rear,
I can't see anything, I'm wild and going to leap
Humping on her wildly, biting her neck dripping with my spit.
Something feels hot an driving and all of a gasp it explodes,
And I and the bitch are locked, both thrown in the car,
And then there is this man in a doctor's white suit
Trying to get us apart, and I just don't know,
I just don't know how I got here. But he fakes calm
Saying "Just wait a moment, fella, it'll be OK."
I'm out. The little bitch turns and bites my ear,
I'm screaming, they throw me in the trunk of the car,
Saying "He's got a nose for trouble, that old dog."
Back home everything's normal, green cloth spread
On the kitchen table hanging over, they sit for supper now,
Eyeing me warily, like some half wild beast
They wouldn't understand. Myself, I wonder if they ever
Smelled a smell like that, I wonder what would they do?
A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VOICES
Snakes and Snails: by William Harris the father
Bigger than big
higher than high
My eye looks down from the sky.
I see bright blue and in the night
Many little points of light.
Someone says they are far away
But I know in the warm summer evening
They are very close.
Blue is from one violet flour
And the fireflies.
Silence is an empty word.
Filling it up with
Dogs barking, whistles blowing,
Radio playing music,
Drums booming, and sometimes
It's never full, but like the pail
When you have poured the water out
It's still there, empty and waiting
Full of silence.
Mommy made Dad set the trap
Right after dinner, and the next morning
I saw under the chair a mouse
Dead. Mom says its our house
And there is no room for a mouse
I wonder if the mouse has a family too
And maybe they are waiting for him
To come home. Forget it, the trap
Snapped and he is dead forever.
In a corner of my own garden
I will make a little place to bury mice
I can make a cross with two
Chopsticks and a rubber band.
If there are ten or twenty more
Mouse puppies they can all sleep
Under a blanket of green grass there.
Good night little friends, not much pain
In the fast snap of a baited trap
And you are gone into mouse heaven.
The mice keep on dying every day
Dad sets the trap and another mouse
And another bites the bait, and another
And another and another. Are they always
Coming back from somewhere else?
Today Dad took me to the park
We played ball, had hot dogs for lunch
With catsup and mustard and a big coke.
I felt a little sick, then we took a long walk
Down to the frog pond and I saw some fish
Jumping up to catch mosquitoes in the air.
Dad forgot the mosquito spray and we were
Trying to get them off us. I hit one hard,
He was full of red blood, Dad's I hope.
For dinner at home we had a cookout
The chicken got burned and the potatoes
Were burned outside but still hard in the middle.
I was glad to get a big glass of orange juice
And four oreos and sit on the floor with a big
Pillow and my favorite blanket, and at last
Do something that's real fun --- like watching TV
It is raining this morning.
Outside is wet and gray
I can't go out, nothing much to do
Inside, maybe clean up my room
Again and maybe cut up some more paper
And clean my room. What a day,
A bad rainy cold day.
Can I watch TV, Mom? OK that's better,
People talking and the sun is out there.
Everybody is happy and running around
Having lots of fun. On Saturday morning
The comics hour is full of cats chasing mice
Never getting them, not like the next house
Down the road with two cats and no mice.
TV is so much more fun than living here,
I can watch it for hours, all those great cartoon
Animals, but I can never get to play with them.
I think I'll go play with the dead mouse
Push him around with a stick and see if I can
Make believe he's still alive.
Dad beat me with a stick this morning, while Mom
Screamed at me as loud as she could. I know
She hates me, you can see it in her eyes. Dad's a beast.
I think they are not my real parents, they adopted me
And that's why they are so mean to me all the time.
I've got my things packed with Snoopy and a blanket,
Toothbrush and a towel, and some bread in a sack
Hid under the big tree, and when they aren't looking
I'm going to run away and live in that cave
Where the woods are across the river.
They will laugh when they see I am gone, I know it,
They really do hate me.
Rain, it's starting to come down hard now.
I'll never get to the cave, I feel awful.
Mommy is calling me, probably a trap
So she can whack me some more. She asks if I want
Ice-cream with some whip and a cherry on top?
Sure would taste good, I just could go have a look.
Boy, that was good, Mom, could I have a little more?
Dinner was very quiet, they seemed sort of normal
For a change. So here we are now all on Mom's big bed
This evening watching TV. Maybe they are not so bad.
I am over here
You are over there
I give you a smile, you are quiet.
I try again, now you
Look at me for a second.
I know you saw me and I wait.
Then you nod your head and we both
Smile, me over here
You over there on your rocking chair.
I am glad that you smiled at me
And that I am here too.
Getting toys and presents is great fun
But sharing is something I don't like much
Mom tells me always I have to share,
But she doesn't share much with her sister,
And Dad would never share his car with anyone.
Our dog would never share his bone,
Look at his big teeth if there's any question.
So I don't see why I have to share. Maybe
Just maybe, sharing is something kids have to do
But when you are grownup you'll keep things
Just for yourself and never share at all.
I hope I grow up soon because I am not happy
Sharing anything. There are things I could share,
Like carrying the garbage out, and raking the lawn,
Or weeding in the garden. Some of these chores
I would be glad to share with anyone at all.
Look, Dad, the circus man is putting
Gas into my new balloon
It is just a little rubber bag
He blows it up and it gets bigger
I let it go, it goes high into the sky
Further away and bigger, bigger
B i g g e r and then its goes pop
I see something falling down at my feet
I pick it up. It is a little
Broken rubber bag
Puppy Dogs' Tails: by James Harris the son, aet. X
I walked down the trout stream
To where the ripples met a pool
And where the water went between
Green covered rocks.
The sun glistened onto
The crystal water.
With my fishing rod in one hand
I gave a swoop and the fly landed
Gently onto the water, where
I could see the silver scales
Of a fish swimming.
I climbed up the mountain
Where the tip met the sun.
The birds flew by slowly
Wind flew through my hair
As the sun went down orange red
And the moon shone yellow.
I walked to home plate
With my bat in my hands.
I looked at the pitcher's
The pitcher threw
The big white ball
It came so fast
It was like white amber.
The pitcher threw
Another fast one
And with all my power
I swung my bat at the ball.
I saw a speck of white
Glisten in the pitcher's eyes.
I woke up suddenly
To hear the faint sound of
A car horn.
I was soaked with sweat
So I got up and in the bathroom saw
A horrid, dirty, sad pale face.
I thought to myself
Who could that be?
But it could only be
One person, one I know very well.
I looked past the dirty garbage pit
To see green treetops dance around
Then I could see a brown little chipmunk
Climb briskly up an old elm
And suddenly disappear.
The sun shone over tall, thin maples
As cool wind went through my sweaty hair
A brown bird flew before me
Up into the cool clean sky.
The wind stirred softly
As fields of peaceful land lay
In the distant sunset
And the lonely
The sky was a dull orange
As the blazing sun levered
Darkness oozed over the horizon
A dreary moon shone over
The solemn night
A dense layer of fog
Covered the distant mist
And in the deep blue sky
A rainbow showed itself.
The blazing infra-red stood out
Among the rest, it curved
Ending on a small stream
Of glistening water.
The distant hoot of an owl
Slurred through the morning air
The wind stirred gently
As the trees stood
A black hawk soared alone
Into the deep blue sky
As the sun's first glimpse
The lonely hawk
Glided swiftly into the afternoon horizon
It stared sternly downward
As moving cars roared.
Skyscrapers stood victorious above the rest
And the air was filled with smog
The hawk flew into the sky
A dark shadow in the sunset.
The fat pigeons waddled
On the ground of the city park
And old man threw food
From the worn bench
And up above the roaring cars and
The keen hawk circles the innocent birds.
The old man stuffed the food
Into a small pouch
He grasped the leash
Of an impatient dog
And still up above the pigeons
Still the hawk's stare.
A conclusion to a bitter epic
Of a person who perished in warfare
His gravestone engraving etching of his excellence,
His end. Moss crawling slowly up the stone slab.
The chill in the dreary graveyard air
As the ghosts gaze down and vanish in agony.
The war had reached its solemn brink
Dead souls sailing in the air
The windmill rotates in the abandoned ranch
The valley confined to the unrested dead.
Survivors survey the area in bitter melancholy
Staggering on the warpath engaged in battle there
And blaring on the horizon
A lone wolf howls.
Fly, fly into the land where worries don't fright
Fly, fly with your wings into the sunset
Fly, into the light of the night
The lone hunter marches in the light of the night
He walks with little fright
A death of melancholy killed him
But don't pitifully ignore
His last stride into the clutches of the night.