Four New Poems and a jeu d'esprit in prose


Dilemma After a Serious Accident

All mere complexities...

The cocks of Hades, even mute,

Still they inform against me.

My birds will make me better

The wren will call to hear from me

Sing for my supper, mockingbird

Just now I have to call the landlady

And tell her how I decide.

I could hail the locomotive horn

Otherwise, after midnight.

The Path Long Overgrown

What is this reckless

little thing

a magnet for

swept back wings

a tiny Concord

and a cat's

crooked whisker


out of each nostril

of the pointed nose

Where the wings widen

a lightning bolt

bridges them

not a sound

one scorching zig


long a portent

in these Navajo lands

and of what ganglion

turning and turning

a paroxysm,

the gaze unstilled

this fascination

vaporous cage fixed

for the stiffening

animal and petty

intelligence starved

by the abstract -

Look now, she will sing,

how the mobs get going

daily quicker footstep

of old, cottages to thatch,

a soul within and secret

divine things


further on.

Our Rain Crow

'Car no chanta auzels ni piula...'

Arnaut Daniel

How apt of this rain crow

as rain came pattering down

for our flowers on the fresh grave

to hoot from his haunted orchard

sotto voce twice.

Then a wave had crested, giving rise

to fields of force; foaming vortices

carpenter the island of Phaeacia;

liquid eye-beams, Greek and chisel

carve to measure the finest of ships.

'Some few accustomed forms,

the absolute unimportant':

thus E.P. on a distinct slant

(still at an early age)

plotting some real connections.

So it is, here for the oldest folks

who still can hobble by,

there is a dangerous dog proclaiming

his Ah, Ah, Ah. One rough day's ride

and the sea crashes ashore.

I see my orchard gone for good.

Antiquated, for a moment

reasonably trees revive. One single twig

or two blossoming would cradle

a twitter of linnets. Soon

the punctual cuckoo too must croak. If

a cherry reddens,

it is for air, also the choir

far out in France at first light

let fly with one voice overtopping all;

yes, in the accustomed form,

it was the oriole, his folded fluting

for dear life I now recall.

What sense do I make, shedding this skin?

Memory, had you none tougher hidden?

Ancient shipyard fantasm,

fantasm orchard, sacred ground;

the texture puzzles, there is disbelief.

I do perceive it, past denying

pedestals to my words, to our crow its rain.

[Note: Rain Crow is the by-name, current in rustic Central Texas, for the yellow-billed cuckoo.]

The Wicker Chair

The wicker chair found cause to think

that a wicker cloud floated overhead

and if he had never quit the chaos

chaos could not exist

But the wicker was thinking of a river

and of the trees that grow beside it

visible fishes and twice a boatman

not finding his way back to Peach Village

for the wicker was mindful of willows, each

lifting a dome of foliage across the water

shadow of a quality quite foreign

to furnished rooms a long day's walk downstream.

* *


Look back no more than long enough,

the landscape changes. Why burn tonight

the wicker bull rigged so painstakingly?

Ribcage rounded well, a thousand wands

went into it. Skull and haunches

bulge where the bones fit. These people

must know, in more ways than one, how

to thwart any harm planted in human skin.

The bull means to be fire, what a warmth,

the good smell will be remembered. We'll see

the powers of air, donors of all seed

and foods receive the sign;

and here's the ash for us, we smear it

all over our poor flesh, to copy moonlight.

* *


A basket for the cat would not be as bad,

anyway to be braided, woven, extenuated...

So wicker told itself: I do recall a fire,

its ancient blaze tempered my free nobility;

I sought simplicity in a shellfish receptacle,

anything but a lifetime trodden or sat upon.

Tra-la, feel a tension. Even untouched,

harpstrings and engines of furniture hum.


Devotion to Egypt

Halfway across the street – and already his left arm was raised with his fingers pinching pastry wrapped in baker's flimsy paper. Then he had arrived. Then he offered me the remaining half of his Danish. This was José, the gypsy, to whom, days earlier, I had given some money, really less than I might have done, for an amulet. Poor devil, his heart too had a tender spot.

This generosity puzzled me. For an instant I was guessing that he knew I would not want to take a bite of his Danish, it was early, even then, on a frosty morning; the instant passed, I recognized the rarity and the excellence of the gesture in that town of old red granite, Arabists, and Dominicans, where Unamuno had brooded, and now in gutters and small desolate parks a clutter of hypodermics was to be avoided and all day, every day, long-legged and often frantic, José chased after scraps of money that were life or death for him, while round the plaza with raised fists waiters strutting among their tables shouted at him.

In some quarters the mists only thicken. It took decades for them to clear from José's Danish. Yes, in sad fact he must have stolen it, and hungry, had a bite or two before offering the rest to me, with a scheme that I might pay for it in coin as my breakfast. How his heart leaped when he caught sight of me on the other side of the street. Or he had not stolen it. On a shelf since the day before yesterday, the Danish was stale, and the baker had made a gift of it, in gratitude for which José was going to split it with me.

It would not enter the heads of some to need assurance that their lives are not thrown away. To music we might imagine that among the entangled flowing patterns of antiquity still pulsing through here and now fortune raises uncertainties; because the god is so hidden in every fathomless undercurrent, we count on them; against vomiting, too, they serve as amulets. But I have told myself, when with authority the waiter approaches, run for it.