POEMS RHYMING AND OTHERWISE
Brent C. Dickerson
Copyright © Brent C. Dickerson
Index of Sections and Poems
§ Concerning Who Sees.
Beyond My Fence
Beyond my fence
A field blooms with wild herbs.
The buds burst gold;
The bees tell where the flowers nod
As the grasses sway.
The fence is mine.
I built it, slat by slat,
Pure, cold, white, tall, straight.
And on this side
This side, my side
The shrubs are clipped
And sit in rows,
Only green in perfect rows,
No blossom in my perfect rows.
I see my friend
Beyond my fence
Among sunflowers bursting gold.
He winks at me
And walks up close
And says a word
Or two or three;
And often, from respective sides,
We'll lean upon my picket fence,
And joke and pass the time of day.
But in the later afternoon,
My friend is gone.
The slats cast shadows on the ground
And then I sit
To think and write to you about
The things that once I saw
The golden bursting buds I saw
But never had;
The grasses swaying in the breeze;
The dandelion puffs afloat;
My friend winking in the sun
I see but only see and write from shade
Behind my pure and cold white fence
Among my clipped and well-spaced shrubs
And watch the sun turn amber, red,
As shadows lengthen on my face.
To darken with the dying light,
To sing your morning in my night
This, then, my destiny.
I looked into a well.
So far below, in a spot of silver
Which was me
The reflection, where?
For what I saw had form
It was there
To see, to comprehend,
While I had no fixity
But to look and change while looking.
I saw its me,
But where was I?
And while it strove
To take me in
Your bucket dropped
And shattered all us three.
For though you drank your hearty fill,
All you could see was thirst reprieved.
You never thought that this could kill
Your other life. You're much deceived.
Goodbye to Nature
Sometimes I think the sky too low
Confines my spiritcan't I go
Beyond the stars to grasp the prize;
But can one see beyond one's eyes'
Ability? Can Nature grant
Beyond its realm? If not, then can't
I wave goodbye to Nature; but
If Nature's child's from Nature cut,
What nourishment, what source of care,
Supports the child? Am I left bare
To face existence on my own?
Or has some god lent me his throne
(A little one) for me to sit beyond
The stars, look down on Earth, and pond-
Er well the follies and the beau-
Ties there, as (heaven knows) too few
Are apt or capable to do?
Gods laugh, and then they turn away:
Gods leave to Man sublunar sway.
The Poet climbs the stars to see
And mediate Eternity.
Of the Death of the Oracles
They whispered once, Dodona oaks,
Still others spoke by stones or smokes;
Whatever mode, the Deities
Would speak to those who bent their knees
At sacred shrines. True inspira-
Tion kindled sparks to light the way:
These sparks, were they Apollo's thoughts,
Diana's notions, Hera's lots
Inscribed in patient deskwork there
On Ida's mount? Olympus fair?
Oh, noI rather think there ran
An alchemy twixt god and man,
An inward resonance that sprang
In them, affinite souls that sang
A common song, a harmony
Impotent lone, sublimity
Combined. In these less awe-struck times,
That song's no longer shared, our rhymes
Do not connect. They aren't dead,
The Oracles, as many said.
The fact is plain for all to see:
Mankind has lost divinity.
Beyond the Stars
What playful god made me his mate
To draw me up to elbow nudge and point
And say, "Oh poet, look at Earth and see:
The groundlings think, 'Stars shine for me!'
The mortals like to think that stars
Shine but one way, to your dim Earth.
No, no, their beams of purest light shine outward
Onward to the dark into the dark infinity
Beyond it all the Light the Dark embrace. No, no, they turn their back on merest Man,
Their aftergow, and only he who travels with the light
Can look beyond and glancing back see small
So small that dark and shrinking globe when on beyond
Infinity awaits." Oh sweet Beyond!
Too sweet for our insensate Man,
Too sweet for those who cling to Earth.
Oh now I see this narrow life
Is but to whet is but to train
Is but to give a paler glimpse
Of what lies out beyond the stars,
Beyond the stars where all is one.
§ Concerning Defective Authority.
The One True Fact
But "Which the poem, which the truth?"
Would pose the most exacting sleuth.
Most say, "What eyes can see is true,"
But how that varies me to you!
As one man's Red's another's Or-
Ange, that one's Orange, less or more,
Is deemed "Warm Tan," while first one's Red
Rose-colored's to another head.
Communication stumbles, falls,
Would marchbut, point of fact, it crawls,
As Definition's undefined:
What one might mean will stump each mind.
Intent can't be a guiding light,
As no one ever gets that right:
A "sweet embrace" is found to be
"Assault reported: Third Degree";
Devotion's found but to comprise
Manipulation to some eyes;
While patent Parsimony reeks,
No heir denies it's what he seeks
"Most generous my forebear was
To save to give by legal clause!"
Perception's pow'r's now weak, now strong,
Thus one man's "Right"'s a hundred's "Wrong!"
There's no such "Truth" that I can see
Which clears the way for Poesy:
If any of you find that strange,
Ask Heraclitus: "All is change."
Think Plato's Cavethat what you see
'S mere shadows of Reality.
By some mischance, the poet's mind
Beholds Ideals held behind,
Conveys their truer truth to you
More than sense-shadows can or do.
Those shadows on the cavern wall
Are faultycan't convey the All.
This Ideal provides the source
Of Art's creations, which endorse
That purer Truth, unsullied by
The faults inherent to the eye. But why debate what's false, what true?
For me, the only Truth is You.
Umbrellas pass, I think I see
That most are black. It seems to me
Protection comes in many hues
To choose but blackThey win? They lose?
Raindrops unnumber'd, Goddess, sing
Defiance is no somber thing
But black or colors? Still, I know
Yet others unprotected go.
When huddled under hues or black,
Protected ones protection lack:
The best protection wets too soon,
The unprotected grow immune.
Cups for Vessels
They cannot understand, who blink and
Their tongues "No, perhaps you're wrong about this;
I never have . . .", and such. Doesn't it nag
At them how hungry and how void their bliss?
Just thinka cup of water from
Is his whole ocean, to the inland mind;
Losing Wholes for Hints, would rather be
Content with less, like "crumbs" instead of "dined."
A mind which only sees as through a
Can't comprehend the unencompassed heart,
But takes that fulness which exceeds its wit
As morbid bloating of its flaccid Part.
Leave them to their mating ruts! We
Must slop their troughs and numbly hear their grunts
But meantime we've a banquet for a meal.
We swim throughout the sea they dip but once.
The Well of Hate
How deep is your well of hate?
Do you dip it out often, both early and late?
Is it flowing and rich,
Or you crank down the bucket
Through depths in the darkness
Till you thrill to its splash?
How far do you trudge
To load full your cup?
Do you make quite a journey
To slake your great thirst?
Or quick anxious steps
To drink till you burst?
Does it fail you never?
Are there times you must wait?
How deep is your own proud dear well of hate?
Verses on Finding some Uncut Leaves in a Book
As animals the buried gold
Will pass, to dig up food that's old,
So peoplewelllet's take a look
At this, my newly-purchased book:
The library of Jesu Col.,
At Oxford, eyed a double vol.
Of Hoffmann, thought it had to go
To make some space forI don't know
So in the discard pile went,
And in Time's fulness came to Brent.
Perusing page on clever page
Was my delight, but reached a stage
At which I found the leaves uncut!
These scholars owned it, had it, but
No scholar deigned a wayward eye
Or mined for treasure there, as I,
This worthy book; nosent this tome
Away, unread, the world to roam:
So wise the dons of Scholardom!
To such an end do people come,
To safely plod much-traveled ways:
For common labors, common praise.
If I that "road less traveled" go,
What others pass is what I know.
To me come worlds unseen before;
To others: Listen, or ignore.
§ Concerning the Fight.
Who beat the drum
Who beat the old dull skin
Who thump your father's bass
As you take the field resplendent,
Cry to your brothers,
Your kin, your ilk,
And beat the drum
As father taught
His father taught
His father taught
All fathers taught
To beat the old dull skin
As fathers taught
To take the field
To fight the war
As fathers taught,
And as you take the field resplendent,
Look to see your brothers now beside you crowd
Beside you crowd your kin, your ilk,
In rank and file
And look to see your fellows come to fight the war
With only drums
Their fathers' drums
To take the field with only drums
And beat again the old dull skin
All beat at once
All meet the foe
With thump and thump
And nothing but
Each father's drum;
And do you never wonder why
Your father never won the war
His father lost
His father lost
All fathers lost
To teach their drummer-boys to lose
To beat the drum
Their fathers beat
But only taught to thump the skin
The old dull skin
But never taught to win the war?
And still you beat away,
Byzantine warships would
dispense an incendiary liquidGreek Fireat the enemy ships,
The poem relates an instance in which the Byzantine vessel's siphon burst, bringing destruction to the vessel itself.
Our siphons burst upon ourselves
Myself in sea of flame
Now the masts catching burning askew
Me only on mine
You only on yours
Our mates on deck below
More fuel to the burning sea
Oh skulls aflame look up
Or do they greet us
"You too, here . . . not long . . . "
Our ship and ship-mates burnt, our pyre,
Our flames, our fate, from our Greek Fire.
§ Concerning Love and Friendships.
So do the clouds black out the sun
When we're apart? Does any one
Of blossoms fade or die? And where's
The flame that's lost its heat? No!There's
A deaf, unknowing cheerfulness,
A tinsel-joy, in these. No less
Do birds sing sweet when Winter pends;
How can they know what brings their ends?
How true can birds or flowers feel
What I have felt, that joy more real
Of knowing you? But let the shal-
Low sing cosmetic joys while fal-
Low lie their untouched souls: If "black-
Ness" had a rightful place, my lack
Of you would give it home; the "bloom
That would, in fading, find a tomb"
Fades in my heart; a "bird that sang,
But sings no more" 's my soul you brang
To symphony. Apart, the flame
Our friendship burns (though some think shame,
And in their small and beasty hearts
Think all men knaves, all women tarts.
It's naturalthey look within
Themselves, and find there naught but sin.
As some at Winter's onset sing,
So others caw though it be Spring!)
Deep burns a blaze that conflagrates
All else, so doing, consecrates
Such shallow gush into a role
Of embassies sent from that whole
Still greater than the sum of part-
Ing. Or (to write with plainer art):
Our friendship cannot be outdone
By cloudsso strong is our shared sun.
How hard, such goods to
Bad dealing, such unfair commerce:
Exchange so dear, I cannot pay
In coinage that I have today
Or ever, only my base pence
To give, oh no, it makes no sense
To bargain when I'd give you more
Yet All would never reach the score
With less to give than what I get:
The more I give, the more in debt.
Good funding, though, is plain to see:
That I plus You's worth more than Me.
Could my hands but reach
Could my arms embrace you,
Could they hold the dreams I see?
Oh, yes! These dreams were meant to be:
So spirits through the empty air
But seek some fixèd form to share,
At risk, like ether's common fate,
To fade away, to dissipate.
Could I but reach, could I but hold,
These dreams would shape, my grasp would mold
The pliant airbut be unmanned:
Your spirit would direct my hand.
The rain comes down in drops, in streams.
So many, chilled, no shelter, drenched,
They shiver as the puddles grow.
But me, I see such sparkle, shine,
Which warms me as most people shake.
The growing puddles mirror light
For me, though others splash and curse. Why is it that the storm of Life
Is kind to me? What makes the clouds bright
For me, while others lose the sun?
Poor others blink and wonder why,
Poor others have no sun as I
Have with me, carried in my heart.
You are my sun, our love its rain;
And though sometimes I might get wet
On Valentine's, it pays my debt.
Foundations serve, they do not
To be until the walls so straight
Are pieced up brick by brick, but like
A target waits not for the strike
Of arrow, so the rocks and con-
Crete challenge daring men who fon-
Dly dream to hit the mark. I call
To you Oh, here I am, my all
At your disposal: When the mo-
Ment comes, your pillars rise, and so
Your temple calls the gods to wit-
Ness, "Man am I, and worthy, fit,
To call upon the deities
To please me as I would them please."
I stand below, to give you strength,
To stabilize your height, your length,
Though quiet, loud, though hidden, seen,
Serve your design. Here's what I mean:
The vision's yours, my only part
'S to be the blood that pumps your heart.
Gems and Mountings
What then, I ask, is it to
To sentence dreams to go to dust?
Oh, nowhat gems we have to share
Don't scatter blindly here and there:
Of course those trample and they crush
'Neath soul-less shoes in soul-less rush.
No, noour gems in settings go
Enriched and prized, "environne au ...":
Foundations serve their structure's sake,
And, just the same, Surroundings make
The gems enclosed to sparkle more,
To show at surface what's at core.
So that's to trustI know what's fine
My mountings trust to make you shine.
Like a Lantern
But Trust's much more, a vital
No blindfold leap to opaque dark,
But like a lantern held before
Keeps dark at bay, or like a door
No longer locked gives access to
Rich chambers unforeseen by you,
Through Trust you're brought beyond your past
Experiences. Though the last
Were harsh, were sad, if you go on
Who knows but that you'll see a dawn
Succeed past night? When does it not?
"Oh, yes," you say, that you have thought
About all this: "But, oh, what pain
Past trust has broughtnot that again!
Am I a puppet, jerked around,
With laughter met, with paper crowned,
Misled by trusting others' strings?
Brent, isn't this what trusting brings?"
Give me your hands, look in my eye,
My Love: The past will always try
One's mettle. If in prison thrust,
Look at the door. Observe the rust.
New life awaits, don't be the thrall
Of past misfortunes. Look, see all
The world holds awaits you. Hap-
Piness was never reached by snap-
Ping fingers at the chance to win
It. Noif Life's not worth a pin,
Then, yes, forfeit but naught for nought
If nothing's offered, nothing's bought
But Life's worth something more, I think,
And worth an effort ere we sink
Into the grave. "These are but wild
And whirling words, my lord." But piled
En masse, you comprehend my drift
That life's a precious, fleeting, gift.
Just exercise your trust, your might,
Just step into the golden light.
Not that I have no
My quirks comprise no trivial fence
To ease or understanding; and
My modest gestures come off grand,
Like showmanship, when I meant on-
Ly casual and modest tone;
Unease at what's mundane to most;
A far from prepossessing host,
But even worse to be a guest,
Alone and shunning all the rest.
Too dressy for a burger joint;
Too pressing on some minor point;
I'm clueless in the simplest things,
Recondity my presence brings.
I try too hard, or do too much,
"Whole hog" I go when I should "Dutch."
Voracious where I should be shy
But holding back to get there, I.
My expectations are enfixed
From fiction and should be deep-sixed,
While normal actions make me start
Though offered by the gentlest heart.
And yet, I swear by stars above,
I'll fix all this to keep your love.
I know I do, I give "too much,"
But do not, pray, regard it such:
Proportionalities must be
Considered to their due degree:
So much I give, so much more would
What loyalties are borne by "should"?
Should I stern Reason lend an ear,
Or else consult my Feelings dear?
If Logic of the common kind
'S consulted, well, its narrow mind
Gives no admission to the heart:
It's table d'hôte, not à la carte.
Emotions err to feed the fed,
Embalming feelings ere they're dead.
Both these extremes are not my forte
My fault is of another sort.
But let me pose you with a quiz:
Is something other than it is?
While niggard Reason yields no slack,
Lush Feelings glut more than they pack,
Each less, or more, than what is true.
My honest worth's my gift to you.
That it's "too much," it cannot be:
Not less, not more, but only Me.
When others cry, "Too much! Too
It's from constriction of the soul:
Just like a box whose size is such
Mere pieces fit, but not the whole.
The weak take flight when strength comes near,
The dullard flees from wit; just so,
The faint- and small-of-heart must fear
When faced with what they cannot know.
So should we then, since someone talks,
The measure of our love contract,
And fit our feelings to their box,
To let Shortcoming tailor Fact?
Two hearts grown great with love and pride
Will fit no box, but burst it wide.
The Space of One Year
On the wall before my bed
There hangs a tapestry.
The Grand Canal of Venice
I think it is,
Two centuries ago, perhaps.
And in my waking moments
The golden dawn outside
Mimics, for a time,
The woven dawn before me
Which always stays before me;
And my thoughts,
Ripple, splash in those waves,
Rising, falling, tossing,
Splashing the sleek gondolas
Which bob in nervous wait.
And on the
The surface of the water's seethe,
I see reflections:
Images of ancient temples;
Proud lodges for old and noble families,
Ancient lamps in their windows beaming still;
Tiled flats; domes; spires;
Each its space full-filling,
All speaking rich of hopes, of dreams,
All distorted in the ceaseless splash of waves,
All rippling in my half-slept thoughts
To flow, to part, to join, to swirl
Endless in my half-slept thoughts.
figures in it share with me
A moment of their lives.
Two sailors drag a thick and heavy net,
To catch a living one more day;
A young woman smiles,
Sidelong, towards her cat;
But I think she smiles at me.
Would she but turn
One more half-turn,
I would call to her,
I would reach out my hand,
I would call her back
To be with me again
A moment more, just one,
To lie with me again and watch
Old Venice dawn before us.
A third sailor
stoops on the pavement,
Another net in hand,
A basket by his side,
Unaware his mates have gone before him,
Unaware that, even now,
The punter strains to right his boat,
To point it towards the open sea,
Towards the day and night to come.
Live their woven time before me:
Gondoliers, tradesmen, shipowners . . .
But on this day,
This day we share,
Some there are
Who, specially, hold my eyes,
Two boys there are
Upon the land,
Two boys at water's brink,
Who look into the colored dawn,
Into the sky,
Over the boats,
Over the waves,
Into the sky,
Into the colored dawn,
Into their future,
Their future so full,
So blank to them now.
A gesture at what he knows
Among all he cannot know;
The other sits
And gazes where he points,
Trusting, hoping, deep in thought,
Quietly waiting to see,
To see what life the future brings.
I think I know these boys,
I think we know them both
And always will,
These friends at water's brink.
And then I
seebut not too well
Three final figures there.
A boat being guided by a gondolier
Bears two fine ladies, gray-of-hair.
All passive as their boat slips by,
Their gondolier, all muscles, brawn,
One looks away from me, away
Towards passing boats; and yet
I know, I know she does not see,
But only waits for journey's end.
Her shoulders droop, she simply sits,
And only waits for journey's end.
Her friend has turned, and faces me.
Soon she'll shift again,
Her eyes turned back to join her friend's.
But just this once, just now,
Just now for me, for us,
Her eyes meet mine;
In all the tapestry, hers alone
Meet mine to speak a silent thought
I put, "I see, but not too well,"
And this is why:
These two fine ladies, gray-of-hair,
They wait, but, too, the fabric fades;
The tapestry in which they live
Is all untrue
And picks some spots to fade
And picks some spots to keep their hue.
The one who looks at me,
She cocks her head,
This I see,
And, too, her dark, bewitching eyes;
But that is all,
Just eyes and hair and shape.
But as she fades,
She cocks her head at me,
She stares into my eyes and,
Fading, passive, still, demure,
She says to me,
"Yes, Brent, I fade; and soon, someday,
The rest of me will also go,
My journey done.
For you I once was here;
And as I go to empty space
This empty space is still my space;
And let your memory
Supply to you what once I was
And in your mind I still will be
All that, for you, I used to be."
And, powerless to change her course,
Her gondola, her gondolier,
Her friend, herself,
All quiet glide to journey's end.
Our year of
Let us stitch it, stitch by stitch,
Into the part where two boys hope,
All vivid, with no fade, two friends,
Their lives always at brink,
Dawn of day, dawn of life,
With wonder, hope, and greatness,
With all of these before them,
The tapestry before them,
Lasting friends, with lasting life before them.
But if, someday, that gondola,
That gondolier, all muscles, brawn,
Comes perforce to take our friendship off
To join the ladies as they fade,
Remember that the blank that's left
Is no mute empty blank.
This faded empty space that's left
Of boys at brink of day and life,
This proud and noble lodge,
Still it is, will ever be, our space,
Our edifice at water's edge
To image on the lapping wave,
Ancient lamps in windows beaming still,
Our shared and quiet sign that
Our friendship lives within,
Endless in our half-slept thoughts,
Now beyond the power of time to fade
Inside us, strong, forever shared.
A year!but, no less, Always.
I saw two lovers have a tiff.
I asked myself, I wonder if
They still recall the hopes and dreams
They had before, or, as it seems,
Their aspirations were a kind
Of masquerading in each mind,
That, when the masks were tossed aside,
"That things have changed can't be denied."
When wooers go in masquerade,
Recall the piper must be paid;
And if your loving has no sense,
You'll pay in pounds your worth in pence.
I've nothing more to give of
To give my all:
My self, my workall that I have
Awaits your call.
Still not enough!
But one thing only more to do:
Just take a chance
Say yesand let me give you you.
Light and Dark
Do lights go out?
Or do they burn and eyes can't see?
Now that you're gone
The gloom I see's but failing sight;
But still the heart observes it all
From first to last, at hand, on call.
No, take from me both light and eyes,
My lasting dark's still bright with you.
The Frustrated Poet
Nor gilded monuments...
Giarize." Then tell me what to say
To you...? My little store of thought
And rhyme's all out! Had I been taught
To pad, to lie, there's so much fluff
To say: The world's not large enough
To compass all I feel the urge
To give to you. If you want glurge,
No problem thereIf pose were all
(Not Truth), on planets nine I'd call
"Just eight." to sing my love, on ang-
Els pure, or flowers rare and strange,
O Nature Sweet! O Heaven's Vault!
O Gods! O Byron! Boucicault!
"Who's that?" And thus I'd spill my ink
A-writing what I do not think.
No! Let me say (and hear), in fine,
Just I am yours, and you are mine.
The Grammar of Love
Why turn to words? I cannot
Such words my feelings bid me seek:
Mere syllables, no breath of air
Can undertake all that I bear
For you. If turns of phrase could live,
They'd buckle under what I'd give;
Objective complements are fine,
But pale, to say I want you mine;
Demonstrative means more to me
Than this or that could ever be.
To write just what I want for you
Is weakthere's much much more to do:
Why call on some old dusty saw?
Let me perform a copula.
To Realms of Gold
And yet, what breath of air's
As when I hear you say my name?
Like to the lark... "Sigh, once again,
No plagiary!" I'll tell you then:
Your fuel makes my engine roar,
My rocket lifts as naught before.
Through stars and planets will I ride
But that forgets my joy inside:
There, not another breaking day,
But new-dawned sunsnew constella-
Tions sparkle, shinewhen I but hear
My name come from those lips so dear.
Or write it: See my spirit soar
To gain those triumphs lost before;
Just as our joinèd hands love seal,
Your fingers on my name I feel;
Your voice, your pencil draw from me
New lands, new marvels, all to see.
So is it any wonder, then:
I silent, peaked, in Darien?
The Querulous Addressee
"Why all this crap, this
On my account? I'm only me
With flaws, shortcomings, outlooks poor
Wise up, you boobythere's the door."
Thus sep'rate chemicals combine,
Quiescent both, but, joined, incline,
Dynamical "Much too high-flown.
Can't you adopt a common tone?"
If gods could... "No!" ...Let angels... "Stop!"
As when two chargèd clouds... "Please drop
This overheated folderol!
Romanticizing's fine and all;
But, really now, I must confess
Such praise makes me feel all the less:
Delusions crowd your fertile brain
And leave your sense out in the rain.
Celestial being I am not,
Mere fantasies of your sick thought,
Mere fantasies to lead astray,
Things not to see the light of day!"
Will that be all? "Yes!" Now let me
Do some explaining, and you'll see:
Consider first a flow'ry dell
With buzzing bees, and of sweet smell.
One flower thinks its only fate
'S to grow, set seed, and pollinate
Like other flowers round about.
That this is all it has no doubt.
Yet people who have put some care
In perspect know its merits rare.
Or just suppose this peaceful dale
Is battered by a soaking gale:
The wind comes up, tree branches toss
Then fall upon the soggy moss.
The trembling shepherd in his hut
(Which trembles too), he cannot but
Get on his knees, and pray for life,
To see once more his loving wife.
There's lightning nowthe thunder roars
Trees topple downthe rainfall pours
As gentle streams transformed to flood,
Once rivulets, surge rock and mud.
And yet, ask some, and they'd be pained
To say much more than, "Um, it rained."
Where I see colors, they see black:
Do they know Truth who vision lack?
And I don't get, I must confess,
Why my seeing more should count for less.
Then trust my judgment, have no doubt
I'm fully stocked, while they're all out.
Please, give me no ifs, ands, or buts.
"Well, none the less, I think you're nuts."
My great fear is to be a bore,
Just saying what I've said before.
How often do you need to see
That I'm for you, and you're for me?
"It bears repeating." Do you think?
If dressed with something of a wink,
Yeah, it might pass. But still, an air
Of mustiness adheres. Threadbare
The thought. And what is new with this?:
O Sweet! O Love! O Joy! O Bliss!
Just on and on (or more or less)
I've nothing more to give, I guess.
"That's repeat too. Don't you recall
Your verses about gave your all?"
Two angels... "Back to plagiary?"
It's hard to do, B! "So I see."
Vocabulary of the heart
Is not well suited to this art.
In rhymes alone, that damned word Love
Calls forth but stale things, such as Dove.
And if one tries to go for passion,
The meter's spoiled, with its mate "fashion."
Of thoughts, none fresh; of rhymes, none new;
Of gifts, just patches, rags, for you;
Of words, it's all been said before
Oh, how I wish for something more
To say than shopworn old clichés
That weary more your weary days.
All I can say is, tattered bills
Yet bear the worth their face instills.
To end, then, as to "yours" and "mine":
O won't you be my Valentine?
If distance mean proximity,
Then distant's what I want to be;
If closeness doom me to be far,
I won't be close to where you are;
If Love's best shift be seem to not,
To seem to love I won't be caught.
Devotion thus goes in disguise
To show itself but to Love's eyes,
A counterfeit of circumstance,
By signs revealed to knowing glance.
It's thus that spies their agency
Commitbut by perplexity:
A loving mission, passion's stooge,
To triumph, but by subterfuge.
I, in this topsy-turvy land,
So being left, be your right hand.
Let this false loving prove my prize,
The puzzle solved but in your eyes.
Though Changed, the Same
But when Devotion wears a
"Decide who's fooled!" is what I ask:
A pseudonym the writer's face
Concealsbut is it such a race
To gain the knowledge that that name
The writer isthough changed, the same?
That loving words, transformed in jest,
Are no less loving when they're pressed
Into a costume just for fun:
Still you're the best, still you're the one
Though "up" be "down," though "black" be "white,"
Still Love's perception sees what's right.
So in Love's world, Love's costume ball,
Who jigs the world jigs none at all.
No Lands Enchanted
My eyes, which never travel far,
Have placed themselves on Whimsy's car
To voyage where my dreams will lead,
As prophets vision out their creed.
But, strange to say, they are not sent
To riches of the Orient,
Nor Inca mines of silver, gold,
Nor El Dorados, wealth untold.
No fancied princess for my eye
(Nor prince, should one prefer a guy);
No lands enchanted claim my view:
In truth, I only dream of you.
There, riches out-rich all suppose,
There treasures more than Treasure knows.
So home-sick Whimsy scorns to roam,
And with my eyes makes You its home.
Dressing the Game
The urge that moves my hand to write
My verse has not blacked into night,
Oh, no! Our celebration's pomp
'S too racy for my standard romp.
Hand me the lyre, bid me go to,
With fingers poised to pluck it through,
Yes, I could sing, "Oh, let me lose
Myself in you," in nice rhymed twos.
But, sad to say, the imag'ry
Is not quite what you'd want to see
In print: Just what my hands would do
Though welcome's somewhat fresh with you:
The details of my present urge,
If shared, would make you blush to merge.
To write in tropes and simile
'S too mannered (as it seems to me)
By this point. Let our actions speak
What sportsman hunts, mere words to seek?
To wield the plume seems wrong to me:
Such plucking's meant for venery.
Not One, but Both
Where do I end and you begin?
As night to day,
Each has an own being
Yet towards the other tends
But always yearning
For the mate it can embrace
But never be.
The daily cycle of the two
Revolves, I think, just as we do,
As one sometimes the upper hand
Will gain, then things will alter, and
Just like the wheels of Fortune go,
What once was high is now laid low.
It's not as risky as it seems:
Good fortune wins at both extremes.
If some Prometheus would grasp
At empty air, no strength of hand
Would serve to free him from his chains
When hands have nothing firm to hold.
The gods if called on only laugh;
The demons shrug: No more to do.
Deaf mankind keeps his gift; but, no,
In using it, forgets the source.
He feels the sun's dynamic rays
They beam on himand yet the sun
Is out of reach, a kind but dis-
Tant patron, he, who sees and hears
And shines and smiles at good and bad:
Ah, nono mingling there of souls
The only solace here must come
From those who share Prometheus' plight,
That, having risked it all, still give
The vital light, the living heat,
At any cost. Oh you, my love,
Who share your light, who share your heat,
Have broke my chains, renewed my life,
Enflamed my soul so I can be
Your partner, through life's fusing heat:
Two souls combine when two hands clasp,
Your loving hand has met my grasp.
§ Yuletide Thoughts and Devotional Poems.
". . . lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them" Matt. 2:9.
An eastern star
Once, from afar,
Led magi by its bright warm ray;
New magi, we,
Still searching, see
But darkly, in the present day.
Some scan the skies
With anxious eyes
Those stars are cold, and mute, and black:
Oh, lucky me!
Your star to see
That shines within. While others lack
Their way to find
And stumble, blind,
I'm led by beams from friendship's heart
Which, burning bright,
Exceeds in light
All the coals of Science and Art.
heart's my incense, myrrh, and
That heart's my star that's never cold.
I, the cold North
My fathers bled ice, came snow,
From the Beginning.
This my Yule;
Frost my heart;
Dark woods of frozen boughs.
He, the warm South
Born this daywhose love
Can thaw the ice,
Still my Yule,
Buds cased in frost, black, wait.
On Easter Morn
I did not rise on Easter
Was neither risen, nor reborn.
Oh could my faith have been more strong
In Him, or is my credo wrong?
It's Doubt, not Death, that stiffens me,
To doubt I've been what I should be:
Good Works can only go so far
To merit Grace; and I'm no dar-
Ling of Humility. In fact
Such sins I've missed, are but by act
Of negligencejust give me time,
And they're as certain as this rhyme.
But teach me how to love, my Lord,
And let us be in full accord,
Or this dry corpse is all that's left
Of resurrection, grace, bereft.
Oh, let me merit Blessèd fame
And hear your trumpets call my name.
§ Concerning the Irrepressible.
My spirit, trapped in being free,
Would wander lost just being me;
As dust itself mere nothing is;
Combined in bricks, an edifice.
Unstructured, blowing in the air,
I'm insubstantialnothing there;
But, given form by your impress,
Like clay, now formed, is more, not less.
Captivity can thus be fond:
To render free but by a bond.
This mess is my Wisteria
The arbor of my life
The distract triumph of chaos
This mess is my Wisteria
So proud, those soaring towers
To point the sun to us.
Their peaks, their stretching lines
Proud boasts, bold gambles won.
You too can hear his angels sing
Who built these monuments of joy
So long ago, his gift to us.
Yes, they still sing
To those without deaf spirits,
Their grimy faces raised in niche, at coign;
Festoons adorning, though darker now,
Pilasters rich with fluted rills
The streaming rainstorm streams there,
Thrills to spatter off a satyr's nose,
Or, intimate with Venus' clothes,
Whose face shows tears of seasons past,
Pools within her draping folds,
And runs off straining titans' arms,
Whose muscled stone still holds aloft
Their mighty builders' dreams.
But we fail them.
How many masts
How many poles
How many staffs
Stretched out, stretched up
The bugle-calls of builders' dreams
Jut naked now
Our unresponding flesh
More cold than builders' brick
More flint than builders' stone?
These naked flagpoles say to me
There once was joy in dreams.
Are we too impotent, too weak
To honor masts that call to us?
You cannot proudly flaunt your dream to me,
Who cannot fly those given you.
No flags, but only wind!
Inhabit first the house once built
And raise its banner to the sky,
And in the living of that dream,
The catching "now" of your dead "seem."
The Bright Sad Spark
Oh, blackness in my soul!
Could you but flood the light,
Wash dark and numb the bright
Sad spark that spots the whole,
The mocking light of part.
Oh, blackness in my soul
Could you but black my heart!
A Greeting Kept
Carl von Linné, better known as Linnæus, was a Swedish botanist who lived from 1707-1778 and who was born in the same area of Sweden as the poet's ancestors. He is particularly notable in being the originator of the binomial system of nomenclature for plants and animals which remains in use today. One delicate and elegant kind of wild flower of which he was fond he named after himself. In maturity, Linné was based in the Swedish city of Uppsala, where his house and garden are maintained to the present day.
I saw, in Linnæus' garden, his
A Linnæa, hidden,
Blooming out of season, for me,
Like an oracle's voice,
Like Nature's sly wink,
Like a greeting kept for me.
It was not the crystal beauty
Which made me weep,
Nor yet the lucky chance
That brought me there,
That made it bloom,
That made me see;
But rather, then, the outstretched
One I could grasp
A pledge between us, only us,
Of Linné and me,
Of me and Nature,
Of forgotten voices,
Blooming out of season, again, for
The Disjunct Finite
No pain is worse
Than the pain I do not have
Because it is not for me
It is Is
But the Is of another
Which will always be
Oh to merge with the infinite
Is easier far
Than to grasp the disjunct finite.
In and Out
But am I in or am I out?
The further in, the more I doubt:
The outward has a shape, a form,
But inward has no mold, no norm
To judge it by. So less or more?
Should Comprehension keep the score?
Should anything's validity
Depend on what blind eyes can see,
Or should one's fluid feelings rule,
Which standards neither have nor school?
The imposition Form invokes
May do for quotidian folks
Who need to grasp a hammer, saw.
Are nuts and bolts the answer? Naw,
Some only build what they can see,
But what's their misconception to me?
The chaos of their inner state
'S but chaos to those who can't wait
For resolution. Though the stream
Is ever-flowing, and can seem
Impermanent, still, water's flow
Is, as an idea, what you know
Not atoms of each rivulet,
The theme of All is what you get.
It's not which has the greater clout,
But both together, In and Out.
If each means both, then, plain to see,
This "in or out?" means naught to me.
What dreams!to pull me from the haze
Of daily doingssuch a maze
I clearly see what's at the peak,
The path to get there's what I seek.
So well-defined the summit is
To reach itOh!It's such a bus-
'Ness, groping through the brush, the mist,
To get there. Put hand over fist,
So hard one tries, yet all we grasp
Is empty air, no lock, no hasp;
So how to throw the barway wide
Of doubt, no clue, am I outside
Or in? While dreams to high degree
Are sharp, what's focused in "reality"?
Unfailing beacons, Dreams, provide
The only substance as a guide.
While shifting sands of facts and sight
Do anything but set one right,
The one firm way a man can cope
'S to trust that one firm thing, his hope.
And so at last I come to see
Dreams are the hard reality.
§ Concerning the Passage of Time.
On summer solstice, on my wall,
Three pictures meet the dawning light:
The lady flirts; two warriors fight
Across their frames: But one won't fall
Ah, no! Their place in Time's long view
Is not outcome, but rather striv-
Ing; and, no less, the Dame won't wive
To eitherhers to hope, not do.
As time progresses, angling rays
Illuminate successive parts,
Not all at once; and by these arts
They seem to fare in different ways
And yet, they don't: There is no Hence.
The evening darkens, goes to night,
But still they love, but still they fight
No less than we: Their fate, suspense.
I see the lines.
I see the harsh and angled face
In me as well.
I check again the glass and trace
The dues of time.
You have no age
To me: Our decades, what are they?
Yes, count the hours--
Go "one, two, three..."--Count as you may,
Then double it--
Clock in, clock out--
So Time's your chosen master, then?
Oh, don't wrong us:
Was ever it a thing of When?
Well, not for me.
Look in my eyes.
You know you'll find no stop-watch there.
Look deeper, F.,
And then you'll see I only care
Not "when" but "that."
Time has no hold
On what we know: Let teeth and skin
And muscles fail--
Superfluous to what's within--
Make no mistake.
And at the end
The curtain falls (as well you know);
But the applause
Recalls the art of the whole show.
So is it here:
Not "props" and "paint." Here's what I mean:
Your perf.'s more than
Your make-up at the final scene.
Just take a bow.
§ Parables and Tales.
The Sailor's Lament
The sea so wide: O endless seas
Of travelports beyond the breeze
Mere tossing on the flying foam
What kind of thought would make him roam?
O weary sailor! O despair!
He mutters into salty air:
"Just Her, my dream, my hope, my star,
To guide meclose, and yet so far!"
In narrow confines on his bunk
He treasures pictures from his trunk,
Some crumbling letters, torn and bent
He still can smell on them her scent
But sailing far more than the rest,
What makes him cling to ocean's breast?
"Just Her, my dream, my hope, my star,
To guide meclose, and yet so far!"
The letters touch him to the heart;
Her wording stirs his tender part:
"The Macarena you must learn
'Til then, don't bother to return."
That's why he tells, sat on a cask,
What keeps him sailing (should you ask),
"Just Her, my dream, my hope, my star,
To guide meclose, and yet so far!"
The following, halfway between a poem and a dramatic soliloquy, takes place in Achilles' tent during the events on the battlefield delineated in the latter part of the 17th book of The Iliad. The ironies which the poem plays upon might elude those who don't have close familiarity with Homer's work.
Diomedë, another cup!
I raise it to my brave Patroclus,
In the thick of it today!
How many Trojan helmets
Already rattle under horse's hoof?
How many Trojan brides will weep tonight,
Patroclus' sword, all hot,
Their husbands' last impassioned kiss?
My loving friend!
So love them all
And show Greek honor's not
So cheap to bilk!
And yet . . . and yet . . .
What honor's Agamemnon's?
That proud king?yes, king of rogues!
How many years now have we fought
For vengeance on his brother's loss?
So Paris stole her from his host
King Menelaus; well, off she went
At any rate. Who'd give a damn
If honor weren't the real loss?
So Agamemnon whips us up
For honor's sake,
For Menelaus' sake, at least, and then
Refill my cupand then
This man so sharp to honor's call
Stains my honor
Me, his army's surest hand
In crushing Trojan hopes!
You take my mistress-slave, you swine,
My Briseïsmy Helen
Fair won by me?
Agamemnonthe Paris of Greeks!
Why fight for honor, then,
If not for mine? So,
Pour again . . .
To look at, play with,
And nothing more,
Trash, like silver cups and jeweled rings,
To sling at fools for repute's sake
But not to steal!
Oh, yes, sweet Diomedë,
You too, and Iphis, you;
Don't think because you share our beds
You're more than pillows, just
A rollof diceyou lovely things,
To ease us, pass the time in play . . .
Oh, Patroclus! Where are you now?
Which corpses kiss the sandy plain?
Whose blood soaks the wild fig tree?
Does all go well? Another cup!
Once, when Chiron taught me herbs
As part of medicine to know,
He looked at me and smiled,
He bade me press one to my heart
And told me "wait."
I saw it bleed onto my breast
And, resting there, stain red my skin. Still young, unsure,
I cried aloud, and
Iphis, you've seen Patroclus' brow
Above you, at you . . .
I stop to watch
Those black expressive brows contract
His copper skin, well,
When he laughssome joke I've told
Oh, Iphis, when you kiss him
I have watched
His gentle lips kiss back at you.
My brave, my gentle unstained friend . . .
Have I told you, Iphis, how we met?
Oh, many times? Well, have I said
At once I saw in those dark eyes
Our friendship flame; his sweet and gentle voice
Like a hymn of joy to me,
Like sweet calm hymns of joy
Though conflict rages all around,
My quiet song, my only peace . . .
Ah! Shouts from the plain!
The battle's roar,
More death for honor's sake. Agamemnon! Rogue!
Does the battle go against you?
Disloyalty and pride displease the gods!
Were I there you'd have some ease . . .
Now will you stain my heart again?
Have you drunk my bitter cup?
Zeus! Humble the proud Greek
And I will fight!
Ye Tale of Sir Ardent, a Lady, and of his Steed Dobbin
A minstrel stopped me in the street
And quoth to me, "Pardy, some coin."
Which was unpleasantmost unmeet
On way to ladye faire to join.
"My lad, I really would suggest
You find a better mark, or rest."
He tugged me by the sleeve. I stayed.
"This is not beggary, my lord:
I'll sing ye of a knight and maid;
And if perchance that you be bored
In recompense your ears so lent,
Will refund all of . . . twelve percent."
The sun was mild, the day was long,
A charitable urge I had,
And said, "Then sing to me your song,
But mind you well, my forward lad,
Say no bad rhymes, nor words despised,
No treachery, plain or disguised."
We shook not hands (he was not clean),
Agreed, though, to the stated terms,
And you will think (or so I ween)
I prudent was to catch no germs
For minstrels, like the common run
You never know just what they've done.
He tuned his lute, and gargled twice,
He combed his hair, and made a part.
I must admit, appearance nice
In players always wins my heart.
A couple coughs, he cleared his throat,
And sang as follows (which I wrote):
Sir Ardent was a lusty knight
Of Camelot, with little fame,
For though he won in ev'ry fight
Still no one mentioned much his name.
The reason was, for all his vim,
His horse was smarter far than him.
So rode he forth, one afternoon,
From Castle Malbelmid, I'm told.
"I'll not be longwill be back soon,"
He shouted out, right loud and bold.
Sir A., though doing best he could
In forecasts, really was no good.
He traveled day, he traveled night,
He traveled more, but never less.
"His goal?" you askHe was not bright
On that, he really had no guess.
A smarter man with purpose goes;
Sir A. just followèd his nose.
A magic forest came he to.
His horse looked up at him and said,
"It's not so wise, I'm telling you,
To go such waysyou'll end up dead
In short, good knight, just let me say
My horse-sense bids me tell you 'neigh'."
Sir Ardent, though he liked good fun,
Good japery, good food, good beer,
Just could not stand an equine pun
And, tactful, feigned he did not hear.
You'll see, as any untaught Miss,
He acted much awry in this.
They passed enchanted fountains three,
A mystic crag, a unicorn,
A wizard (name unknown to me),
The Grail, and two dwarves all forlorn,
But stopped their journey not for these
And ventured onward, through the trees.
Beyond an elvish waterfall
The trail turned. A vista showed
A castle, tower, moat, and all.
Sir Ardent said, "Well, I'll be blowed!"
(A hero drops, as I'm advised,
Poetic talk, when he's surprised.)
Up in the tow'r, a damozel
Sat at a window, sighing "Alas!",
A crux that, minstrels know too well,
Forebodes adventure, or just gas.
Which choice to pick, I wish I knew
I'll leave the matter up to you.
She saw Sir Ardent, he saw her,
As by design of gods above;
And so to speak, or as it were,
As happens, they both fell in love.
(One wishes, just one time or two,
In such a case, they'd both say, "Ewww!")
Around the spell-bound castle thrice
Sir Ardent rode, but so chanced Fate,
That though the walls were neat and nice
In them there could be found no gate,
A fact which caused our knight to say,
"To kiss her's met with some delay."
Still sat she in the window. "Sweet,"
Sir Ardent cried, with all his might,
"If you'd tell me how we could meet,
I'd set this situation right,
For in an epic, lay, or rhyme,
Being kept apart's assessed a crime."
In truth, in real life the case
Is not so clear, there can be art:
Togetherness not taking place,
And keeping lovers far apart
Might be the wisest course, I trow
But let's set that aside for now.
The lady up in tower proud
Could barely hear him, and her speech
Was insufficiently loud
Sir Ardent's shell-like ear to reach.
Alas that neither knew too well
Lip-reading, mime, or ASL!
Our knight got off his horse, then set
Up camp, and let his Dobbin roam.
"It's time, I think, for me to get
Some mare who'd like to take me home."
(It's Dobbin speakingdon't mistake
Our Dobbin is, I fear, a rake.)
And off he went to pastures green
On his own sweet romantic quest;
I figur- and lit'rally mean
This phraseimagine, please, the rest:
The fact that both sought out a dame
They're diff'rentor they're much the same.
But, to an end: The lady fair
Could nought but smile on our Sir A.
She could not leave her tower lair
Nor let in her dear fiancé.
Enchantment! So it went for years:
Within, without, they shared but tears.
While Dobbin, free to roam, enjoyed
Exciting times, then found his match:
A filly sweet, on farm employed,
He ran across, and married, natch;
At length, invested in a mews,
Became quite wealthy, such the news.
Sir Ardent pined away his days,
And sighed away his very breath,
Until one nightso rumor says
He stopped: In short, he met his death. Take my advice to guide your course:
Don't be the rider, be the horse.
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