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Poems 1962 (youth
seven-forked, fate fringed lightning of desire
Clatters across the void; the breaker
Toward its night-cloaked cataclysm;
And in the perfect instant of that arch,
In the exquisite sweep before these paltry things
Dissolve in thunder,
We who look about us wondering,
Find vestiges of spirit worth the wonder.
Admittedly I lack
As Venus walks, my world is but her scene;
I, a perverted mob of shimmering eyes,
Gorging the semblance that I cannot stain,
Bob in the ripples of her sacred thighs.
Reclining in the afternoon, she'll drain
The cola bottle of my flesh erect,
Toss it, tilt back, relax, her hammock slung
On ropes of fire that pinion and protect,
Wound to the axis of the desert sun.
In the static, bird webbed brilliance of the afternoon,
The she-world of striped awnings, lawns and food,
Lulled by the muttering hives of nearby schools,
Life sleeps; life man controls
Too well; the bushes squared by rules
The chopped grass and petunia bowls,
The ritual meal-time, church-rhyme, hourly bell.
After the Dachau of misplaced allegiances,
The rage of inner truths against the forms
Of social devastation, still the self,
Recoiling from it, forces free, flies loose
To personal heights of freedom, social truce,
Finding a path through tempest and typhoon,
Back to the languorous female afternoon.
White, white as stars you stand, do not agree
To move among your moving scenery;
Nor shudder at the shouldering, sludge backed waves
That pound your walls with twisted, driftwood staves,
Nor fear the ringing claws the sea-bird whets
Rashing your white skin with still whiter nets,
Nor flinch to feel the rain's wind angled wedge
Bite cold, quick, catlike with its kindless edge.
Your beam the dullest mariner can scout
Which pierces through the darkest mists of doubt
And from the reef gives warning and reproof,
White in the webs of evil, just, aloof,
Charting for travelers, with bright decree,
The dream deep stretches of the wind stressed sea.
Not to regret the things that do not change,
Nor to expect what, missing, moves remorse,
Neither to seek the different in the strange,
Nor to confuse the journey with the course;
This is the wisdom learning cannot force,
This is the patience God must prearrange.
Who can endure the pangs of seeming's change,
Struggles at last to seeming's changeless source.
She who would not have hurt me, I forgive,
Thank for the waste of one illusion more;
Me, for excess of sole desire, I blame.
Shift as we may, the life we wish to live
Always remains the life we must endure:
Humans must find the different in the same.
When fears and cares I can no more resist
And night has shown me shadows of my fate,
And hope left early which arrived too late;
When slows the crucial beating in the wrist
And in my fingertips I feel the ice
That plays a prologue to advancing death;
When I am sick and think the suck of breath,
The beat of heart but meaningless device;
Then I recall the stream's delightful noise
And how she knelt down peering for the shy
New-sired fish that slipped through emerald screens:
Then in the silence steals her gentle voice,
Into the darkness where my sorrows lie,
Bearing the wish of rest, being the means.
Electric silver, spires of city dunned
In tons of molten darkness and dense night,
Seethe skyward to related radiance,
The grosser brilliance of the big stars
Forever lounging in their tracklessness,
Where suns by suns innumerous are sunned.
Improbable towers found in time's trials true
Court the untroubled moonlight far above
The working rubble of their builders' lives.
Truer they stand the steel wind's lacerating
Sweep, the cross-cut slashes of dread cold
And ruin engraving rain,
The physical monotony of loveless life.
Their makers, as they were themselves but tools,
Were folded with their building implements,
Their rules and compasses, levels and plumbs,
Into the absolute velvet of the grave.
These sky bound columns catechize still well
The stony wills that storied them so high
And in default of life still in them dwell.
They are our fathers' heirs, and we,
Born slaves to them, still tend the sacred flame
Our fathers forged themselves.
The single albatross, a smoky light
Above the acres of encrafted night,
Striking the texture of unblemished air,
In radiant calm takes his imperial flight.
Great, joyful creature, do not recollect
Those sibling eyes grown old in retrospect;
Children and friends confined in depths below,
Unmindful of abiding intellect.
Into the wheel of stars, the bright roulette
Where dust and shoals, crazed by a shaft of time,
Follow the degradations of their crime,
Do gods peer with amusement, or regret?
Survivors seek soft rhythm of some love
Achieving fragments of society
At which implacable machinery
Strikes with a chance, brute tempo from above.
Uprooted trees leave basins in the earth
Where rain pours, making mirrors.
The gushing wherries of the little stream
Foam white, above the luxury of sped green
Between banks burdened by lavish green
Grasses and reeds the currents coloring.
But birds will starve in the winding ice
Both white and gray,
And the battered-down wood rot brown,
The unmourned dead make ready to receive
The unloved living.
Seasons of giving and receiving
Circle the tree
All silver on the one side seen
And on the other, everlasting green.
A disenchanted, solitary man
Habitué of the abandoned dusk,
The central tension of the cobweb's eye
Where cables of the taut metropolis
Create in their reticulated sphere
A gulf of idlenesses and cold winds,
Considers the efficiency of means.
In Descending Order
Beneath the sun that shed as on a screen
White light to chasms of exploding cloud,
Wood thrown to kindling folded to the wind
A churning welter of abolished worlds
Staining a leaf of Appalachian day.
Below the smoky cabin, waterwheels
Plaited the lavish tresses of a falls
Watched by a child in faded overalls.
Thereunder yet, the red thatched cottages
Milled in the valley where a township spread
Dull streets and simple walls which sometimes shoved
A backward spire at the oblivious sky.
And lower yet and far across the land,
The many-leveled city by the bay
Whose silver stippled waters laced great hulls,
Gigantic lay, checkered with louds and lulls.
And there the labors of ephemerids
That toil in fiery grots of rayless air,
Transform the minerals as, in Norse tales,
The dwarfs made spears that never failed the mark
And plied the dense gold into Freya's hair.
Down scores of flights from where the buildings cast
Their great designed, undeviating towers
Against the various lusters of the sky;
Down floors, dimensions, deep into the grain
Of endless, wondrous cabinetry;
There, box-imboxed in multi-paneling,
A girl is seated on a plush divan
Whose gaze falls on a grease-stained magazine
That frames a view of Appalachian Pan.
When stunned and baited by the screaming storm,
Man, in his web and wilderness of lies,
Carves gods in granite unto which he cries
And supplicates cold heaven to keep him warm,
He finds the elements reject disguise,
Stone stays indifferent to its changing form;
The stars swing further off in separate skies.
Logic alone! the toughest substance wrought,
Outlasts the fashions of incessant age;
Only in it can simple time engage
The finest paradigms of human thought.
Yet all of logic is an empty page
Whose total meaning is forever naught--
The ghostly shadow of a vacant cage.