On the Great River
Grammar of Memory
Poetry & Pedantry
Have You Watched Your Hand?
The Tragic Flaw
Ballads for Janus
My Witness, My Lady
A Grave Story
On the Great River
Taos Blue bones, sunset, bleeding mountain. The brawling average and the Safeway Indian. Lorenzo, art is Homeless. Topophobia. Santa Fe Hill and cross, the dustless plaza. Texas man, his teeth and luggage. Children Pérez, Sánchez, and García. Anglophobia. Albuquerque Neon nightrest, bursting river. On her skirts the mushrooms. Her mixed Wine collapses every Sunday Noon. Amnesia. Corrales Adobe and sticks in the valley. River-muck, tumbleweed, toad. A horse turning turquoise in twilight. My melancholia.
Grammar of Memory
If the light fail redeem it -- out of no old book. out of no false stare. out of no hardihood for racing the common horse: but out of the punctual worm, crashing the coffin lid, whose great electric head, breaking the hoggish herd, stirs those long wide-world river bells.
The stir of a man through a whirlpool of air Sucked the hawk backward and down. Lithe waters caught fire, wild weather Went whirling the three-o'clock sun around. A decade of seaweed split open a boulder The burning high tide gulped down. In the hawk's high lingering stare The spell of a man, shuttered by boughs, Became a fallen feather of sound.
Poetry and Pedantry
The moonlit midnight summer sky's immensely light-blue-sandy- (sandy less than powdery) no-wind-will- cover hush is to the distant- even-smally-slushing surf like a hugely still wide- open pasture sniffed at by a pent-up sheep herd straining frantic for a way to enter it who dimly bleat in feeble puzzle- ment -- crushed because they simply aren't able to.
The self suspiring amid the quiet friendship of things unrelated, as hot cups and long-limbed tables, sees steam and stance conjoin, rise to a seething breath of victory over all that self is not, a small vulnerable in perishing communion with all it touches and contrives to let alone, vying with breakable slim tangibles -- all a known dust after, conveyed by wind and death.
in the green matter of the world it is a cause of delicate dependency the who upon the what the why within the how so was it always in green time where feeding goes on undetected and the bird is with the worm gobbled up at last here is it furthering for things to be and ape at being other things airy in the sea in the loud sky gushing free here sweetness is suddenly the hush on all the nibbling streams swept by a minute's accidental harvesting here bones don't settle down till stones are where they please and all is in the high days riding where nowhere always is feathered by our luck and kind we feed on days till one day snatch us blind to be the greenest food of light
The hardened beach winks crystal Stung and clawed again. Foam clings gray and trembles. Some thin breeze compels. Half shells smooth as pearl Are drier than the sand. A feather eddies up and stills. Gold brow to glinting nails Alert, light spiralling Her ears, her hair, she stands And stares. The moment ends. No seas crash louder than Her wishing it again.
Blue horses suck the fences paintless The young oak sings Some day my acorns will be famous Blue eyes the starlight rubs in gravel The old house sings The generations I unravel Four rabbits leap the blue alfalfa Snow down past the sleeping dog Their blue tongues divide the garden Their bite has sharpened on his growl The old gate creaks The miles I'll never travel Blue winds strum the clover The garden weeps I'm still young but hopeless A blue moon topples over
He stands by water calm as an early summer melon grown to bobbing head. To drink, not a moment's job of played conceit lazy in the head's reflection, but the good draught long as all life flowing through granite teeth, through miles of hot canals past islands dark and struck aloud: a tide of whispering embraces, a red corpuscle sea, to one world-wide tail lassoing the air.
1. "My shadow turned and cut the corner like a knife. Need I say this twice? It walked ahead, behind my life. Note the device? Well? I said: My shadow..." 2. "All right, genius mine, I get the point -- but" (sneeze) "since when am I your shadow? I'm your wife. And so? It's late, let's go to bed. Snap off the lights. Please?"
The man next door who bawls at our dog Glares from his porch with jaws ajar. His heart like china swaddled in straw Imagines a doctor bent to explore The bulge of the thing, the chill of the thing Struck deaf and dumb, forgetting to stir. On Sundays he swarms, glossing the roof, The nose, the gaudy warm flanks of his car. Teetering over the perfect motor, He nuzzles his head in the ladylike hum Of the thing that never while he attends Can be imagined forgetting to stir. But some gray Sunday to come, I picture The lazy exhaust, the glittering cold, While he lies bunched like a rag on the hood, His china blue heart cracked in his jaws, The motor beneath him, deaf and snug, Humming on velvet for hours, forever.
Hammocked in a net of shade, The cemetery sun deflects A beam that winks along the path In flecks of quiet endlessness. Grim, alert, the twins emerge: Upstart spinster monuments; Pails scarcely swinging, they step out, White classical American. Blueberries big as grapes are at The brims. Their bony fists clench handles As they join the mortal street. And the livelong summer fondles them. How like them in fifty years (To one absurd, sun-struck as I) Their spinster nieces pass alert With berries plundered off their graves.
"I see you like our mountains." And can I say I do who dream of olive trees toughened By the angry winds of Zion, a thorn- Entangled memory of Isaac who On patient knees before the stone awaits His father's knife, but gets the broad-armed angel Thrusting him to life? "Your mountains, sir?" I stare. Liking Mountains was a benediction on The earth, the hardening of lava and The twist and gush of rivers, to those who Agilely upon their fathers' bones Would lie and hear the sound of sons Treading on their own. "Yes, I like them very much." And who Are we to quibble over heritage -- I, The testy newcomer, and he, old salesman Of a lifting view? For, even to exchange our eyes, No angel ever would arrive to recompense His stony adoration, and no sweet son Bring my bones alive.
White, puritan, and muscular in heaps, the snow moves softly into places reserved for other things. Solid weather, shroud of heaven, who can guess its purpose, oblivion packed, whole as sin? Obstacle of the routinary, its sudden weight strains thc lawful brain of progress to rebellion. Children grasping up the balls of holiday use it intensely as a gift in kind. But the temporary vast monument of its mission inflicts dumb desert on the mind, Muffling fields of cluttering invention, silence of an age that leaves all man behind.
Have You Watched Your Hand?
The hand that listened to a pocket clink With change was drawn to finger clammy coins, Exulting in the expert touch that told The shabby penny from its mates, until In each was traced the dead exact number And, like safecracking hand auditing Dark dials, quickly clicked the sum, knowing Better my dense pocket weight than I My rent and airy mind. Then the notion struck, a minted fancy: Could not round copper, silver, lead, in any Pocket bottom dangling, rubbing backs, Of themselves produce the hand that weighs And strokes in them each finity inert And cold, and so stir up that mindless muffled Clink, a travesty of mastery in Subjection like a pet's? The seed clutched up in widowed womb from hero's Ash, and soon turned foetus, popped out god -- Perhaps is such a thing-engendered hand. But coin-sprung monster come alive with drachma, Doubloon, ducat, under ruined cities stuffed, Could lead a death-free, palm-oiled life exchanging Glinting treasuries.... By God! Have You watched your hand? and does it burn to ransom Greece or Babylon?
Abel the Water Bomb
Argument: It is the end of time and I still encase my eternal mind, coveting its tiny ticking sleep. The hazards of staying afloat, a disused water bomb, the scintillating wreckage all about me -- things remembered, outward now -- miraculously take on their own absurd reality. It is at least a start. Look, isn't it growing light already? Now in my heart day breaks where the world wakes and all light seems wheeling home. Father death, unnatural mother, you who made me late for life, early born for night, my home, to scrabble over one dried-out bitter loaf for which my life was taken in God's fold; You who've unfused me, disabled me for all the scintillant proud pleasures promised in the life I never learned, created darkness for a home and birthed me there, guileless grazing shepherd, victim-to-be; Unnatural mother, father death, who've used me, man's first martyr, dead child of favored potency, for a worldly legend of abuse, a small blood-crawl of uselessness most coveted in dark time; Dear, dumb parents of forever, you who've wracked me on my brother's shadow, he who always died steeped in his deeds, daylight's ruddy prince, hero of heretofore, hereafter's swallower. Back in his golden agelong world of day towers first began to tilt, floods wavered and began to fall. One waterfall death wrought still falls beautifully for newlyweds. The rock beneath it chips, erodes, the helpless flood still rolls down, pounding toward his memory -- animal and alive as sallow serpents trying to erase the world, fill all oceans with the nullity of a heretofore forever. And I, disused, barely afloat, my own mind's litter, become the world's one small-eyed hope it will survive. Unnatural mother, father death, who made me: dark was my coming hither, and in the dark home, engendering from his bloody corded arm this fuse of murdered love, I, first and last the lapsing ruminator, now bound toward my brother's home, hum silently: In my heart day breaks where the world wakes and all light seems wheeling home.
I must ask you to be still for once -- for there is mockery in your words that mean to love that cannot even hate outright, so much you hate yourself: a phosphorescent thimbleful of pride borne shakily in self-starred night, a nose ring of moral cannibal, searching for a guilt delicate enough to eat by teeth herbivorous as faun's, quivering a harsh nose jangle at his own beast smell -- be still, I say! I will not let you munch my flowering will away.
The streets are turmoil with implied disaster as pedestrians assailed by autos topple on the walks in strict disorder, like crabs shored up by waves, unscrambled by a seaward-pulling fate that points to timelier graves. Pigeons in retreat yield up their pavement pasturage to line a nearby rooftop where with mannerly restraint they improvise the shoulder hunch of buzzards busy with delight at multitudes of staggering prey.
I cannot remember anything worse in many an eon of the soul's unkempt struggle with its god than the philosophic gentry peddling their tamed swan for that true and native bird who once screamed disdain at the tidy swan-infested lake then raised a red wing and besoiled itself -- the celebrated flamingo!
The Tragic Flaw
Deep in the jewel box where it lay The new-born infant stared with onyx eyes Asking to be read behind each Eyelash sprouting from its minute Full-grown head. As I watched the carved magnificence, The glowing midget cheek, the pared And half-moon nails, the spiral Junctures where the flesh turned To hidden rose, I heard the doctor's cough nearby And felt behind his guarded hand Those thumping homespun mouthfuls Garrulous and out of place As virgin jokes. Then I knew the child was mine, Its box the casket of imagined form, The contents effigy of hopeless Momentary life regained, immaculate And still-born. And the doctor, offhand, coarse, Prattling of something else, Audience-catharsis to the act, waiting Ubiquitous to swallow it in the grave Of a laugh.
Ballads for Janus
I Two men were sitting in a dark quiet room figuring out their lives, coming to no conclusion. One said, I want to rule the earth. Other said, I want to limit birth. One said, I need a thousand wives. Other, turning on the lights, said, Brother, you're my enemy. One took out a gun, aimed at the other's head. Other moved faster, shot him dead; standing in the room, tired, said, Now I'm done, shot himself like he shot the other one. II Two men were walking in the middle of the night. One turned left, other turned right. One went through hell, sweating like a fool. Other smelled lilies, in a pool. One lost his arms grabbing at shadows. Other kissed girls on their toes. One lost his face, walking through a wall. Other lay with ladies great and small. One met the other waiting at the end. What did you find, my lucky friend? Lilies, pools, a thousand wives. Hell, walls, a thousand knives. Grinning, they broke each other's head. One hadn't lived, the other was long dead. III In the golden old days the twins sat down, played on lutes while all danced around. A little later when the earth was proud they sang to kings while others bowed. Then came days when the whole earth groaned; they tinkled like beggars and were stoned. Came an age of wolves and fools; one walked hungry, other in jewels. Camps now are set for the mad and the sane. They shoulder each other, they are one again.
Here it is, the safe distance, the utter wall, and in the center the round idea of comfort abandoned like a pillbox by the enemy, apertures no longer bristling with offense, but being suddenly disarmed of menace, looking silly as a toy mistaken in its use. Prowling in the uniform of an enemy turned friend, I find myself lone marauder of a landscape shrunk to garden size by a future suddenly arrived, -- devised, with time's collusion, as heir apparent to this patch of peace. A century of weight is leaning on the wall: a rowdy sky disseminating cynical horizons perpetrates a hoax of clouds over the tongue-tied land, and my garden waiting new and barren as a billiard table asks me how to grow. Disarmed by freedom, I myself become the arm of freedom, pressure on a space to be, filling earthworms with devout commotion, penetrate the round- house of idea to find seeds in crude love-notes promising lifetime harvests in a year.
Death around the corner and death beneath the skin have nothing at all to do, Sir, with where I saw it begin. A child with tested eyes taught me where to look; It wasn't in upside-down skies or behind the coat on a hook. It wasn't under the bed, Sir, or rasped from the radio, or in the night of furniture that creaked until dawn, no It wasn't in the usual places, Sir, that's what surprised me too; the window where horror gazes framed this unfabulous view: A head closing in from above first wearing the maternal grin hardened his eyes to love, told him that life is to win From another his bread and butter; where love is love of the womb to lose is to face without supper the selfless walls of his room. From hot home of the flesh, cool doom of quickening sin woke death up with the wish, Sir, to be severed under the chin.
My Witness, My Lady
We were listening to sounds the circus made When the darkness twisted out of his head. "Look how his bloodstream is oozing away!" Cried the lady hugging her heart-shaped purse, Her back to the horses parading with streamers And steam in their tails. I was afraid Nobody else had seen him erupt But me. He never whimpered at all Between the lady and me, a column Of silence facing the horses and drums. But had she really perceived, I wondered Without changing direction or biting my lip. When I brought down the hammer again (the crowd Was cheering the quivering thighs of a drum Majorette), had she perceived the plump Little echo made by his wound the moment She cried, the moment I pulled the hammer Away? Because it was then in a panic Of pity I saw her again through the loop Of his arm as he rested a hand on a hip. Torn by the instinct to scream and the fear Of dropping her purse if she opened her arms To help and the anguish of missing behind her The loudest part of the circus parade, She did nothing but shut her proud little eyes, Turn on her hard round heel and shuddering Walk away. Later I wanted To find her and tell her, "My witness, my lady, You who were so afraid, do you know How we triumphed, your victim and I, the rest Of that day? How all those loud steaming horses, The