Edwin Honig: from Interrupted Praise (1983)


To Restore a Dead Child
The Abstract Man Encounters the Adjutant
By Sea Stone
After the Letter
Being Somebody
Letter from New Hampshire
An Art of Summer
Starting the Hostilities
Monster Talk
Dialogue in the Sleeping House
Without Love
Passes for Nicanor Parra
The Painter in the Mountain
For His Mother Flying Into Her Seventy-Seventh
Stumbling Out of the Prado
Rilke's White Horse
Another March
Night Island
Sweeping the Room
Last Song
Pablo Neruda
Three Moments for George Sullivan


To Restore a Dead Child


Sometimes while I sleep 
I hear the single cry and tire screek 
that never end. 
My blond and foolish brown-eyed brother 
lugging his fretful love 
shambles after me 
as the cunning Mack truck 
lurching out of nowhere 
cuts him down.

He's a long dead almost-three. 
I'm a long lived five 
just turned sixty-one 
still running in a dead heat 
with the rolling cab that swooped him up 
heading for the vanished hospital.

It's then on waking 
I feel the snot of infant faces 
leak into my mouth.


Hearing it wake, we feel 
the windy calling to each other 
of the kindred sleep and death 
in the morning opening 
of the eyes of country horses, 
the odor of earth's dampness 
in the crystal tree light, 
and the touch of rough bark 
on fingertips.

Seeing it, we feel again 
the worn heart welcoming 
the slow envelopment of dark, 
the falling off of sight 
in the old gray house, 
when sun's heat passes 
and the first breeze 
lifts a faint dust 
along the hedges.

Remembering, again we see 
the embers crumbling in the grate, 
the fire flaring up again, 
the pause before the turning shadow 
spans the polished floor 
and drifts into the open world, 
a street that wanders 
endless as a silent grief 
that will never know itself.


We walked out of time 
into the woods of pain 
and never seemed 
the same again. 
We tilted with the hope 
of finding ourself 
in another skin, 
and bent on recovering, 
turned with open eyes 
to find welcome in the arms 
of a dead brother -- 
sleeping his dream of being, 
a dream so long unfulfilled 
there was no time 
even to begin to live it, 
till in his own hope 
we lived what we believed 
may have been 
reserved for him.


Watching the immense self scattering ocean 
ruffle out before us, 
our wonder stirred and time became 
an intricately formal mating, 
night on day on night, 
a repeated wave flash 
signaling the act and its abating, 
and the last long rolling into shore 
turned into a fresh aspiring 
of newborn creatures 
to join the greater mating 
sky and ocean, 
and the creatures reeling beyond our wonder 
mingled with the lifetimes 
of our aged parents, each one apart, 
our cheerful sister's pregnant daughter, 
also apart, 
and this briefly sunlit reawakening 
stung alive the still unanswered 
black and blueness 
we never would be clear of -- 
though no longer cherishing 
the old bruised core, 
no longer poised against 
the battering disablements, 
we simply gazed again 
and let our wonder live again, 
and die.


For everyone the call of light, 
seeing figures of the creatures 
from the mountain and the sea: 
an eagle flying and a snake 
whipping past the chicken coop, 
a horse neighing in a flash 
of meadow, with wayward water there 
to slake the thirst a moment. 
As light descends, 
following the slow shapes 
bulking briefly in their place, 
it makes as if to stop 
and give them way and cause, 
as if to stroke 
and praise their substance fully 
before each creature 
passes into its own remove 
with rapid smile print 
(as on your face and mine appears 
held there by heads soon to be 
no longer yours or mine) 
till it lets the shadow quicken, 
overtake the bobbing bulks, 
and rise immensely over 
like a mercy to devour them.


As we would have it, 
it would be nothing simple 
or profound, 
nothing easily attained, 
long worked for or perfected. 
It would be of a wholeness, 
full and large and figured 
in its substance. 
It would be all engrossing 
to itself and others -- 
like the playing of a mindless tune 
between a richer music 
and a silence: 
a peaked and dribbling sound, 
a sound wavering in descent 
but kept in measure, 
and in that measure 
letting all know 
how deeply it could love 
the silence following.


Not to be listening 
yet to be heard 
in the huge inconsequences 
of the heart, 
where having conveyed 
the full measure of our hate 
as a gesture of belief 
in something worse than ourself 
is barely to have escaped 
self murder, 
the intended sacrifice 
become the bound body of love 
in a younger self -- 
wearing a brother's features 
still scored through 
the dead boy's memory -- 
forever jammed between 
the tonnage of his death 
and self hate's last convulsions, 
like the lost deserter 
fixed in an ice cake 
some intruder yells up 
early one spring.


As the light descended 
the night was pierced a moment 
and there was seen 
in the vagueness of a shadow 
a form more his 
than our idea of him, 
and the shadow wobbled 
into a figure merging 
with the hope of his lost being 
come to be again, 
as we tried swiftly to put on 
the dark loose patches 
fallen from him in the light -- 
trying to fill and fill 
all that was left 
of his living clothes 
before his body vanished


No longer would he have to run 
each time we left him 
before our mindless going 
struck him 
as needing to be answered, 
and the need make him 
fly to us 
and press his body 
on us briefly.

For now, if again we left 
without a smile or hand wave, 
he would no longer need to fret 
or wonder how to weight the meaning 
since as last reminder 
he had left 
his body printed on us.

The Abstract Man Encounters the Adjutant


Echoing the fierce belief that time 
serves only as a part-time adjutant, 
he lost each battle he ever deigned to fight, 
construing every language 
but the adjutant's outspokenness.

So it came to pass he had 
no prospects, no supports, 
except for those he chose to think 
would be revealed when needed, 
as if he'd summoned them.

His secret hope was that the adjutant, 
who lived for others and for none, 
would one day touch his eyes 
so he could read the real language 
things were written in.


In his ordinary world 
past and future did not exist 
except if he decided 
they should appear 
peopled with events, 
with casual births and deaths, 
minute misfortunes of any kind, 
but where his own hopes and desires 
played no part.

As long as he directed it, 
this play assigned the present 
to the adjutant miming his way 
through muffed contingencies, 
the arch reflector of everything 
flowing past his eyes.

And so he stood reflecting 
as if to ask, how could one 
who chose to focus on 
the landscape of the livid moment, 
observing life so keenly, 
be said to have no heart, or worse, 
not to be alive?


The isolated house he sometimes visited 
had the virtue of facing ocean 
from every door and window. 
No sign of people anywhere. 
A few gulls here and there, and other birds 
he had no wish to name. 
Occasionally a ship 
appeared to fill the sky -- 
but diminished if he stared, 
shrank further if he glanced away, 
then vanished utterly.

He discovered that 
since things appear 
to disappear so swiftly, 
they had no need for names. 
Suppose he asked, What's that? 
and he replied, Possibly a crab -- 
it would seem he'd thrown 
a loose stocking over it, making 
the whole thing wrinkle right away.

Better to answer silence with silence. 
Each thing moving apart, 
no thing needed his speech. 
This gave him a certain satisfaction.


In winter when the sun shone, 
winds sometimes descended 
in a ritual drumming up of clouds, 
which in fact filed by, 
peered quickly down 
and crossed the sky, to be devoured 
by whatever lay in wait 
past the horizon.

Meanwhile in town 
a mother cat had a litter 
and out of spite or hunger 
ate the kittens one by one 
as soon as they emerged 
from her mysterious dark hole.


There would be large cuttings of flowers 
where he walked, left at intervals 
in heavy piles, as though the same rough hand 
that cut the stems 
must soon return to gather everything 
in one huge wicker basket 
centered in a noiseless cart. 
Conveyed into the house beyond 
to gaze from cut-glass bowls 
and pots of blue majolica, 
the flowers would at last appear 
expertly propped, consummately transformed.

But the adjutant delayed or never came, 
the flowers wilted, 
hailstones clattered angrily, 
and every door leading to the house 
kept banging in the wind.


Suddenly out of the hedge 
a rabbit leaps clear, 
scampers past the bread crumbs 
laid out for the mourning dove, 
and almost transparently 
disappears through an opening 
to the rocks below.

The dawn is pondering 
how to put out 
the sheerest sickle moon 
as a flock of geese 
makes a quick signature 
across the brimming cold waters.

Day with its swift demands 
will soon leach light 
out of every object 
in its defiant shapeliness 
and crystal visibility.

It is precisely then 
the adjutant begins to tell.


The grave thumps 
and the upward thought leaps to uncover ground 
where the last idea 
of the downborne man was sunk.

See how pure the man reborn of inklings 
now appears with his new umbilicus 
forged link by link 
from relatives of happiness 
crying Jubilee of jubilees, 
I was, therefore I think.


I did not die in that war 
or in any war quite 
though I died in the first 
and all the wars since -- 
at first all at once 
then with practice 
a bit at a time

While I'm alive 
I'm ready to die any day 
in a war -- 
the value of dying 
is in daring 
to come back

If I die in the next 
as I did in the first 
you who survive 
might understand 
it was good for something 
though not wanting 
to applaud me -- 
and I wouldn't blame you 
much as I'd envy 
your being alive

So I'd have to come back 
because you'd forget 
no matter how many times 
you'd read it all in the papers --

he's so good at dying 
he died in the Punics 
War II the Crusades 
poor bastard can't stop 
he's at it again

By Sea Stone


Blackening ebbtide 
sings dumbly by you 
whipped by a wind swirl 
weed hair drips over 
stone bodies huddled 
in monkish communion
making low song 
of unshaken risings 
and dim withdrawals 
of long breathing waters


These stones if they spoke 
could tell what lives -- 
one doubled flowing

an outgone returning 
of timed open sea 
conveying a smallness

like breath in the air 
drawn out and in 
of a hugeness --

ends as a slippage 
of stone upon stone 
on a packed sea shelf


Nothing much left 
to stop your breathing, 
you still swim out 
and the waves topple you 
arriving back.

All those green eyes 
littering the beach --
the glinting lovers 
and their surviving wives, 
no longer lovers, 
of dead friends -- 
stare past you at routs 
of winter starlings overhead, 
disregarding trophies.

Mozart hums the distance 
out to sea and back. 
Poised and never waiting, 
the red sun pricks your eyelids -- 
take heart 
           take heart . . . 
You love your heart 
even when it falls 
and is not dead.


Can you remember beginning 
to shape your solitude? 
Was it clarity or fog 
that started it?

Maybe the eye caught by a rose 
tore on a thorn, and the moon,
peculiarly close, hung bleeding 
till you could almost bear it.

To be flesh of the thing that felt 
the pangs of its beginning 
is only to know you must trace 
the end inside of you.

Now and then you hear 
a window frozen 
in its frame creaking 
as if the moon was back.


All the nights the house slept through 
are dead: at dawn in bed the same 
white ship spanning the horizon, 
and every word the heart denied 
sopped up with the daily bread. 
The house still waits where shore lights 
winked against the bay suggesting, 
like old friends, more than they said.

Night again, and time for stars 
to stir the shadows on the roof
but no star is in the sky. 
Time for a late birdnote or two 
to clear the windowpanes 
but none comes through as yet. 
Still the house keeps beckoning, 
bone white and dry inside:

some body should lie down in it.


Conrad saw behind the wheel 
the unappeasable horizon 
where heroes with maddened eyeballs 
mounted the ageless waters 
on sinful stumps. Who else 
could execute, against his heart, 
such livid sentences?

The blooded words they whispered 
kept thickening into Justice 
until the blindfold lifted 
and a gunshot blanked them out.

The shot emptied his feelings, 
and the ship he manned sails on.


Bark of a tree. Solo. In the rain.

How it is always is. 
Changes: outside is seen inside. 
Outside changes inside. 
Inside looks faster, changing less. 
Outside waits till inside goes away. 
Outside more slowly always is 
only now about to be seen.

In the rain. Solo. Bark of a tree.

2. Poems 1976-1980


Let me tell you again 
where I must go 
back to the farm 
without you without them 
without you or them

I must go without wife 
without sons 
and live on the farm alone 
feed every animal 
draw all the milk myself

I must hear myself breathe 
so the song will come 
of the wheat I grow 
and the power to work 
and master the ground

To bury the past in darkness 
and wake every day 
in the smell of the cold 
off the hay and the smart 
burn of the wood stove fire

Home will be bearing the tale 
of the farm I work 
without you without them 
while sun smashes down 
and rain bears away my life

After the Letter


If you happen through again, don't call, 
just come by. 
The afternoon you do we speak of the trees' 
leaves, the power of gradual fulfillment 
meaning nothing 
in nature but almost everything in our 
quick lives, 
the body's hard-nosed climb to make it, 
and deep down 
the consciousness of rot all the while 
one pleasures.

We're on our fifth martini, the day 
winking through 
the leaves, and we swearing never to let 
each other go, 
when a blue Mercedes slips up the drive 
to claim you. 
I lunge, surrounding you against its purr. 
Your tongue fishes 
in my mouth, your rose-lipped body tightening 
into mine: 
It's so easy to love you! On that lie 
I let go.


You're drowning in the waves, I'm standing 
on a raft 
ready for the plunge. Never never will I 
rescue you. 
Going down, I grapple with a slippery leg, 
but already 
you've reached bottom, wrapped in a coat 
of algae. 
My heart sniffs out where you sank, 
a boulder 
rippling in the sand a century or more.

Still as slime I watch your smile say
I know you 
love me. I crawl on all fours to feel 
around you, 
then float over like a dirty handkerchief. 
Love, love me! 
Quiet as an eye I hear the cry before 
the cry began. 
To become stone I stop my lungs, I close 
my ears, 
my pores, my mind. And now to lift you!


Tonight I hear it all spoken, 
see it spelled out again 
from the window-seat cushion 
where the children 
you never saw 
turned up today 
this old V-letter 
adorned with your name.

It's the War 
speaking through me 
writing you, 
my apple-cheeked young wife 
(dead these six years past): 
I'll be home soon again, dear
-- my brain half pickled hope, 
half jealous fury.

Look how torn up 
I manage to be 
with words spilling 
over the folds 
as I sit writing madly 
in Paris, in London, 
in whory Antwerp, 
three, four letters a day,
while hornily plotting 
the women I can slip into 
and leave curled up behind 
until I come on You darling!

Faithless evening 
hardens round you, 
snows your absence 
into light.

Being Somebody

He had need of a way 
to be himself 
without being himself.

He had so little need 
of those who said 
they had need of him,

He wanted never to see 
any of them again, 
though he wouldn't say so.

For once in his life
he was satisfied 
simply to be.

To be nobody, 
nobody but himself, 
himself without himself.

He felt empty and full -- 
not one or the other 
but both at once.

He felt chafed like a child 
full of flouting wishes, 
floating elations.

But drained of hankerings 
like a glass of water 
a thirsty man just drank.

He considered someone odd 
though familiar may have come 
to live inside of him.

Maybe it meant 
he was sheltering someone 
who needed a home.

He himself had no home, 
flitting from friend 
to cousin to stranger,

As the occasion demanded, 
or urged by the heart, 
which he often misread.

He lived everywhere 
but at home, where sometimes 
he stayed overnight.

Anywhere he slept 
he was at home, 
if he didn't overstay.

The city he wished most 
to live in was nearby 
but quite far away.

Near enough to visit 
or be visited by 
old friends and children,

Far enough off 
to forget them all 
in a week or a year.

He wanted to live alone 
in a den-like apartment, 
working nights on his thoughts,

Or in a big rambling house 
without tenants and close
to the hub of the city.

He would like also not 
to live there but still 
to call it his home

Where he could drop in, 
surprising himself hard 
at work in his study

Or, having been called away, 
finding the place 
shrieking his absence.

He'd like to live there 
and in the country as well, 
unknown except for

The gas-meter reader 
who'd fade in and 
fade out bimonthly.

He once wrote a letter he thought 
he'd only half written himself 
which ended limply,

"How many empties like me 
are there left to pick up 
before I die?"

Now he believed the letter 
was written completely 
by somebody else.

Of course he was wrong -- 
but what if he was 
completely somebody else?

Letter from New Hampshire

it would be then 
that walking down a snowy road 
in the afternoon 
under a gray sky 
in winter 
after it had snowed and would snow 
but not yet

when the fir trees by the roadside 
with week-old snow clumps 
lying iced and heavy 
down along the branches 
and the twigs of bright green needles 
clipped by passing plows
detached and crazy 
the too smoothed icy ground

it would be then 
just coming into view of 
a cottage bouncing up and down 
but soon set straight 
against the powdered mountain 
banked up 
on a dense horizon

it would be then 
my dear 
when thinking started up 
to tell me how I missed you 
that suddenly 
the sky ran thin 
with speckled afterlight 
almost promising 
it would not snow today 

it would be then 
at first starting of my thinking 
of you 
that there should negligently 
fall into my head 
the thought of this grave
heavy handsome 
useless world

not needing me 
for needing you 
for needing me 
in boots that leave 
their stippled prints in snow 
and eyes that take 
this crystal quiet in 
so quick and slow 
and all this 
with me or without 
should not mean a thing 
not anything at all

and when I thought this 
the sky took back its worried look 
grew solid gray 
no different than before

except that now 
that then 
the first few flakes 
stirred light 
along my sleeve 
like afterthoughts of easy living 
easy dying 
that would later be a heavy fall

it was then my dear 
I missed you most 
it was then that now 
seemed lost the most

it was forever 



An Art of Summer


Saying a thing is, often makes it -- so 
the Bible says Jehovah spoke the world. 
If I would leap, the mind says, 
I would follow! shouts the faithful body.

Word-sperming something into being 
works as spirit splitting stone -- 
or metaphor beclouds till all evaporates. 
What time of morning is it? Six o'clock. 
And morning's a semaphore of clock hands 
locked in a ring of digits.

Entering by chance, the day 
becomes you writing in this room as ant
and fly crawl by outside the window squares 
against the big leaf-heavy summer trees.

A music you hear accompanying your breathing, 
Schubert's last sonata, 
sifts through this time placing you on earth 
with the fellow-feeling body Schubert knew, 
not knowing, writing it at thirty, 
he'd die next year, in 1828.

This will-lessness preceding knowing 
is what we share receiving 
body from body, body into body: 
each preformed shape performs its give and take.

Goodbye, Schubert, dead-alive since then,
vale this morning of the crawling ant, 
the newly dying birdsong you hear closing 
this line -- the longest day of 1974.


The first leaf shriveling shrivels all belief.

Climbing a giant mossy oak, rose vines 
like a passion curling higher 
twine belly, arms and spine
till interflowing red and green reverse 
the eye as in a dream.

Another tree grows roots like jugular veins 
snaking through boulders that impact the trunk. 
A sword of lightning smashing the aspen stand 
that blocked out sunlight lets in crawling fungi 
that chew up most the roots. 
One branch escapes, grows new, a crazy crooked 
nearly leafless arm upthrust in sunlight, the rest 
choking in a tangle of devoured wood.

Torn-off leaves that cry adorn adorn 
are still unconscious of their separateness. 
Adornment is the form severed things take on 
in their bewilderment -- 
the doom awaiting those that lie apart.

Parting the meadows, gardens gone astray -- 
the red and palpitating coquelicots, 
claws of yellow honeysuckle, pistils 
shivering, the wolfly lycopods and couch grass, 
sweet mignonettes, the green and gray plebians, 
stonecrop fleshy, corymbs of pungent yarrow, 
wild chervil's umbellets, 
rose-colored commack and the milk-white crosswort --
grow dreaming someone calls them each by name.

The first leaf shriveling shrivels all belief.


Waking next day you walk, half sleeping, out, 
as cawings, squeaks and casual chirps turn off, 
to see through glued-up flowers an eagle, 
landed from nowhere, at the crossroad facing you, 
gigantic as the truth of feeling, a cause 
more than a feeling, an eagle so big 
it must portend something startling.

You stand with the day curved around you 
and only the eagle to answer the questions 
what brought him? what keeps him? 
inferred by his ambling toward you, then off, 
as though giving you time to escape.

Was it laid out for eagle and man to meet? 
Was it intended because one was human 
one might go on doing this and that, 
meet so and so, go around there again 
only to miss meeting such and such, 
maybe cave in to end in a place 
where only one could now end up?

With your first head-turn he ruffles his feathers 
from talons to beak, and trundling out 
to a wider clearing takes off 
in a slow air-banging cyclone, 
leaving you pinned to the tip of his vortex, 
his rising surrounding the sky.

Was it a sleep or was it to end in a sleep -- 
so someone, no doubt related, might now awaken 
to see enough, not wanting or actually knowing 
enough, to pick up the thread?

Was the eagle at last a sign of it all 
or witness -- summoned or summoner? 
And now as he floats, a speck in the eye of the sky, 
are there words to waken the sleeping dreamer asking 
and answering himself in the eagle?

-- Eagle, what is it you do 
descending to the norm 
then climbing beyond my eyes?

--In the mothering of matter 
learning to survive 
the fathering of form.

Starting the Hostilities

We've cleared the wires where 
the hostages hung all night. 
Feeling is up, 
horses kick at the barn doors,
youngsters in town 
round up the old pistols, 
some test improvised bombs, 
wives quietly clean rifles.

This is no child's tourney, 
there'll be other casualties. 
The veterans are growling 
We'll tear out their hearts . . .


We grew the miraculous flower: 
five corpse-white spokes 
sunk in pubic hair 
with that radial penumbra 
just hovering over the flimsy purple core -- 
and sat there gloating, ah, 
the triumph after such care!

How long did it last? 
till a painter sat down 
and put it all into a sketch 
before it could wilt from view. 
Then from his painting
came so many feasts 
for we can't count 
how many eyes.

But no trace at all 
of our passionate growth. 
A bush of dark mint, 
too vigorous, bunches up there, 
assailing the air, 
and now in that corner 
where two fences met 
flaps the painter's folding chair.


gray lips

this hour's 
hourless light 
not yet rising

gray lips


wet mouthed 
on pig iron gates

a woman 
who cannot
there lies


I Need You

What the two windows want: 
the bridge and the cycle 
and the tree cut down.

What the whitewash wants: 
the cold milky ground, 
the tombstone missing a name.

What the cracked roof wants: 
the lovers in bed long dead 
unmaking the child

already grown to a man 
groping past loving, past light, 
roped to the end of his life.

After the Separation

Back to your room 
after my weekend visit, 
you play underseas war 
using the closet &windowseat bay 
for submarine lairs, 
your mouth devising 
flesh &gun disintegrations 
coughing fast-flashing sallies up 
out of mind

I see your dark pupils 
figure the damage -- 
Is it worth shoveling up 
just to get on with now?

There's a blind man under the bed 
wanting to show you where to hide 
when the homework stacked 
like tank-flattened GIs 
gets punishingly high.

"Daddy, I'm frightened -- 
or maybe just bored," 
you want to cry 
as my car miles off 
turns screeching back.

I pound & pound 
on the big front door.

The House

The house killed by your word 
withstood much deeper wounds 
before it let go. 
Those were years we lived 
wrangling inside 
without daring to ask 
should we patch it or part.

Those absentee summers 
neighbors by moonlight 
were statues 
climbing the trees, 
training their mirrors of air 
at the windows, 
were we dead or merely asleep?

Night snowfalls in winter 
imprisoned bulls 
charged beeches and pines 
hunched in the driveway 
till eased off 
by ploughs next morning, 
the bright air a diamond.

Those were years the lawn 
thickened and spread, 
having no care 
as the weathers ran wild, 
small vandal gangs
assaulting and dying, 
child by child.

Dogging all-night refusals 
day-calms and word-gusts 
pretended relief. 
At breakfast some mornings 
we sat like vacationers 
facing the bay 
already polluted.

Now a goldfisted flagpole 
thrust from the lawn 
against vengeance 
and vandals 
that crept up regardless 
stands flagless, 
detached from the house.

Last summer new lights 
riddled the waters, 
night planes hurtling 
through air 
cleared the heat of neighbors 
still churring 
and scorching the grasses.

Exclude, exclude, echoes the house. 
Dead rattan rockers nod 
in a desert of sunlight
as we leave, separate, 
and the new owner's eyes 
smilingly rise
from the lawn.

Monster Talk

The sight of me finished and lost 
till another one comes but not yet 
and who knows how soon

The sight of me gone and done for 
over the fence and nothing 
but tracks in the woods

The sight of me never again 
to crack open an eye and murder 
your sleep at two a. m.

The sight of me landing all over 
with kisses I gave you holes 
in the belly and thighs

The sight of me lurking at table 
drymouthed with it without it 
in sunlight in fog

The sight of me slipping away 
sliding off all the mirrors 
down all the drains

You can wake now without me 
the nightmare of me is over 
try breathing again

and dream up the day when 
the big advertised monster 
out of your mind

gropes at the windows and doors 
to crawl over you the shadow 
wished home tonight


Dialogue in the Sleeping House

The lacquered brown wall reddens

like our own wishes 
we are carved out of air

touched by the afternoon sun

the part of us feeding a wish empowers 
then lives past it

warming and worming its way

while the wish exists it lives 
apart from the empowering part

deep through the windows

because to exist a wish needs 
detachment from what feeds it 

as if to engrave its light

the possibility to continue detached
is probably almost infinite

in the sleeping house forever

Without Love

Without love 
the gift grows real -- 
a pebble slipped 
from an unclenched palm 
dazzles the broken ground.

Passes for Nicanor Parra

Think of an oId friend who died 
Now turn in your chair and he's there 
filling the doorway smiling

Rise and he walks straight towards you 
Leave the room and he sits in your chair 
waiting for you to enter smiling
Almost at ease with your wife and children 
you sail out to an island together 
At the helm you know the boat is sinking

You tell them They try bailing out Too late
You leap overboard Gasping you turn
The boat sails by and they are cheering
Evidence piles up day by day 
we do not live 
where we are living

We refurbish Add a wing 
Rearrange the bed And 
houses eat us as we sleep
Who sits so close when you try to rise
If only he'd move or stand up by himself 
you'd spring to your feet in a flash

You make a last effort but it's no use 
You turn at him to glare 
He is weeping inconsolably


Somewhere I am, 
I cannot come to rest -- 
on the mountain 
the river 
underneath me 
almost sleeping.

Somewhere I was, 
tide rising, 
l heard a gliding 
up the beach 
of heavy wings 
near me and I 
just waking.

Somewhere I'll be, 
riding home,
lights let me 
round an old darkness 
to the children 
sleeping in the house 
my coming rouses.

The Painter in the Mountain

(for Lorna)

"Can I love if I have such pain inside? 
The piano playing in the mountain 
tells me where I am, 
filling sound with color.

This summer afternoon could be 
an open desert where two lovers meet: 
Melissa leans into the grand piano 
making music, making love. 
Arthur singing what he wants her playing 
stands behind; listening, 
she drops her fingers.

Outside trees pour sunlight 
and the mountain hurls it back again. 
In the air trying to fill a space, 
my hard pain asks the mountain: 
love my paper, touch my brushes,
press color into them, 
until my painting fills what is 
no longer missing."

For His Mother Flying into Her Seventy-Seventh

If there were ploughs in heaven 
you'd break ground with one -- 
not for casting seed 
but to open new earth there 
as if to say See, it can 
be done and done by me alone.

If there were a place to burn 
in deeper suffering you'd ride 
a razor wind there, outsped 
only by special grace 
of your falling body's thinking it 
the first to feed that fire.

May pardon come for your forever 
nursing a grousing mother 
into her final silence 
there in that house 
so you alone might come alive 
to make her bed and lie in it.

Stumbling out of the Prado

time lives 
through eyes 
and faces 
bulging to see 
who we are

the sweet music 
parades of victims 
storm troopers

and Goya 
deaf to questions 
burning in his own 


Rilke's White Horse

I remember a day in spring, at evening, in Russia.

A white horse, his hobbled fetlock wrenching his stride,
gallops down the village lane, his black mane
whipping his neck until he bursts into the empty 
moonlit meadow, rearing to a standstill.

The night he whinnies at a moment is ponderously still, 
heedless of his blood beating a music that becomes, 
louder than his heavy breathing, his whole being, 
his heart waiting to be heard and understood.

Now may this fable be his song forever.

Another March

Climbing the scrawny women, 
the plastic virgins, 
I came on a field 
laid out for planting, 
bones in piles 
along the wire fences 
and a spindly scarecrow 
overlooking it.

In the salt marsh 
a mile away 
the neighbor's chimney 
was barely smoking,
and the sky 
overcast as usual 
hinted of the bitter cold 
that was on its way.

The field glittered 
in remembered sunlight. 
A wind knifed through me, 
turning the scarecrow 
this way and that. 
As I began to dance 
the women hunched behind me 
laughed and laughed.


Beyond her in the red house 
glow the crystal flowers, 
the green lake furled for winter, 
and the idea 
of fruitfulness next year.

For she is aware of the seed 
who runs the furrowed earth, 
and in her head
are all the generations 
waiting in the ground.

ln her the seed will bear 
the whole of summer 
next and after next, 
already giving off the flavor 
of ripening and decay.

Now all around her waits 
the grave red house 
with knives and dishes set, 
till at the door 
the fainting fathers come.

Night Island

The boat lights pass, the window smarts, 
wakening to the night the dim island 
floating like a string of whales, 
the sky a sunken eye the sea devours.

It comes to this: the leached-out world 
has masked the hidden boulders 
like an oyster in a broken shell. 
What cries for light in the sucking shore?

Sweeping the Room

We give birth to ourselves 
on the brink of dying. 
Others stand there 
sorrowing, pitying, 
not yet born, 
shudder and ogle 
this negligible dying.

How do we tell them 
they too will burst with 
last eyesight breaking, 
sweeping the room 
of the husks of children 
not knowing who dies 
is coming alive 
to them yet unborn?

Last Song

You are asleep at my center, 
a recently emptied volcano, 
with ashes still sifting through air, 
and I, remembering the old heat 
in it, remember you as I
almost land without touching 
the innocent hills and valleys, 
till nowhere becomes a drifting, 
a new withdrawing and build-up 
of all my wasted forces.

G. W. M.

My neighbor is dead. 
His hands are held by a weight 
no longer his own.

They have shut down his stare 
and we steer 
through the close of his eyes.

Don't say his death 
is your death is my death. 
He died alone.

We who have lived as he lived 
this dog of a life 
part on that note.

Now each to his bone.

Pablo Neruda
Under reason and steel grows the final poem of your death 
in the city where you were the house of your breath, 
smoked out, ransacked, squandered in shreds, 
as under the stones precise on the heights 
you guessed they had buried the rags of slaves.

As under the seal of wax there clacked 
in the general's beak the white-tongued admiral, 
giving the acid word of steel in the guts 
to your guarded brightness, life, with its shadow 
invisibly wearing away the heaviest stone.

In your light blatant or hidden forever 
under the everyday sky exposed 
like a maundering madman mocked into meaning -- 
because no one can bear the darkness alone, 
because no one can go on shielded alone,

Your name went up in the half light that day, 
like smoke lolling up from the cannon's mouth, 
from house after house and cell after cell, 
to show where the flowering multiple death 
had departed your body, your country, its ghettos.

As your life's first day is destroyed in the last, 
as the mouth of the serpent swallows its tail,
as the spirit's skyscraper's consumed in a rose, 
let all darkness be broken like bread among brothers, 
all being more and less than a metaphor.

Three Moments for George Sullivan


1 Burial in Providence

Your sleeping eye 
turned inward now 
in death 
is looking squarely 
at me

I have none to know you 
and only yours 
to see me 
wanting for my own 
to follow

Do not wait long 
for earth to come 
settling in with you 
for the loose stones 
to shift towards you

Help me remind 
the heavy quiet 
you have come to lie in 
with the mother 
that bore you

to the new sleep 
stretched straight 
with no need 
nuzzling you to be 
growing over earth

or in the sea floating 
or turning in air 
to the cities 
of the mind's 
altering necessities

Give me with you 
sinking slowly under 
my feet turning 
this next moment 
in your vanishing eye

2 Waiting in Washington

In the bruised sky 
my scanning eye 
and the withered tree 
a low fury of wind 
I catch trills 
the ends of days

A time that was 
will come 
in the couplings 
of underground fur 
feeding asleep 
root and worm 
beast and mind 
to meet overground

In the warm hide's 
last days and hours 
still smoking with breath 
the panes of the eyes 
snow mountains 
stone slides 
clear to the end

Time moves down forests 
past toy cities fallen 
through heads cracked 
with flashings 
whisked into brains 
like mine

Last week died 
with my friend 
tucked in his box 
and my stare 
gave him pause 
a wet second on earth 
in the sky's face 
in the wind's eye closing

In the airport 
I sit under rain 
waiting to fly

3 Walking in Sweet Briar

On the path 
the thawing rivulets 
of icebound mud 
run an ooze my shoes 
cannot resist

I plod upward 
towards the first 
lit window of a house 
soon to pass 
in twilight

when from nowhere 
comes a shattering 
as of all things 
fallen in 
their emptiness

a breaking 
of the clots 
and clogs of days 
as I arch 
through rain

too slight 
to threaten 
reminding how once 
in skyfuls 
it cracked down

and I ran 
as though all life 
were funneling 
off beneath 
my shoes

Lives tunnel 
in their safeties 
making room 
beyond me 
as I move unheard

back into my life 
of nowhere's 
other silence 
other time 

the first word to be 
before words 
were heard 
singing the way 
this ooze runs

under me 
before me 
moving past the house 
it will take 
after me

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