So that each is its own, now—each has fallen, blond stillness. Closer, above them, the damselflies pass as they would over water, if the fruit were water, or as bees would, if they weren't somewhere else, had the fruit found already a point more steep in rot, as soon it must, if none shall lift it from the grass whose damp only softens further those parts where flesh goes soft. There are those whom no amount of patience looks likely to improve ever, I always said, meaning gift is random, assigned here, here withheld—almost always correctly as it's turned out: how your hands clear easily the wreckage; how you stand—like a building for a time condemned, then deemed historic. Yes. You will be saved.
Poems about Fruit
After the porno theater became a revival house, the neighborhood began to change. The Blue Plate, a designer diner, opened, all aluminum and curves. Inside, the menu featured revived comfort foods-- meat loaf, mashed potatoes, a glass case full of pies. Young families moved in, the drawn shades of the elderly replaced by window boxes and Big Wheels in the yards. Another revival. Then a Mexican restaurant opened-- though not one run by Mexicans. A pizza place whose specialty is a pie made with Greek, not Italian, cheese called The Feta-licious. But what is real? In time, everyone came to depend upon the diner. Packed for breakfast, lunch, pie, and coffee. If you need a good plumber, go to the Blue Plate and ask for Carl who's there talking politics with the other long-suffering followers of Trotsky. If you want a sitter, ask the waitstaff, Who has a younger sister? If you're invited to a potluck, stop and buy a whole pie. In the town where I grew up, there was a diner too, Bev's, named after the cook and owner who, my mother whispered the first time we went there, was a Holocaust survivor. When we went for breakfast or a hamburger, Bev would wait on us, her tattoo shining on her thick, damp wrist. She was not Jewish, but Czech and Catholic. She kept an Infant of Prague by the cash register and changed his tiny satin outfits to match the seasons. But she didn't make pie and her mashed potatoes came from the same box as my mother's. Bev's food wasn't good, only better than nothing. Just like being a death camp survivor, Bev told my mother, wasn't a good thing to be, only better than not being. My mother is dead now. Bev too. My mother wasn't a good cook either, rarely made pies. I can, but I like the ones at the Blue Plate better. Dutch Apple, Three Berry, Lemon with Mile- High Meringue. The trouble with meringue, my mother said once, is that it weeps. Amazing, I thought, sad pie.
Bananas ripe and green, and ginger root Cocoa in pods and alligator pears, And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit, Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs, Sat in the window, bringing memories of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills, And dewy dawns, and mystical skies In benediction over nun-like hills. My eyes grow dim, and I could no more gaze; A wave of longing through my body swept, And, hungry for the old, familiar ways I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon. In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations! What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons? I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys. I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel? I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective. We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier. Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour. Which way does your beard point tonight? (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.) Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely. Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage? Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?
Only chance made me come and find my hen, stepping from her hidden nest, in our kitchen garden. In her clever secret place, her tenth egg, still warm, had just been dropped. Not sure of what to do, I picked up every egg, counting them, then put them down again. All were mine. All swept me away and back. I blinked, I saw: a whole hand of ripe bananas, nesting. I blinked, I saw: a basketful of ripe oranges, nesting. I blinked, I saw: a trayful of ripe naseberries, nesting. I blinked, I saw: an open bagful of ripe mangoes, nesting. I blinked, I saw: a mighty nest full of stars.
naseberry: sapodilla plum with sweet brown flesh
If light pours like water into the kitchen where I sway with my tired children, if the rug beneath us is woven with tough flowers, and the yellow bowl on the table rests with the sweet heft of fruit, the sun-warmed plums, if my body curves over the babies, and if I am singing, then loneliness has lost its shape, and this quiet is only quiet.
Because the burn's unstable, burning too hot in the liquid hydrogen suction line and so causing vortices in the rocket fuel flaming hotter and hotter as the "big boy" blasts off, crawling painfully slowly up the blank sky, then, when he blinks exploding white hot against his wincing retina, the fireball's corona searing in his brain, he drives with wife and sons the twisting road at dawn to help with the Saturday test his division's working on: the crowd of engineers surrounding a pit dug in snow seeming talky, joky men for 6 a.m., masking their tension, hoping the booster rocket's solid fuel will burn more evenly than the liquid and keep the company from layoffs rumored during recess, though pride in making chemicals do just what they're calculated to also keys them up as they lounge behind pink caution tape sagging inertly in the morning calm: in the back seat, I kick my twin brother's shin, bored at 6:10 a.m. until Dad turns to us and says, in a neutral tone, Stop it, stop it now, and we stop and watch: a plaque of heat, a roar like a diesel blasting in your ear, heatwaves ricocheting off gray mist melting backward into dawn, shockwaves rippling to grip the car and shake us gently, flame dimly seen like flame inside the brain confused by a father who promises pancakes after, who's visibly elated to see the blast shoot arabesques of mud and grit fountaining up from the snow-fringed hole mottling to black slag fired to ruts and cracks like a parched streambed. Deliriously sleepy, what were those flames doing mixed up with blueberry pancakes, imaginings of honey dripping and strawberry syrup or waffles, maybe, corrugated like that earth, or a stack of half-dollars drenched and sticky...? My father's gentle smile and nodding head— gone ten years, and still I see him climbing slick concrete steps as if emerging from our next door neighbor's bomb shelter, his long-chilled shade feeling sunlight on backs of hands, warmth on cheeks, the brightness making eyes blink and blink... so like his expression when a friend came to say goodbye to him shrunken inside himself as into a miles-deep bunker... and then he smiled, his white goatee flexing, his parched lips cracked but welcoming as he took that friend's hand and held it, held it and pressed it to his cheek... The scales, weighing one man's death and his son's grief against a city's char and flare, blast-furnace heat melting to slag whatever is there, then not there— doesn't seesaw to a balance, but keeps shifting, shifting...nor does it suffice to make simple correspondences between bunkers and one man's isolation inside his death, a death he died at home and chose...at least insofar as death allows anyone a choice, for what can you say to someone who's father or mother crossing the street at random, or running for cover finds the air sucked out of them in a vacuum of fire calibrated in silence in a man's brain like my father's —the numbers calculated inside the engineer's imagination become a shadowy gesture as in Leonardo's drawing of a mortar I once showed my father and that we admired for its precision, shot raining down over fortress walls in spray softly pattering, hailing down shrapnel like the fountain of Trevi perfectly uniform, lulling to the ear and eye until it takes shape in the unforgiving three dimensional, as when the fragile, antagonized, antagonistic human face begins to slacken into death as in my own father's face, a truly gentle man except for his work which was conducted gently too— since "technicals" like him were too shy for sales or management, and what angers he may have had seemed to be turned inward against judging others so the noise inside his head was quieter than most and made him, to those who knew him well, not many, but by what they told me after he died, the least judgemental person they'd ever known—who, at his almost next to last breath, uncomplaining, said to his son's straining, over-eager solicitation, —Is there something you need, anything? —That picture—straighten it... his face smoothing to a slate onto which light scribbles what? a dark joke, an elegant equation, a garbled oracle?
In memory of Father Flye, 1884-1985
The strange and wonderful are too much with us. The protea of the antipodes--a great, globed, blazing honeybee of a bloom-- for sale in the supermarket! We are in our decadence, we are not entitled. What have we done to deserve all the produce of the tropics-- this fiery trove, the largesse of it heaped up like cannonballs, these pineapples, bossed and crested, standing like troops at attention, these tiers, these balconies of green, festoons grown sumptuous with stoop labor? The exotic is everywhere, it comes to us before there is a yen or a need for it. The green- grocers, uptown and down, are from South Korea. Orchids, opulence by the pailful, just slightly fatigued by the plane trip from Hawaii, are disposed on the sidewalks; alstroemerias, freesias fattened a bit in translation from overseas; gladioli likewise estranged from their piercing ancestral crimson; as well as, less altered from the original blue cornflower of the roadsides and railway embankments of Europe, these bachelor's buttons. But it isn't the railway embankments their featherweight wheels of cobalt remind me of, it's a row of them among prim colonnades of cosmos, snapdragon, nasturtium, bloodsilk red poppies, in my grandmother's garden: a prairie childhood, the grassland shorn, overlaid with a grid, unsealed, furrowed, harrowed and sown with immigrant grasses, their massive corduroy, their wavering feltings embroidered here and there by the scarlet shoulder patch of cannas on a courthouse lawn, by a love knot, a cross stitch of living matter, sown and tended by women, nurturers everywhere of the strange and wonderful, beneath whose hands what had been alien begins, as it alters, to grow as though it were indigenous. But at this remove what I think of as strange and wonderful, strolling the side streets of Manhattan on an April afternoon, seeing hybrid pear trees in blossom, a tossing, vertiginous colonnade of foam, up above-- is the white petalfall, the warm snowdrift of the indigenous wild plum of my childhood. Nothing stays put. The world is a wheel. All that we know, that we're made of, is motion.
She's not angry exactly but all business, eating them right off the tree, with confidence, the kind that lets her spit out the bad ones clear of the sidewalk into the street. It's sunny, though who can tell what she's tasting, rowan or one of the serviceberries— the animal at work, so everybody, save the traffic, keeps a distance. She's picking clean what the birds have left, and even, in her hurry, a few dark leaves. In the air the dusting of exhaust that still turns pennies green, the way the cloudy surfaces of things obscure their differences, like the mock orange or the apple rose that cracks the paving stone, rooted in the plaza. No one will say your name, and when you come to the door no one will know you, a parable of the afterlife on earth. Poor grapes, poor crabs, wild black cherry trees, on which some forty-six or so species of birds have fed, some boy's dead weight or the tragic summer lightning killing the seed, how boyish now that hunger to bring those branches down to scale, to eat of that which otherwise was waste, how natural this woman eating berries, how alone.
Victor got a real sense of power from making his own raisins. He’d buy pounds and pounds of grapes and leave them to dry on the kitchen table. Theresa didn’t want to hear about her ex-husband’s cancer. Not on Father’s Day. She took a train all night to have breakfast with her cousin. All Sunday she rode the train back. Once Martin’s wife had left, he decided to take advantage of her space. He built a sauna where her closet was, sat there every morning, to read the paper and Buddha. One night Helga wore her prettiest dress, though she knew he wouldn’t be there. She drank dry white, got drunk (she was on a diet), and fell down. Later he saw the holes in her pantyhose. María was usually bumping into furniture. Each time she got closer to what she wanted. "What do you want from me?" "Nothing," he replied, so she took off and felt like migrating birds. But many.
Not trees trace so just kids we hung
slim buckets of chokecherries from our wrists
in neighboring galaxies Giant Star Factories take control
composed of cold hydrogen gas and dust
7,000 light years from earth
slender-toed geckos step onto the moon
On the road between 2 baptisms and a shower they rang
to say shallow water the mouths drop open
not where you stand but how long you can
stand standing there
in constant hypothesis
the trees are passersby
flat orange moon
velvet navy-blue sky
from here we see the beautifully attired drive tough Ford pickups
the dancers take turns leaping over the bonfire into
Qué pasa USA?
haircuts in London are really pretty backward
London—you are definitely not going to have a manicure there!
in LA toes must match the hands or else just don’t leave the house
in NY it’s more brunette
Outside a refrigerator floats in the blackness shiny amid sharp stars
& the turtle who holds up the world holds up
Come up from the fields father, here's a letter from our Pete, And come to the front door mother, here's a letter from thy dear son. Lo, 'tis autumn, Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder, Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages with leaves fluttering in the moderate wind, Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the trellis'd vines, (Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines? Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?) Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the rain, and with wondrous clouds, Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful, and the farm prospers well. Down in the fields all prospers well, But now from the fields come father, come at the daughter's call, And come to the entry mother, to the front door come right away. Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her steps trembling, She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor adjust her cap. Open the envelope quickly, O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd, O a strange hand writes for our dear son, 0 stricken mother's soul! All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she catches the main words only, Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital, At present low, but will soon be better. Ah now the single figure to me, Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and farms, Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint, By the jamb of a door leans. Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks through her sobs, The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay'd,) See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better. Alas poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to be better, that brave and simple soul,) While they stand at home at the door he is dead already, The only son is dead. But the mother needs to be better, She with thin form presently drest in black, By day her meals untouch'd, then at night fitfully sleeping, often waking, In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep longing, O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life escape and withdraw, To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.
Mine are the night and morning, The pits of air, the gulf of space, The sportive sun, the gibbous moon, The innumerable days. I hid in the solar glory, I am dumb in the pealing song, I rest on the pitch of the torrent, In slumber I am strong. No numbers have counted my tallies, No tribes my house can fill, I sit by the shining Fount of Life, And pour the deluge still; And ever by delicate powers Gathering along the centuries From race on race the rarest flowers, My wreath shall nothing miss. And many a thousand summers My apples ripened well, And light from meliorating stars With firmer glory fell. I wrote the past in characters Of rock and fire the scroll, The building in the coral sea, The planting of the coal. And thefts from satellites and rings And broken stars I drew, And out of spent and aged things I formed the world anew; What time the gods kept carnival, Tricked out in star and flower, And in cramp elf and saurian forms They swathed their too much power. Time and Thought were my surveyors, They laid their courses well, They boiled the sea, and baked the layers Or granite, marl, and shell. But he, the man-child glorious,-- Where tarries he the while? The rainbow shines his harbinger, The sunset gleams his smile. My boreal lights leap upward, Forthright my planets roll, And still the man-child is not born, The summit of the whole. Must time and tide forever run? Will never my winds go sleep in the west? Will never my wheels which whirl the sun And satellites have rest? Too much of donning and doffing, Too slow the rainbow fades, I weary of my robe of snow, My leaves and my cascades; I tire of globes and races, Too long the game is played; What without him is summer's pomp, Or winter's frozen shade? I travail in pain for him, My creatures travail and wait; His couriers come by squadrons, He comes not to the gate. Twice I have moulded an image, And thrice outstretched my hand, Made one of day, and one of night, And one of the salt sea-sand. One in a Judaean manger, And one by Avon stream, One over against the mouths of Nile, And one in the Academe. I moulded kings and saviours, And bards o'er kings to rule;-- But fell the starry influence short, The cup was never full. Yet whirl the glowing wheels once more, And mix the bowl again; Seethe, fate! the ancient elements, Heat, cold, wet, dry, and peace, and pain. Let war and trade and creeds and song Blend, ripen race on race, The sunburnt world a man shall breed Of all the zones, and countless days. No ray is dimmed, no atom worn, My oldest force is good as new, And the fresh rose on yonder thorn Gives back the bending heavens in dew.
she heard tales about saving grapefruit skins for cooking she grew bright under the neon dragon of Chinatown she made saffron curry rice for friends she attended a barbecue in Amarillo, Texas she stepped around yellow piss in snow she cut herself on a Hawaiian pineapple she learned to name forsythia where it grew visions of ochre and citronella eluded her
for roberto and adelaida
Once in a while joy throws little stones at my window it wants to let me know that it's waiting for me but today I'm calm I'd almost say even-tempered I'm going to keep anxiety locked up and then lie flat on my back which is an elegant and comfortable position for receiving and believing news who knows where I'll be next or when my story will be taken into account who knows what advice I still might come up with and what easy way out I'll take not to follow it don't worry, I won't gamble with an eviction I won't tattoo remembering with forgetting there are many things left to say and suppress and many grapes left to fill our mouths don't worry, I'm convinced joy doesn't need to throw any more little stones I'm coming I'm coming.
Rain hazes a street cart's green umbrella but not its apples, heaped in paper cartons, dry under cling film. The apple man, who shirrs his mouth as though eating tart fruit, exhibits four like racehorses at auction: Blacktwig, Holland, Crimson King, Salome. I tried one and its cold grain jolted memory: a hill where meager apples fell so bruised that locals wondered why we scooped them up, my friend and I, in matching navy blazers. One bite and I heard her laughter toll, free as school's out, her face flushed in late sun. I asked the apple merchant for another, jaunty as Cezanne's still-life reds and yellows, having more life than stillness, telling us, uncut, unpeeled, they are not for the feast but for themselves, and building strength to fly at any moment, leap from a skewed bowl, whirl in the air, and roll off a tilted table. Fruit-stand vendor, master of Northern Spies, let a loose apple teach me how to spin at random, burn in light and rave in shadows. Bring me a Winesap like the one Eve tasted, savored and shared, and asked for more. No fool, she knew that beauty strikes just once, hard, never in comfort. For that bitter fruit, tasting of earth and song, I'd risk exile. The air is bland here. I would forfeit mist for hail, put on a robe of dandelions, and run out, broken, to weep and curse — for joy.
My father said I could not do it, but all night I picked the peaches. The orchard was still, the canals ran steadily. I was a girl then, my chest its own walled garden. How many ladders to gather an orchard? I had only one and a long patience with lit hands and the looking of the stars which moved right through me the way the water moved through the canals with a voice that seemed to speak of this moonless gathering and those who had gathered before me. I put the peaches in the pond's cold water, all night up the ladder and down, all night my hands twisting fruit as if I were entering a thousand doors, all night my back a straight road to the sky. And then out of its own goodness, out of the far fields of the stars, the morning came, and inside me was the stillness a bell possesses just after it has been rung, before the metal begins to long again for the clapper's stroke. The light came over the orchard. The canals were silver and then were not. and the pond was--I could see as I laid the last peach in the water--full of fish and eyes.
Baucis and Philemon THUS Achelous ends: his audience hear With admiration, and admiring, fear The pow'rs of heav'n; except Ixion's son, Who laugh'd at all the gods, believ'd in none: He shook his impious head, and thus replies, "These legends are no more than pious lies: You attribute too much to heavenly sway, To think they give us forms, and take away." The rest, of better minds, their sense declar'd Against this doctrine, and with horrour heard. Then Lelex rose, an old experienc'd man, And thus with sober gravity began: "Heav'n's pow'r is infinite: earth, air, and sea, The manufacture mass, the making pow'r obey: By proof to clear your doubt; in Phrygian ground Two neighb'ring trees, with walls encompass'd round, Stand on a mod'rate rise, with wonder shown, One a hard oak, a softer linden one: I saw the place and them, by Pittheus sent To Phrygian realms, my grandsire's government. Not far from thence is seen a lake, the haunt Of coots, and of the fishing cormorant: Here Jove with Hermes came; but in disguise Of mortal men conceal'd their deities; One laid aside his thunder, one his rod; And many toilsome steps together trod; For harbour at a thousand doors they knock'd, Not one of all the thousand but was lock'd. At last an hospitable house they found, A homely shed; the roof, not far from ground, Was thatch'd with reeds and straw together bound. There Baucis and Philemon liv'd, and there Had liv'd long married and a happy pair: Now old in love, though little was their store, Inur'd to want, their poverty they bore, Nor aim'd at wealth, professing to be poor. For master or for servant here to call, Was all alike, where only two were all. Command was none, where equal love was paid, Or rather both commanded, both obey'd. From lofty roofs the Gods repuls'd before, Now stooping, enter'd through the little door: The man (their hearty welcome first express'd) A common settle drew for either guest, Inviting each his weary limbs to rest. But e'er they sat, officious Baucis lays Two cushions stuff'd with straw, the seat to raise; Coarse, but the best she had; then rakes the load Of ashes from the hearth, and spreads abroad The living coals, and, lest they should expire, With leaves and barks she feeds her infant-fire: It smokes; and then with trembling breath she blows, Till in a cheerful blaze the flames arose. With brush-wood and with chips she strengthens these, And adds at last the boughs of rotten trees. The fire thus form'd, she sets the kettle on, (Like burnish'd gold the little seether shone) Next took the coleworts which her husband got From his own ground (a small well-water'd spot;) She stripp'd the stalks of all their leaves; the best She cull'd, and then with handy-care she dress'd. High o'er the hearth a chine of bacon hung; Good old Philemon seiz'd it with a prong, And from the sooty rafter drew it down, Then cut a slice, but scarce enough for one; Yet a large portion of a little store, Which for their sakes alone he wish'd were more. This in the pot he plung'd without delay, To tame the flesh, and drain the salt away. The time between, before the fire they sat, And shorten'd the delay by pleasing chat. A beam there was, on which a beechen pail Hung by the handle, on a driven nail: This fill'd with water, gently warm'd, they set Before their guests; in this they bath'd their feet, And after with clean towels dry'd their sweat: This done, the host produc'd the genial bed, Sallow the feet, the borders, and the sted, Which with no costly coverlet they spread; But coarse old garments, yet such robes as these They laid alone, at feasts, on holydays. The good old huswife tucking up her gown, The table sets; th' invited gods lie down. The trivet-table of a foot was lame, A blot which prudent Baucis overcame, Who thrusts beneath the limping leg, a sherd, So was the mended board exactly rear'd: Then rubb'd it o'er with newly-gather'd mint, A wholesome herb, that breath'd a grateful scent. Pallas began the feast, where first were seen The party-colour'd olive, black and green: Autumnal cornels next in order serv'd, In lees of wine well pickl'd, and preserv'd: A garden-salad was the third supply, Of endive, radishes, and succory: Then curds and cream, the flow'r of country-fare, And new-laid eggs, which Baucis' busy care Turn'd by a gentle fire, and roasted rear. All these in earthen ware were serv'd to board; And next in place, an earthen pitcher, stor'd With liquor of the best the cottage cou'd afford. This was the table's ornament and pride, With figures wrought: like pages at his side Stood beechen bowls; and these were shining clean, Varnish'd with wax without, and lin'd within. By this the boiling kettle had prepar'd, And to the table sent the smoking lard; On which with eager appetite they dine, A sav'ry bit, that serv'd to relish wine: The wine itself was suiting to the rest, Still working in the must, and lately press'd. The second course succeeds like that before, Plums, apples, nuts, and of their wintry store, Dry figs, and grapes, and wrinkl'd dates were set In canisters, t' enlarge the little treat All these a milk-white honey-comb surround, Which in the midst the country banquet crown'd: But the kind hosts their entertainment grace With hearty welcome, and an open face: In all they did, you might discern with ease, A willing mind, and a desire to please. Meantime the beechen bowls went round, and still, Though often empty'd, were observ'd to fill; Fill'd without hands, and of their own accord Ran without feet, and danc'd about the board. Devotion seiz'd the pair, to see the feast With wine, and of no common grape, increas'd; And up they held their hands, and fell to pray'r, Excusing, as they cou'd, their country fare. One goose they had, ('twas all they cou'd allow) A wakeful sent'ry, and on duty now, Whom to the gods for sacrifice they vow: Her, with malicious zeal, the couple view'd; She ran for life, and limping they pursu'd: Full well the fowl perceiv'd their bad intent, And wou'd not make her masters compliment; But persecuted, to the pow'rs she flies, And close between the legs of Love she lies. He with a gracious ear the suppliant heard, And sav'd her life; then what he was declar'd, And own'd the god. 'The neighbourhood,' said he, 'Shall justly perish for impiety: You stand alone exempted; but obey With speed, and follow where we lead the way: Leave these accurs'd; and to the mountain's height Ascend; nor once look backward in your flight.' They haste, and what their tardy feet deny'd, The trusty staff (their better leg) supply'd. An arrow's flight they wanted to the top, And there secure, but spent with travel, stop; Then turn their now no more forbidden eyes; Lost in a lake the floated level lies: A watry desert covers all the plains, Their cot alone, as in an isle, remains: Wondring with weeping eyes, while they deplore Their neighbours' fate, and country now no more, Their little shed, scarce large enough for two, Seems, from the ground increas'd, in height and bulk to grow. A stately temple shoots within the skies: The crotches of their cot in columns rise: The pavement polish'd marble they behold, The gates with sculpture grac'd, the spires and tiles of gold. Then thus the sire of gods, with look serene, 'Speak thy desire, thou only just of men; And thou, O woman, only worthy found To be with such a man in marriage bound.' A while they whisper; then, to Jove address'd, Philemon thus prefers their joint request: 'We crave to serve before your sacred shrine, And offer at your altars rites divine: And since not any action of our life Has been polluted with domestic strife, We beg one hour of death; that neither she With widow's tears may live to bury me, Nor weeping I, with wither'd arms may bear My breathless Baucis to the sepulcher.' The godheads sign their suit. They run their race In the same tenor all th' appointed space; Then, when their hour was come, while they relate These past adventures at the temple-gate, Old Baucis is by old Philemon seen Sprouting with sudden leaves of spritely green: Old Baucis look'd where old Philemon stood, And saw his lengthen'd arms a sprouting wood: New roots their fasten'd feet begin to bind, Their bodies stiffen in a rising rind: Then e'er the bark above their shoulders grew, They give and take at once their last adieu; At once, farewell, O faithful spouse, they said; At once th' incroaching rinds their closing lips invade. Ev'n yet, an ancient Tyanaean shows A spreading oak, that near a linden grows: The neighbourhood confirm the prodigie, Grave men, not vain of tongue, or like to lie. I saw myself the garlands on their boughs, And tablets hung for gifts of granted vows; And off'ring fresher up, with pious pray'r, The good, said I, are God's peculiar care, And such as honour heav'n, shall heav'nly honour share."
Where the pulp lifts its germ and the sludge of beauty sighs, where the leaf pulls the branch to the breathy earth, where the rind cracks and buds rust into petals, where the clove steams and cinnamon bark spits out cinnamon air, where roots sweat and the earth boils in curds of steaming mud, where the stem draws up the seed and holds it like a lamb to the sun, where flowers rest their animal heads, there, full throated, limp with seed, lush and smiling is Vegetable-Life. To come upon her you must journey through the rains, and sleep through a night of fish smells; there must be a dead man in a hot room, there must be a basket of figs and plums on the pier, there must be no new ship in the harbor, there must be the sound of flowers falling upon flowers, there must be no children swimming in the salt pools. Where the Flamboyant spills into the vulcan dust, where the wild pig chews up the door frames, where the leper kneads his bones, where the sun is stuffed with guns, where the water flows like honey from the tap, where black flies swell in the gecko's translucent belly, where these are, there is Vegetable-Life: The Sultana of the Vine, The Goddess of the Harvest Gone Bad, The Spectrum Swallower. In an ointment of wild saps, ripe fronds and mosses, tumid wheat, and bareley, Abundance pours down over the head, heavy with pollen and in the puce interrogation of the harvest the intellect sprouts leaves.
Angel and muse escape with violin and compass; the duende wounds. —Federico García Lorca I didn't expect to escape. I've stepped out of planes into Madrid and Bangkok, Prague and Seoul, each time a solo in a world that was, if not cruel, supremely indifferent to the fact of my breath. I loved where I could, did not imagine my mouth without light, fish at home in my bluest wells. I went in a stalk of pure wanting that knows there's no getting, and collected tiny lemons of joy when they ripened in reach of a window in Vence where I happened also on tangles of grapes fallen and trodden on the road to the sea. I plucked green stones from Spanish sand, wore the white hibiscus for a day behind my ear where it softened with rot in a pattern of etch. In Andalusia the wine is new and ruby, breath and aroma the tools of being in places where days are paid out like so many queens on obsolete coins. Now, not suddenly, but after long balance of what there is against what might or might never be, the never-was has dared to love me back. So it was death all along who stood in the ferry with his dirty blonde hair and bright nylon pack, but I never imagined he'd be so young as he slung the pack, leapt to the shore and never looked back for me. That's why my flesh loves me today. There are salt and heat and a body of bread, new if not endless, and a rumor if not news of the future. It dies as it lived, the idea of duende, a proximity, a song we don't necessarily need in a land of snow and icy green lakes where the weather's a tomb and the lover's strong thigh is white and marvelous as marble, a throne on which I suppose I could sit and grow handsomely old.
Wasps at work in the soft
flesh of rotting apples.
Food of the gods,
all day they mine it in busy
I pick up a mushy corpse
one cold morning.
Carefully turn it over.
Its congregation tumbles
into the cupped
bowl of my hand.
Dazed, drunk, still
chilled from overnight cold,
they blunder like sleepwalkers
feeling around for the light.
Tiny antennae test my skin
in search of something
Warmed by my hand,
warmed by the sun,
they stagger and fall into flight.
They scribble orbits
the air erases
and whine at last out of sight.
I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold
Martius The corrugated iron gates are rolling down storefronts in paradise, late light flecks windows, rain's acid fingerprints. Motes float between iron and glass, sink into sanded pavements, weather's footprints, cracked mappa mundi: silk tea roses with a fringe of plastic fern; grapes, apples, and bananas ripened to painted wax: your eyes blinking away pollen in wind that says spring's coming, wait for me. Months sometimes it takes Aprilis lights scrolls across an unmade bed, we were setting out for Aries in paper planes (white dwarf stars bright in a wilderness of wish scatter white feathers among me, fistfuls of light): bees busied themselves with the seen, moment's multiple tasks, for the pollen, honey in the blood, bees would drown each day: from a thicket of nos to one sepaled blossoming, all in an afternoon you thought of bees as summer Maius This heliotrope gaze has fixed me in its sights (the turning solar year suffers in sudden rain, grazes my cold with vague waves, plashing particles, but lightly): lightly take this sky, bound up in so much loose light, light wind brushes chapped lips. Light-footed gods break open day to see what it contains: body survives light's inquisitions. Junius Beside the shale pigeons a dove color of old brick dust, the sound of brick dust settling: traffic noise rides heat-rise off wet streets, summer music echoes borrowed air: light centrifugal, sent scattering, lost later every day:some gold against bright water (handfuls scattered over lake), unnecessary, true candleland waning to wax and wick, silver water shattering like backed glass Quintilis When I was in Egypt, light fell instead of rain, congealed to grains of sand, pyramidal, uninterred. Uninterrupted waves of palms departed for shuddering oases. Why was it I spent centuries in that mirage, caravanserai of the sirocco stopped, pausing at reflection, also called the polished sky, and still no fall of shade? The light hung triangular, aslant, touched the colossus to song. Sextilis Wanting to understand, not wanting to understand, worried that by taking thought you lose it, by not taking, thought. Watching him run a hand through thin blond hair, passing at arm's length on a lunch hour street. Wondering is it good now, am I pleasure, and which part is it that I need, while air migrates too slowly to be seen and noon crawls groggy over August skin. Then thinking No, it's too and turning back to look at traffic. September Sudden storm, then sudden sun. Give me, I almost said: and stopped, began again with your voice, what gets invented by the I-can't-say-that-here. The afternoon of after rain dazzles with cloudlessness and a painful green set casually against blue: light mottled by fractal leaves freckles your outstretched arm, repeating apple, apple, apple, sour fruit and crabgrass. A damp T-shirt takes on that color, nothing will wash it out. I wear it for weeks. October doorway, flutter, moth or leaf in flight, in fall foyer, stammer of wind, a patter hovering, dust hushed or pressed to trembling glass, smut, soot, mutter of moth or withered stem, late haze, gray stutter crumpled, crushed, falter, fall, a tread ... November williwaw, brawl in air, shunt or sinew of wind shear blown off course, pewter skew vicinity, winnow and complicit sky preoccupied with grizzle, winter feed of lawns' snared weathervane, whey-faced day brume all afternoon of it (lead reticence of five o'clock) remnant slate all paucity and drift salt splay, slur and matte brink snow stammers against sidewalks December White light seen through the season's double window clouding the room reveals the roses' week-old gift of petals bruised purple-black. Dry paper falling on white cloth seconds the white room's wonder at cold sun flurried, crumbling stars compacted underfoot: lattice of fixed clarity, wintrish eidolon half patience, half at prayer.
I plucked pink blossoms from mine apple-tree And wore them all that evening in my hair: Then in due season when I went to see I found no apples there. With dangling basket all along the grass As I had come I went the selfsame track: My neighbours mocked me while they saw me pass So empty-handed back. Lilian and Lilias smiled in trudging by, Their heaped-up basket teased me like a jeer; Sweet-voiced they sang beneath the sunset sky, Their mother's home was near. Plump Gertrude passed me with her basket full, A stronger hand than hers helped it along; A voice talked with her through the shadows cool More sweet to me than song. Ah Willie, Willie, was my love less worth Than apples with their green leaves piled above? I counted rosiest apples on the earth Of far less worth than love. So once it was with me you stooped to talk Laughing and listening in this very lane: To think that by this way we used to walk We shall not walk again! I let me neighbours pass me, ones and twos And groups; the latest said the night grew chill, And hastened: but I loitered, while the dews Fell fast I loitered still.
A campesino looked at the air And told me: With hurricanes it's not the wind or the noise or the water. I'll tell you he said: it's the mangoes, avocados Green plantains and bananas flying into town like projectiles. How would your family feel if they had to tell The generations that you got killed by a flying Banana. Death by drowning has honor If the wind picked you up and slammed you Against a mountain boulder This would not carry shame But to suffer a mango smashing Your skull or a plantain hitting your Temple at 70 miles per hour is the ultimate disgrace. The campesino takes off his hat— As a sign of respect toward the fury of the wind And says: Don't worry about the noise Don't worry about the water Don't worry about the wind— If you are going out beware of mangoes And all such beautiful sweet things.
They’re Santa Rosas, crimson, touched by blue, with slightly mottled skin and amber flesh, transparently proposing by their hue the splendor of an August morning, fresh but ruddy, ripening toward fall.—"So sweet, so cold," the poet said; but this one’s tart, its sunny glow perfected in deceit, as emulation of a cunning heart. I eat it anyway, until the pit alone remains, with scattered drops of juice, such sour trophies proving nature's wit: appearances and real in fragile truce.
We don't belong to each other. We belong together. Some poems belong together to prove the intentionality of subatomic particles. Some poems eat with scissors. Some poems are like kissing a porcupine. God, by the way, is disappointed in some of your recent choices. Some poems swoop. When she said my eyes were definitely blue, I said, How can you see that in the dark? How can you not? she said, and that was like some poems. Some poems are blinded three times. Some poems go like death before dishonor. Some poems go like the time she brought cherries to the movies; later a heedless picnic in her bed. Never revered I crumbs so highly. Some poems have perfect posture, as if hanging by filaments from the sky. Those poems walk like dancers, noiselessly. All poems are love poems. Some poems are better off dead. Right now I want something I don't believe in.
Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”
Evening by evening
Among the brookside rushes,
Laura bow’d her head to hear,
Lizzie veil’d her blushes:
Crouching close together
In the cooling weather,
With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
With tingling cheeks and finger tips.
“Lie close,” Laura said,
Pricking up her golden head:
“We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?”
“Come buy,” call the goblins
Hobbling down the glen.
“Oh,” cried Lizzie, “Laura, Laura,
You should not peep at goblin men.”
Lizzie cover’d up her eyes,
Cover’d close lest they should look;
Laura rear’d her glossy head,
And whisper’d like the restless brook:
“Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie,
Down the glen tramp little men.
One hauls a basket,
One bears a plate,
One lugs a golden dish
Of many pounds weight.
How fair the vine must grow
Whose grapes are so luscious;
How warm the wind must blow
Through those fruit bushes.”
“No,” said Lizzie, “No, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us.”
She thrust a dimpled finger
In each ear, shut eyes and ran:
Curious Laura chose to linger
Wondering at each merchant man.
One had a cat’s face,
One whisk’d a tail,
One tramp’d at a rat’s pace,
One crawl’d like a snail,
One like a wombat prowl’d obtuse and furry,
One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry.
She heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather.
Laura stretch’d her gleaming neck
Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beck,
Like a moonlit poplar branch,
Like a vessel at the launch
When its last restraint is gone.
Backwards up the mossy glen
Turn’d and troop’d the goblin men,
With their shrill repeated cry,
“Come buy, come buy.”
When they reach’d where Laura was
They stood stock still upon the moss,
Leering at each other,
Brother with queer brother;
Signalling each other,
Brother with sly brother.
One set his basket down,
One rear’d his plate;
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown
(Men sell not such in any town);
One heav’d the golden weight
Of dish and fruit to offer her:
“Come buy, come buy,” was still their cry.
Laura stared but did not stir,
Long’d but had no money:
The whisk-tail’d merchant bade her taste
In tones as smooth as honey,
The cat-faced purr’d,
The rat-faced spoke a word
Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard;
One parrot-voiced and jolly
Cried “Pretty Goblin” still for “Pretty Polly;”—
One whistled like a bird.
But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
“Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather.”
“You have much gold upon your head,”
They answer’d all together:
“Buy from us with a golden curl.”
She clipp’d a precious golden lock,
She dropp’d a tear more rare than pearl,
Then suck’d their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flow’d that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She suck’d and suck’d and suck’d the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She suck’d until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away
But gather’d up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turn’d home alone.
Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings:
“Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
Pluck’d from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the noonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew grey;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago
That never blow.
You should not loiter so.”
“Nay, hush,” said Laura:
“Nay, hush, my sister:
I ate and ate my fill,
Yet my mouth waters still;
To-morrow night I will
Buy more;” and kiss’d her:
“Have done with sorrow;
I’ll bring you plums to-morrow
Fresh on their mother twigs,
Cherries worth getting;
You cannot think what figs
My teeth have met in,
What melons icy-cold
Piled on a dish of gold
Too huge for me to hold,
What peaches with a velvet nap,
Pellucid grapes without one seed:
Odorous indeed must be the mead
Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink
With lilies at the brink,
And sugar-sweet their sap.”
Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest
Folded in each other’s wings,
They lay down in their curtain’d bed:
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fall’n snow,
Like two wands of ivory
Tipp’d with gold for awful kings.
Moon and stars gaz’d in at them,
Wind sang to them lullaby,
Lumbering owls forbore to fly,
Not a bat flapp’d to and fro
Round their rest:
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Lock’d together in one nest.
Early in the morning
When the first cock crow’d his warning,
Neat like bees, as sweet and busy,
Laura rose with Lizzie:
Fetch’d in honey, milk’d the cows,
Air’d and set to rights the house,
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat,
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
Next churn’d butter, whipp’d up cream,
Fed their poultry, sat and sew’d;
Talk’d as modest maidens should:
Lizzie with an open heart,
Laura in an absent dream,
One content, one sick in part;
One warbling for the mere bright day’s delight,
One longing for the night.
At length slow evening came:
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook;
Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like a leaping flame.
They drew the gurgling water from its deep;
Lizzie pluck’d purple and rich golden flags,
Then turning homeward said: “The sunset flushes
Those furthest loftiest crags;
Come, Laura, not another maiden lags.
No wilful squirrel wags,
The beasts and birds are fast asleep.”
But Laura loiter’d still among the rushes
And said the bank was steep.
And said the hour was early still
The dew not fall’n, the wind not chill;
Listening ever, but not catching
The customary cry,
“Come buy, come buy,”
With its iterated jingle
Of sugar-baited words:
Not for all her watching
Once discerning even one goblin
Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling;
Let alone the herds
That used to tramp along the glen,
In groups or single,
Of brisk fruit-merchant men.
Till Lizzie urged, “O Laura, come;
I hear the fruit-call but I dare not look:
You should not loiter longer at this brook:
Come with me home.
The stars rise, the moon bends her arc,
Each glowworm winks her spark,
Let us get home before the night grows dark:
For clouds may gather
Though this is summer weather,
Put out the lights and drench us through;
Then if we lost our way what should we do?”
Laura turn’d cold as stone
To find her sister heard that cry alone,
That goblin cry,
“Come buy our fruits, come buy.”
Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit?
Must she no more such succous pasture find,
Gone deaf and blind?
Her tree of life droop’d from the root:
She said not one word in her heart’s sore ache;
But peering thro’ the dimness, nought discerning,
Trudg’d home, her pitcher dripping all the way;
So crept to bed, and lay
Silent till Lizzie slept;
Then sat up in a passionate yearning,
And gnash’d her teeth for baulk’d desire, and wept
As if her heart would break.
Day after day, night after night,
Laura kept watch in vain
In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
She never caught again the goblin cry:
“Come buy, come buy;”—
She never spied the goblin men
Hawking their fruits along the glen:
But when the noon wax’d bright
Her hair grew thin and grey;
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
To swift decay and burn
Her fire away.
One day remembering her kernel-stone
She set it by a wall that faced the south;
Dew’d it with tears, hoped for a root,
Watch’d for a waxing shoot,
But there came none;
It never saw the sun,
It never felt the trickling moisture run:
While with sunk eyes and faded mouth
She dream’d of melons, as a traveller sees
False waves in desert drouth
With shade of leaf-crown’d trees,
And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze.
She no more swept the house,
Tended the fowls or cows,
Fetch’d honey, kneaded cakes of wheat,
Brought water from the brook:
But sat down listless in the chimney-nook
And would not eat.
Tender Lizzie could not bear
To watch her sister’s cankerous care
Yet not to share.
She night and morning
Caught the goblins’ cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy;”—
Beside the brook, along the glen,
She heard the tramp of goblin men,
The yoke and stir
Poor Laura could not hear;
Long’d to buy fruit to comfort her,
But fear’d to pay too dear.
She thought of Jeanie in her grave,
Who should have been a bride;
But who for joys brides hope to have
Fell sick and died
In her gay prime,
In earliest winter time
With the first glazing rime,
With the first snow-fall of crisp winter time.
Till Laura dwindling
Seem’d knocking at Death’s door:
Then Lizzie weigh’d no more
Better and worse;
But put a silver penny in her purse,
Kiss’d Laura, cross’d the heath with clumps of furze
At twilight, halted by the brook:
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look.
Laugh’d every goblin
When they spied her peeping:
Came towards her hobbling,
Flying, running, leaping,
Puffing and blowing,
Chuckling, clapping, crowing,
Clucking and gobbling,
Mopping and mowing,
Full of airs and graces,
Pulling wry faces,
Cat-like and rat-like,
Ratel- and wombat-like,
Snail-paced in a hurry,
Parrot-voiced and whistler,
Helter skelter, hurry skurry,
Chattering like magpies,
Fluttering like pigeons,
Gliding like fishes,—
Hugg’d her and kiss’d her:
Squeez’d and caress’d her:
Stretch’d up their dishes,
Panniers, and plates:
“Look at our apples
Russet and dun,
Bob at our cherries,
Bite at our peaches,
Citrons and dates,
Grapes for the asking,
Pears red with basking
Out in the sun,
Plums on their twigs;
Pluck them and suck them,
“Good folk,” said Lizzie,
Mindful of Jeanie:
“Give me much and many: —
Held out her apron,
Toss’d them her penny.
“Nay, take a seat with us,
Honour and eat with us,”
They answer’d grinning:
“Our feast is but beginning.
Night yet is early,
Warm and dew-pearly,
Wakeful and starry:
Such fruits as these
No man can carry:
Half their bloom would fly,
Half their dew would dry,
Half their flavour would pass by.
Sit down and feast with us,
Be welcome guest with us,
Cheer you and rest with us.”—
“Thank you,” said Lizzie: “But one waits
At home alone for me:
So without further parleying,
If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I toss’d you for a fee.”—
They began to scratch their pates,
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
One call’d her proud,
Their tones wax’d loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbow’d and jostled her,
Claw’d with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soil’d her stocking,
Twitch’d her hair out by the roots,
Stamp’d upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeez’d their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.
White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood,—
Like a rock of blue-vein’d stone
Lash’d by tides obstreperously,—
Like a beacon left alone
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire,—
Like a fruit-crown’d orange-tree
White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee,—
Like a royal virgin town
Topp’d with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguer’d by a fleet
Mad to tug her standard down.
One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Though the goblins cuff’d and caught her,
Coax’d and fought her,
Bullied and besought her,
Scratch’d her, pinch’d her black as ink,
Kick’d and knock’d her,
Maul’d and mock’d her,
Lizzie utter’d not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in:
But laugh’d in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syrupp’d all her face,
And lodg’d in dimples of her chin,
And streak’d her neck which quaked like curd.
At last the evil people,
Worn out by her resistance,
Flung back her penny, kick’d their fruit
Along whichever road they took,
Not leaving root or stone or shoot;
Some writh’d into the ground,
Some div’d into the brook
With ring and ripple,
Some scudded on the gale without a sound,
Some vanish’d in the distance.
In a smart, ache, tingle,
Lizzie went her way;
Knew not was it night or day;
Sprang up the bank, tore thro’ the furze,
Threaded copse and dingle,
And heard her penny jingle
Bouncing in her purse,—
Its bounce was music to her ear.
She ran and ran
As if she fear’d some goblin man
Dogg’d her with gibe or curse
Or something worse:
But not one goblin scurried after,
Nor was she prick’d by fear;
The kind heart made her windy-paced
That urged her home quite out of breath with haste
And inward laughter.
She cried, “Laura,” up the garden,
“Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeez’d from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me;
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.”
Laura started from her chair,
Flung her arms up in the air,
Clutch’d her hair:
“Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted
For my sake the fruit forbidden?
Must your light like mine be hidden,
Your young life like mine be wasted,
Undone in mine undoing,
And ruin’d in my ruin,
Thirsty, canker’d, goblin-ridden?”—
She clung about her sister,
Kiss’d and kiss’d and kiss’d her:
Tears once again
Refresh’d her shrunken eyes,
Dropping like rain
After long sultry drouth;
Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,
She kiss’d and kiss’d her with a hungry mouth.
Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
She loath’d the feast:
Writhing as one possess’d she leap’d and sung,
Rent all her robe, and wrung
Her hands in lamentable haste,
And beat her breast.
Her locks stream’d like the torch
Borne by a racer at full speed,
Or like the mane of horses in their flight,
Or like an eagle when she stems the light
Straight toward the sun,
Or like a caged thing freed,
Or like a flying flag when armies run.
Swift fire spread through her veins, knock’d at her heart,
Met the fire smouldering there
And overbore its lesser flame;
She gorged on bitterness without a name:
Ah! fool, to choose such part
Of soul-consuming care!
Sense fail’d in the mortal strife:
Like the watch-tower of a town
Which an earthquake shatters down,
Like a lightning-stricken mast,
Like a wind-uprooted tree
Like a foam-topp’d waterspout
Cast down headlong in the sea,
She fell at last;
Pleasure past and anguish past,
Is it death or is it life?
Life out of death.
That night long Lizzie watch’d by her,
Counted her pulse’s flagging stir,
Felt for her breath,
Held water to her lips, and cool’d her face
With tears and fanning leaves:
But when the first birds chirp’d about their eaves,
And early reapers plodded to the place
Of golden sheaves,
And dew-wet grass
Bow’d in the morning winds so brisk to pass,
And new buds with new day
Open’d of cup-like lilies on the stream,
Laura awoke as from a dream,
Laugh’d in the innocent old way,
Hugg’d Lizzie but not twice or thrice;
Her gleaming locks show’d not one thread of grey,
Her breath was sweet as May
And light danced in her eyes.
Days, weeks, months, years
Afterwards, when both were wives
With children of their own;
Their mother-hearts beset with fears,
Their lives bound up in tender lives;
Laura would call the little ones
And tell them of her early prime,
Those pleasant days long gone
Of not-returning time:
Would talk about the haunted glen,
The wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men,
Their fruits like honey to the throat
But poison in the blood;
(Men sell not such in any town):
Would tell them how her sister stood
In deadly peril to do her good,
And win the fiery antidote:
Then joining hands to little hands
Would bid them cling together,
“For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.”
when my father had been dead a week I woke with his voice in my ear I sat up in bed and held my breath and stared at the pale closed door white apples and the taste of stone if he called again I would put on my coat and galoshes
I New Year's The solid houses in the mist are thin as tissue paper; the water laps slowly at the rocks; and the ducks from the north are here at rest on the grey ripples. The company in which we went so free of care, so carelessly, has scattered. Good-bye, to you who lie behind in graves, to you who galloped proudly off! Pockets and heart are empty. This is the autumn and our harvest— such as it is, such as it is— the beginnings of the end, bare trees and barren ground; but for us only the beginning: let the wild goat's horn and the silver trumpet sound! Reason upon reason to be thankful: for the fruit of the earth, for the fruit of the tree, for the light of the fire, and to have come to this season. The work of our hearts is dust to be blown about in the winds by the God of our dead in the dust but our Lord delighting in life (let the wild goat's horn and the silver trumpet sound!) our God Who imprisons in coffin and grave and unbinds the bound. You have loved us greatly and given us Your laws for an inheritance, Your sabbaths, holidays, and seasons of gladness, distinguishing Israel from other nations— distinguishing us above the shoals of men. And yet why should we be remembered— if at all—only for peace, if grief is also for all? Our hopes, if they blossom, if they blossom at all, the petals and fruit fall. You have given us the strength to serve You, but we may serve or not as we please; not for peace nor for prosperity, not even for length of life, have we merited remembrance; remember us as the servants You have inherited. II Day of Atonement The great Giver has ended His disposing; the long day is over and the gates are closing. How badly all that has been read was read by us, how poorly all that should be said. All wickedness shall go in smoke. It must, it must! The just shall see and be glad. The sentence is sweet and sustaining; for we, I suppose, are the just; and we, the remaining. If only I could write with four pens between five fingers and with each pen a different sentence at the same time— but the rabbis say it is a lost art, a lost art. I well believe it. And at that of the first twenty sins that we confess, five are by speech alone; little wonder that I must ask the Lord to bless the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart. Now, as from the dead, I revisit the earth and delight in the sky, and hear again the noise of the city and see earth's marvelous creatures—men. Out of nothing I became a being, and from a being I shall be nothing—but until then I rejoice, a mote in Your world, a spark in Your seeing. III Feast of Booths This was a season of our fathers' joy: not only when they gathered grapes and the fruit of trees in Israel, but when, locked in the dark and stony streets, they held—symbols of a life from which they were banished but to which they would surely return— the branches of palm trees and of willows, the twigs of the myrtle, and the bright odorous citrons. This was the grove of palms with its deep well in the stony ghetto in the blaze of noon; this the living stream lined with willows; and this the thick-leaved myrtles and trees heavy with fruit in the barren ghetto—a garden where the unjustly hated were justly safe at last. In booths this week of holiday as those who gathered grapes in Israel lived and also to remember we were cared for in the wilderness— I remember how frail my present dwelling is even if of stones and steel. I know this is the season of our joy: we have completed the readings of the Law and we begin again; but I remember how slowly I have learnt, how little, how fast the year went by, the years—how few. IV Hanukkah The swollen dead fish float on the water; the dead birds lie in the dust trampled to feathers; the lights have been out a long time and the quick gentle hands that lit them— rosy in the yellow tapers' glow— have long ago become merely nails and little bones, and of the mouths that said the blessing and the minds that thought it only teeth are left and skulls, shards of skulls. By all means, then, let us have psalms and days of dedication anew to the old causes. Penniless, penniless, I have come with less and still less to this place of my need and the lack of this hour. That was a comforting word the prophet spoke: Not by might nor by power but by My spirit, said the Lord; comforting, indeed, for those who have neither might nor power— for a blade of grass, for a reed. The miracle, of course, was not that the oil for the sacred light— in a little cruse—lasted as long as they say; but that the courage of the Maccabees lasted to this day: let that nourish my flickering spirit. Go swiftly in your chariot, my fellow Jew, you who are blessed with horses; and I will follow as best I can afoot, bringing with me perhaps a word or two. Speak your learned and witty discourses and I will utter my word or two— not by might not by power but by Your Spirit, Lord.
Quen das finem, rex magne, dolorum?
Where we went in the boat was a long bay a slingshot wide, walled in by towering stone-- Peaked margin of antiquity's delay, And we went there out of time's monotone: Where we went in the black hull no light moved But a gull white-winged along the feckless wave, The breeze, unseen but fierce as a body loved, That boat drove onward like a willing slave: Where we went in the small ship the seaweed Parted and gave to us the murmuring shore And we made feast and in our secret need Devoured the very plates Aeneas bore: Where derelict you see through the low twilight The green coast that you, thunder-tossed, would win, Drop sail, and hastening to drink all night Eat dish and bowl--to take that sweet land in! Where we feasted and caroused on the sandless Pebbles, affecting our day of piracy, What prophecy of eaten plates could landless Wanderers fulfil by the ancient sea? We for that time might taste the famous age Eternal here yet hidden from our eyes When lust of power undid its stuffless rage; They, in a wineskin, bore earth's paradise. Let us lie down once more by the breathing side Of Ocean, where our live forefathers sleep As if the Known Sea still were a month wide-- Atlantis howls but is no longer steep! What country shall we conquer, what fair land Unman our conquest and locate our blood? We've cracked the hemispheres with careless hand! Now, from the Gates of Hercules we flood Westward, westward till the barbarous brine Whelms us to the tired land where tasseling corn, Fat beans, grapes sweeter than muscadine Rot on the vine: in that land were we born.
O wind, rend open the heat, cut apart the heat, rend it to tatters. Fruit cannot drop through this thick air-- fruit cannot fall into heat that presses up and blunts the points of pears and rounds the grapes. Cut the heat-- plough through it, turning it on either side of your path.
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree Toward heaven still, And there's a barrel that I didn't fill Beside it, and there may be two or three Apples I didn't pick upon some bough. But I am done with apple-picking now. Essence of winter sleep is on the night, The scent of apples: I am drowsing off. I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight I got from looking through a pane of glass I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough And held against the world of hoary grass. It melted, and I let it fall and break. But I was well Upon my way to sleep before it fell, And I could tell What form my dreaming was about to take. Magnified apples appear and disappear, Stem end and blossom end, And every fleck of russet showing clear. My instep arch not only keeps the ache, It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round. I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend. And I keep hearing from the cellar bin The rumbling sound Of load on load of apples coming in. For I have had too much Of apple-picking: I am overtired Of the great harvest I myself desired. There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch, Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall. For all That struck the earth, No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble, Went surely to the cider-apple heap As of no worth. One can see what will trouble This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is. Were he not gone, The woodchuck could say whether it's like his Long sleep, as I describe its coming on, Or just some human sleep.