I have no wit, I have no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numbed too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
A lift mine eyes, but dimmed with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is like the falling leaf;
O Jesus, quicken me.
What is this, behind this veil, is it ugly, is it beautiful?
It is shimmering, has it breasts, has it edges?
I am sure it is unique, I am sure it is what I want.
When I am quiet at my cooking I feel it looking, I feel it thinking
‘Is this the one I am too appear for,
Is this the elect one, the one with black eye-pits and a scar?
Measuring the flour,
Here in this valley of discrete academies
We have not mountains, but mounts, truncated hillocks
To the Adirondacks, to northern Monadnock,
Themselves mere rocky hillocks to an Everest.
Still, they’re out best mustering of height: by
Comparison with the sunnken silver-grizzled
Back of the Connecticut, the river-level
Flats of Hadley farms, they’re lofty enough
Elevations to be called something more than hills.
Green, wholly green, they stand their knobby spine
Against our sky: they are what we look southward
If you dissect a bird
To diagram the tongue
You’ll cut the chord
If you flay a beast
To marvel at the mane
You’ll wreck the rest
From which the fur began.
If you pluck out the heart
To find what makes it move,
You’ll halt the clock
That syncopates our love.
Compelled by calamity’s magnet
They loiter and stare as if the house
Burnt-out were theirs, or as if they thought
Some scandal might any minute ooze
From a smoke–choked closet into light;
No deaths, no prodigious injuries
Glut these hunters after an old meat,
Blood-spoor of the austere tragedies.
Mother Medea in a green smock
Moves humbly as any housewife through
Her ruined apartments, taking stock
Of charred shoes, the sodden upholstery:
Cheated of the pyre and the rack,
The crowd sucks
In Alicante they bowl the barrels
Bumblingly over the nubs of the cobbles
Past the yellow-paella eateries,
Below the ramshackle back-alley balconies,
While the cocks and hens
In the roofgardens
Scuttle repose with crowns and cackles.
Kumquat-colored trolleys ding as they trundle
Passengers under an indigo fizzle
Needling spumily down from the wires:
Alongside the sibliant narhor the lovers
Hear loudspeakers boom
From each neon-lit palm
Rumbas and sambas no ear-flaps can muffle.
O Cacophony, goddess of jazz and of quarrels,
Crack-throated mistress of
The smile of ice-boxes annihilates me.
Such blue currents in the veins of my loved one!
I hear her great heart purr.
From her lips ampersands and percent signs
Exit like kisses.
It is Monday in her mind: morals
Launder and present themselves.
What am I to make of these contradictions?
I wear white cuffs, I bow.
Is this love then, this red material
Issuing from the steele needle that flies so blindingly?
It will make little dresses and coats,
In the Archæological Museum in Cambridge is a stone
coffin of the fourth century A.D. containing the skeletons
of a woman, a mouse and a shrew. The ankle-bone of the
woman has been slightly gnawed.
Rigged poker -stiff on her back
With a granite grin
This antique museum-cased lady
Lies, companioned by the gimcrack
Relics of a mouse and a shrew
That battened for a day on her ankle-bone.
These three, unmasked now, bear
To the gross eating game
Spry, wry, and gray as these March sticks,
Percy bows, in his blue pea jacket, among the narcissi.
He is recuperating from something on the lung.
The narcissi, too, are bowing to some big thing :
It rattles their stars on the green hill where Percy
Nurses the hardship of his stitches, and walks and walks.
There is a dignity to this; there is a formality-
The flowers vivid as bandages, and the man mending.
There is this white wall, above which the sky creates itself-
Infinite, green, utterly untouchable.
Angels swim in it, and the stars, in indifference also.
They are my medium.
The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights.
A gray wall now, clawed and bloody.
Is there no way out of the mind?
Steps at my back spiral into a well.
There are no trees or birds in this world,
There is only sourness.
This red wall winces continually
the slime of all my yesterdays
rots in the hollow of my skull
and if my stomach would contract
because of some explicable phenomenon
such as pregnancy or constipation
I would not remember you
or that because of sleep
infrequent as a moon of greencheese
that because of food
nourishing as violet leaves
that because of these
and in a few fatal yards of grass
in a few spaces of sky and treetops
a future was lost yesterday
as easily and irretrievably
Worship this world of watercolor mood
in glass pagodas hung with veils of green
where diamonds jangle hymns within the blood
and sap ascends the steeple of the vein.
A saintly sparrow jargons madrigals
to waken dreamers in the milky dawn,
while tulips bow like a college of cardinals
before that papal paragon, the sun.
Christened in a spindrift of snowdrop stars,
where on pink-fluted feet the pigeons pass
and jonquils sprout like solomon’s metaphors,
my love and I go
deep in liquid
of dilute light
quiver in thin streaks
of bright tinfoil
on mobile jet:
in the shallows
dilate lithe and
dull lunar globes
of blubous jellyfish
in wily spirals
on elusive tails:
amble darkly olive
on shrewd claws:
down where sound
comes blunt and wan
like the bronze tone
of a sunken gong.
Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees!-The furrow
Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,
Berries cast dark
Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Hauls me through air-
Flakes from my heels.
Godiva, I unpeel-
Dead hands, dead stringencies.
And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.
The child’s cry
Melts in the wall.
Am the arrow,
The dew that flies,
Suicidal, at one
Since Christmas they have lived with us,
Guileless and clear,
Taking up half the space,
Moving and rubbing on the silk
Invisible air drifts,
Giving a shriek and pop
When attacked, then scooting to rest, barely trembling.
Yellow cathead, blue fish-
Such queer moons we live with
Instead of dead furniture!
Straw mats, white walls
And these traveling
Globes of thin air, red, green,
The heart like wishes or free
Old ground with a feather
Beaten in starry metals.
Brother is making
Empty, I echo to the least footfall,
Museum without statues, grand with pillars, porticoes, rotundas.
In my courtyard a fountain leaps and sinks back into itself,
Nun-hearted and blind to the world. Marble lilies
Exhale their pallor like scent.
I imagine myself with a great public,
Mother of a white Nike and several bald-eyed Apollos.
Insread, the dead injure me attentions, and nothing can happen.
Blank-faced and mum as a nurse.
This is the sea, then, this great abeyance.
How the sun’s poultice draws on my inflammation.
Electrifyingly-colored sherbets, scooped from the freeze;
By pale girls, travel the air in scorched hands.
Why is it so quiet, what are they hiding?
I have two legs, and I move smilingly.
A sandy damper kills the vibrations;
It stretches for miles, the shrunk voices
Waving and crutchless, half their old size.
The lines of the eye, scalded by these bald surfaces,
All morning in the strawberry field
They talked about the Russians.
Squatted down between the rows
We heard the head woman say,
‘Bomb them off the map.’
Horseflies buzzed, paused and stung.
And the taste of strawberries
Turned thick and sour.
Mary said slowly, ‘I’ve got a fella
Old enough to go.
If anything should happen…’
The sky was high and blue.
Two children laughed at tag
In the tall grass,
Leaping awkward and long-legged
Across the rutted road.
The fields were full of
Tell me what you see in it:
The pine tree like a Rorschach-blot
black against the orange light:
Plant an orange pumpkin patch
which at twelve will quaintly hatch
nine black mice with ebon coach,
or walk into the orange and make
a devil’s cataract of black
obscure god’s eye with corkscrew fleck;
put orange mistress half in sun,
half in shade, until her skin
tattoos black leaves on tangerine.
Read black magic or holy book
or lyric of love in the
On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident
To set the sight on fire
In my eye, not seek
Any more in the desultory weather some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.
Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can’t honestly complain:
A certain minor light may still
Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.
I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.
They accommodate themselves
They’re out of the dark’s ragbag, these two
Moles dead in the pebbled rut,
Shapeless as flung gloves, a few feet apart-
Blue suede a dog or fox has chewed.
One, by himself, seemed pitiable enough,
Little victim unearthed by some large creature
From his orbit under the elm root.
The second carcass makes a duel of the affair:
Blind twins bitten by bad nature.
The sky’s far dome is sane a clear.
Leaves, undoing their yellow caves
I am sending back the key
that let me into bluebeard’s study;
because he would make love to me
I am sending back the key;
in his eye’s darkroom I can see
my X-rayed heart, dissected body:
I am sending back the key
that let me into bluebeard’s study.
Will they occur,
These people with torso of steel
Winged elbows and eyeholes
Of cloud to give them expression,
These super-people! –
And my baby a nail
Driven, driven in.
He shrieks in his grease
Bones nosing for distance.
And I, nearly extinct,
His three teeth cutting
Themselves on my thumb –
And the star,
The old story.
In the lane I meet sheep and wagons,
Red earth, motherly blood.
O You who eat
People like light rays, leave
Mirror safe, unredeemed
By the dove’s annihilation,
Mayday: two came to field in such wise:
`A daisied mead’, each said to each,
So were they one; so sought they couch,
Across barbed stile, through flocked brown cows.
`No pitchforked farmer, please,’ she said;
`May cockcrow guard us safe,’ said he;
By blackthorn thicket, flower spray
They pitched their coats, come to green bed.
Below: a fen where water stood;
Aslant: their hill of stinging nettle;
Then, honor-bound, mute grazing cattle;
Above: leaf-wraithed white air, white cloud.