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The groups, though, were my inspiration way back then. I liked Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers.

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In The Way Back Then

Seven years ago,
I went back to Canada
after forty-two years.
I walked down a road
to show my wife where I used to live.
The road was built on rolling hills
and as I came over one,
I knew instantly where I was.
Things had changed
in those forty-two years,
some would say
it was unrecognisable
from what I used to know,
but as soon as I started down the hill
things came back like yesterday.
It was as if I had never been away.
Memories of my childhood
instantly sprang to mind.
I found myself seeing things
not as the now,
but there were changes
from the way back then.
The memory flashes
brought a smile to my face
as I could visualise
all the friends I knew then,
the funny incidents that over my life
in the way back then.
All too soon, time
has a way of taking things back
and my memory reclined them
to the back door of my mind.

30 April 2008

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Way Back Then

Night is falling
Were doing the things we do
You are acting just like me
Im acting just like you
Do you remember
When you were my friend?
Thats the way Id like things
Just like way back then
Babys sleeping
Brother is on the run
I am out undoing
All the good Ive done
If you loved me
Tell you what I would do
Wrap the world in silver foil
Bring it home to you.
Lately I feel
That I cant pretend
I may never ever see
The likes of you again
I take a walk, I come back home
Then I sit a spell
Watch the ponies dance around
The empty wishing well.
Night has fallen
Ive said the things I did
The only baby sleeping
Is when I was a kid
Do you remember
When you were my friend?
Thats the way Id like things
Just like way back then.

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Way Back Then

Like a little puppy, how I would run and prance
The first time I got to wear long corduroy pants
Knickers was the wear until reaching eight
They have been out of fashion since that date

The girls in class wore neat little dresses
Hair of ponytails and long curly tresses
Everyone was friendly, no one was mean
Words were of encouragement, never obscene

An open window would keep us cool
That was air conditioning in our school
No car, no bus, nor a simple mule
Get there by walking that was the rule

The rain turned dirt into a brown liquid mush
That would ooze between my toes like melted slush
Oh what a feeling that was to a young boy of ten
So many memories flow from way back then

A penny would buy me lots of things
Five of them was what happiness brings
We shucked the corn and shelled the peas
And our dear little hearts always said please

The picture show cost a whole thin dime
That was the entertainment at that time
There was the radio with stories and song
Which we would listen to all night long

No super market with its shelves of food
General store furnished the things we chewed
Our water was pulled from a dark deep well
My brother said at the bottom, there lies hell

Missing Church on Sunday was surely a sin
That's what they taught us way back then
Dreaded Polio appeared to be everywhere
The iron lung seemed to be the only care

But by the grace of God we all survived
Then one day in December WWII arrived
Everyone flew into action to do their part
Patriotism and sacrifice came from the heart

Rationing was a hardship but we didn't care
Support of the country was everywhere
The war raged on like it would never end
Every day we would pray and then pretend

They'll be home by Christmas with a world secure
With hopes and wishes that peace would endure
God saw us through to the waning tide
Then the boys returned home with glowing pride

Those were the days when we all stood together
Through thick and thin and all kinds of weather
Many years have passed since way back then
I sure would like to bring them back again

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Not Into a 'Back-Then-When

Betwixt and between.
And no longer am I bothered by it.
Or teased by that which I can do without.

I feel a peace within as I go about my way.
Betrayals and delays of those promises,
Either I made or anticipated in a waiting...
For them to be fulfilled and given,
Are not on an agenda I keep prioritized.
There is something about acceptance,
I now realize and prize.

I am in the 'now' to live.
Not into a 'back-then-when'...
To be wished!

And 'if' you want to dance with that...
You'll have to find another partner.
Those tunes I don't even hum!
Nor do I keep them remembered.

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Love at Ten

I wonder why it was
I fell in love at ten?
We were only children
way back then.
I didn't know what love was.
Neither did you.
But when playtime was over
both of us knew
that leaving one another
and going separate ways
made us wish for tomorrow
and sun-shiny days.

I would let you catch me
in every running game.
And when you would grab my hand
nothing was the same.
I think we were fifteen
when the playtime was all over
that we looked at each other differently
in a field of clover.
You found one with four leaves
and gave it to me.
I kissed you on your cheek
and what I did see
was why I loved you when I was only ten.
And I wished that I could do that
all over again.

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Wish I was a Vegetarian!

I wish I were a vegetarian
I'd sleep a little easier
Without dead sheep to count
Brushing my teeth, not watching out
For stray pieces of meat

I'm searching for the discipline
Excuse or motivating force
To bolster my resolve to eat
And be as I should long have been
Of flesh and guilt, absolved and free

I've visited the slaughter-house
Where brains are stunned, carcasses hung
And bled and quartered into steak
The regiments of hens, all caged, debeaked
The pigs castrated, eunuchs waiting for the end to come.

I don't care how the surplus beasts would do -
We're overpopulated here ourselves!
Just let them all run free, I guess
In case they could feel happiness
They wouldn't be deprived of it by me

It's not about them, in the end
It's all familiarity
And if grandchildren ever crowd my knee
They won't recoil and faint beside my feet:
Oh man, what were you thinking, way back then -
Killing poor creatures for their meat?

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Misrepresented People

In 1492 you came upon these shores.
Seven hundred years, educated by the moors;
17th Century-- genocide and the gun
Middle Passage blessed to market the Africans.
In the so-called Land of God??
My kind were treated hard.
From back then until now
I see, and you agree--
We have been a misrepresented people.
From back then until now
Just see my family tree;
We have been a misrepresented people.
We have been a misrepresented people.
19th century-- slavery destroyed.
Soldiers who fought and won
Whats known as nigger-boys??.
20th century-- with freedom in my hand,
We invent ideas
Which helped us save a land,
But while I prayed to God
My moms and pops got whored.
From back then until now
Youll see our history;
We have been a misrepresented people.
From back then until now
Just see my family tree;
We have been a misrepresented people
Yes, we have been a misrepresented people.
1969-- Black power's at the door.
1982-- Hop-hop was on the floor.
1992-- Gangsta crack prevailed.
1999-- Our colors filled the jails.
It is through the grace of God
That we all were not scarred.
From back then until now
We see no comedy;
We have been a misrepresented people.
From back then until now
Were we still a mystery;
We have been a misrepresented people.
Yes, we have been a misrepresented people.
Though we march across time,
A sea of victories,
We have been a misrepresented people.
From back then until now
You know we made you grow;
We have been a misrepresented people.
We have been a misrepresented people.
From back then until now
We see our destiny
To never be a misrepresented people.
Yes, we march across to time to free
A melody
To never be a misrepresented people.
No you must never be a misrepresented people.
[Thanks to for lyrics]

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Look at this!

I saw a flower and it was gray.
I noticed the sun was out of the way.
Clouds were in its way.
But then it got sunny again,
and the flower was blue, purple, green, yellow,
clear, and yellow.
It was a pretty flower.
I looked at it and I told my mom that she should come and see
the beauteful flower and she thought that it was too.
The flower was very very very very very
very very very very very very very very very very
very very very very very
very very very very very pretty. And I looked and I looked.
And this is a very long poem,
Like a long day of thinking of good ideas to write this
really really really long poem.
Good-Bye forever!

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Mine Again

I remember when you used to be mine
Way back when
I was too naive to love you right
But now if I only had the opportunity
I would do anything
Because my heart still believes
Maybe you could be mine again
Maybe we could make that dream for real
Like way back then
When love was yours and mine
Maybe we could bring it back to life
It's irrelevant to dwell on the past
I'm accountable for what went bad
And I mean that
But I keep on praying for another chance
Just to have you back
Cause I've grown
And I know how to be your everything
Maybe you could be mind again
Maybe we could make that dream for real
Like way back then
When love was yours and mine
Maybe we could bring it back to life
No, no it ain't over yet
I just can't accept the possibility
We weren't made for each other's arms
I know you're my destiny
We can't erase what was meant to be
Part of you and part of me
If we try one more time
Maybe somehow we'll survive
Maybe you could be mine again
Maybe we could make that dream for real
Like way back then
When love was yours and mine
Boy maybe we could bring it back
Maybe we could bring it back
Maybe we could bring it back to...
Maybe you could be mine

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Our House

Father wears his sunday best
Mothers tired she needs a rest
The kids are playing up downstairs
Sisters sighing in her sleep
Brothers got a date to keep
He cant hang around
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our ...
Our house it has a crowd
Theres always something happening
And its usually quite loud
Our mum shes so house-proud
Nothing ever slows her down
And a mess is not allowed
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our ...
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our ...
Something tells you that youve got to get away from it
Father gets up late for work
Mother has to iron his shirt
Then she sends the kids to school
Sees them off with a small kiss
Shes the one theyre going to miss
In lots of ways
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our ...
I remember way back then when everything was true and when
We would have such a very good time such a fine time
Such a happy time
And I remember how wed play simply waste the day away
Then wed say nothing would come between us two dreamers
Father wears his sunday best
Mothers tired she needs a rest
The kids are playing up downstairs
Sisters sighing in her sleep
Brothers got a date to keep
He cant hang around
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our ...
Our house, was our castle and our keep
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, that was where we used to sleep
Our house, in the middle of our street
Our house, in the middle of our street

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Thats The Way I Remember It

Ts only natural with time
Details can somehow slip your mind
Something so sweet, though incomplete
You fill the spaces in-between
It never will be that way again
Maybe it wasnt way back when
But to my heart and soul
This is the way the story has to be told
Thats the way (thats the way) I remember it
I remember it that way
From the day I was living there
I remember it that way
Some of our stories fade as we grow older
Some get sweeter every time theyre told
Thats the way (thats the way) I remember you that way
Guess now if the truth were known
Among diamonds they were stones
To say would be fair, girl, nothing compares
To when I called you all my own
So darling dont ever you think twice
Those were the best days of my life
When I held you there
And Ill tell this story this way, time and again
Thats the way (thats the way) I remember it
I remember it that way
From the day I was living there
I remember it that way

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The Way Back Home

(Vince Gill)
A little girl was cryin'
for her mama and her daddy
She couldn't understand why they were gone
She never knew the danger
Of talking to a stranger
Now the girl can't find her way back home
A little boy went walkin'
Down to the corner market
To buy a loaf of bread and an ince cream cone
He never knew the dnager
Of talkin' to a stranger
Now the boy can't find the way back home
Too many kids are missin'
Is anybody listening?
Won't you be the children's eyes
They're all alone
The hardest part's not knowing
Where they are or where they're going
Won't you help the children find
The way back home
The faces on milk cartons
Thrown away and soon forgotten
What if one of those sweet kids
Was your very own
Tonight those kids are weeping
While yours are safely sleeping
Won't you help the children find
The way back home
Too many kids are missin'
Is anybody listening?
Won't you be the children's eyes
They're all alone
The hardest part's not knowing
Where they are or where they're going
Won't you help the children find
The way back home
Won't you help the children find
The way back home

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Way back to past

Way back to past
Oh! Not pleasant to last
I hate them and refuse to invite
They burn me from inside and ignite

I want to bury them all
They are witness to my dawn fall
I have suffered a lot
Relentlessly on chase and fought

How they had made me insane?
I non existed as noble and humane
What else can be felt as proud?
I have nothing to claim it loud

You go away from me once for all
You were stumbling block and wall
I tried all the way my best to scale
You forced me all the times to fail

Not all might have faced the same
Why I should consider them same and blame?
I wish everybody to be happy at all the turns
Let happiness reach them with efforts in return

I was about to be finished
On brink of disaster and waiting to be perished
I lost no hope and stood ground well
Today I am here with different tale

It is sending me cold ripples
I shiver and fear from such tales
Why should it ever happen to anybody?
It can end some where tragic with somebody

I try to come back to present
I apply all force to make it absent
It is not going away easily
I helplessly watch it sadly

What have I to offer to my brethrens?
Never bother about past and happily return
Work for bright future and never look back
Make it enterprising with actions power pack

I had been failed to handle it successively
I was down and watched it passively
There was no other option open
I had no courage to face it even

You are all young, brave and gifted
You all know how to get yourself lifted
No one can stop you from past experience
Even though life may stand different or at variance

Even though I have suffered at cruel hands
I have made lot many well wishers and friends
They make me feel happy and at home
Always embrace with love and welcome

I have lost nothing in race
Today I feel proud with bright face
Even though past has remained elusive
I have gained a lot and massive

A good and lovely daughter on line
Always make me proud with all that is fine
I have remained thorough out as bad figure
But she is smiling there as my future

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Way Back Home

A little girl was cryin
For her mama and her daddy
She couldnt understand why they were gone
She never knew the danger
Of talking to a stranger
Now the girl cant find her way back home
A little boy went walkin
Down to the corner market
To buy a loaf of bread and an ince cream cone
He never knew the dnager
Of talkin to a stranger
Now the boy cant find the way back home
Too many kids are missin
Is anybody listening?
Wont you be the childrens eyes
Theyre all alone
The hardest parts not knowing
Where they are or where theyre going
Wont you help the children find
The way back home
The faces on milk cartons
Thrown away and soon forgotten
What if one of those sweet kids
Was your very own
Tonight those kids are weeping
While yours are safely sleeping
Wont you help the children find
The way back home
Wont you help the children find
The way back home

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A butterfly finds its way back

A butterfly finds its way back

It was a drift from the path
It took place sometime back
Because our heroine sensed a lack
In the taste of nectar in the flower of the park

To the same park this flock of butterflies
Used to come and enjoy the sweet and nice
Nectar in the red and blue poppies
And fly back with this sweetened hobby

It was more an excuse than a reason
For this drift, but a thought’s treason
To deviate and critically question
All that were followed in mindless unison

Our young colourful one with whistle
In her wings, over a time turned hostile
To this tradition and thought it futile
To be in the flock and went away for a while

Others in the group became worried
Wondering where she would have been carried
Was she in the insect flower got buried
Or was by ants after an injury curried

One fine morning suddenly the butterfly was sighted
And she joined the flock as if nothing got slighted
And told others she followed the path less lighted
For a flower who became with her less delighted

She expressed to join the flower of flock’s choice
And be ever with it without making any further noise
The flock has no words to say but to rejoice
The retrieval of the butterfly with her vouching voice

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Patrick White

I Did The Kind Of Good A Storm Does

I did the kind of good a storm does.
I may have broken some tree limbs
and downed some powerlines along the way
but I cleared the air of its festering
and from top to bottom
we got down to the roots of things
like lightning and rain
like real radicals
free-basing the ideological ions
addicted to their brains
like razorblades.
O ya
I remember now
we were going to save the world from itself.
I gave up trying
when I realized
that if we did that
there would be no one left
to save the world from us.
Trying to justify yourself in retrospect
is like trying to exonerate a big hairdo
you wore back in the early seventies.
It can't be done
except as a kind of dangerous chess
you play with yourself
and cheat.
It's fun to play
with the lethal intensities
and swaggering immensities of yesterday
as if all those great sublimities that moved us
like fixed stars
had come down to earth
like the ashs of fireflies
in a snakepit of thought
poured out of tiny urns
the size of a human heart.
When I've got nothing else to do
and the moon bores me late at night with its looking
I run my tongue along the edge of your words
like old knives
I've kept like a collection of my favourite smiles
to see if they still know how to draw blood
and what that might still mean to my heart.
Maybe I should have fallen on them like swords
as you wanted me to
instead of reading them
like a delinquent boy
in front of a no trespassing sign.
Back in those days
my heart was a rock
and my mind
was a broken windowpane.
But I'm not one of those people
who long for the past
as if you could step into the same river twice.
Everyone forgets
is the mother of the muses.
Everyday the past
comes up with a new song
that surpasses the last like the future.
The ghost of tomorrow returns to its grave at dawn.
The past is just as spontaneously inspired
as the present
and makes it up as it goes along
thinking this is what it must be like
to live on and on and on
with your cosmic elbows
leaning on earthly windowsills
wondering what it might be like to die
and come back
reincarnated as a horizon
or a threshold.
But I don't go back to the past
for the view
like a tourist passing through
his old neighbourhood
to see where he was born and died.
I don't want a brass plague
for a birth certificate
and a postcard
from the edge of nowhere
for a passport
that lies about my record
for telling
what I mistake for the truth
to anyone who'll listen.
I don't want to fake my way into reality
the way they do in Zen.
I don't want to begin again
like tomorrow's has-been.
I'm not trying to convert the faithless
to my disbelief
like a tree preaching to a leaf
like a cross to a crucifixion.
I'm not trying to pump my latest work of fiction
up into a universally inflatable religion
you can take on camping trips to the holy land.
I'm not sure
I'm even really trying to understand
the way things were way back then
when we didn't need to.
Just something to do
when I'm watching the moon
float downstream
like the prophetic skull of Orpheus
all the way from Thrace to Mytilene in Lesbos.
If I look at it long enough
even through a dirty window
I can see a footloose waterlily
preening its feathers
like the swan of a loveletter
late in the autumn
to someone
who will pick it up out of the water
and wonder who it's from
for the rest of their life
like I do
remembering you
as you are to me
now that all these lunar calendars
have shed their blossoms and leaves
and stand naked as the tree of knowledge
adding zeros to everything
like tree-rings in the heartwood
of my personal history.
I've never made a cliche
out of any muse of mine
whether she took me to bed or not.
If she infused me with inspiration
I didn't abuse her
with a parting shot
like the afterthought
of an ignoble mind
or a paper phoenix
that couldn't take the heat
when things got sweet and hot.
I come back
like an old wind to a funeral pyre
that blazed its way up to the stars
to see if anything
was left unburnt or unanswered
in the ashes of the scorched earth.
I rock the cradle awhile
like a manger in hell
that once gave birth
to a childless messiah.
I transcend my own innocence
and fall toward paradise
without asking to be forgiven.
Love hangs stars above us all
that take the fall
for the way our scars
demonize our open wounds for living.
I drink from my skull
to your memory
and then I drink to you
whoever you are now.
In a desert on the moon
in a sea of shadows
I drink in the darkness alone
like an open window
to let the birds out
as if they were the only words
I had left to say
about the passing years
to hide my crazy tears
like an atheist on a grailquest
who knows that life
is a mirage
of burning muse water
that tastes like broken mirrors.

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Patrick White

Why Do Children Of The Poor

Why do children of the poor die so readily?
By the age of five
they're already disarmed for life.
Is money a gene they're missing?
Or is their suffering
just a diminished immunity to the rest of us?
The gluttons of knowledge
discuss James Joyce in a loud voice
in well-lit universities.
With great nuance and finesse
they enumerate the seven kinds of ambiguity
and the mean diameter of the vowel O
in the context of neo-Chicago Aristotelianism
in the latter plays of Shakespeare
where the commas fall like worms
out of every page of his art
as if he couldn't punctuate
the death-rage in his heart
with the subtler points
of the neo-critical literati.
I think Shakespeare would have seen
the sterling irony
of debating proto-Nostratic linguistics
while living children all around him
can't read their names in their own mother-tongue.
If the same word for oak
was the word we used for door
when we all learned to speak the same language
milennia ago
it's not hard to imagine
given modern advances in communication
that the word for child
that we used way back then
is the root of the word we use for atrocity today.
Why do the children of the poor die so readily?
Nature or nurture?
Is it because the children of the rich
are taught that wealth is longevity
and the children of the poor
who can't read the fine print
bleed to death like expired medical plans?
Why do the rich think that the poor
are the reason their children suffer
and the best thing to do is make orphans of them
by sending the poor of one nation
to war against another
to keep the economy growing
and cut back on the unemployed
like deer culled from a budget in hunting season?
If you're a child born from this womb
and you grow up fat and cuddly
you've still got
a back-up heart transplant in the bank
but if you're a child born from this one
to thrive on nothing
you look for lifeboats
and see nothing but rocks.
You reach out to the watching world
like a camera
with big questions
in your unaccusing eyes
about what is happening to you
in the arms of your helpless mother
and the world looks back at your tiny corpse
swollen with hunger
like the uninhabitable planet
of your empty stomach
as if it were all just part of your bad luck
that you were born at the mercy of flies
clustering like first world pharmaceuticals
on the black market
of your third world eyelids.
Why are the children of the rich
born into health and favour
and the children of the poor
are slaves to sex and labour?
Have you ever thought about
how many children had to die
to make your running shoes?
Like all those who died
giving birth to the blues
so you could put your suffering
to their music
like the lyrics of the squeamish rich
to the heart-sick voices of the poor?
Why do the children of the poor
die so readily in bad neighbourhoods
where the streets are named for strangers
who all live somewhere else like slumlords?
Insane waste of light and love.
Desecration of heart and mind
Of genius and compassion.
Of cures for cancer
and violins that can play
like willows by a river in the wind.
There's nothing unfinished about a child
as if the green apple
were any less than a ripe one.
Growing up among the living means
that at every moment of your life
you've reached your full potential
and you realize that nothing's ever missing.
Everything is whole and beyond perfect just as it is.
That's innocence from the inside out.
And then someone steps in
and teaches the child
how much it must suffer like the rest of us
just to be itself.
That's the beginning of a rich man's religion
from the outside in.
This child's afraid of losing face
and this child's not allowed to have one.
Why do the children of the poor die so readily?
Why do some children go to summer camp
the way others go to prison
to earn their tats like scout badges?
Why are the children of the poor
turned into baby rattlesnakes
like seven year olds with AK-47s
that are as poisonous as the adult ones?
Why do the children of the poor go to war
while the children of the rich go to college?
There's nothing in the world
a poor child can take for granted.
Life is a wound
that deadens the mind in time
if you're alive enough to endure it.
There are young girls in Afghanistan
who are risking their lives every day
just to learn to read.
Omar Khayyam says
The moving finger writes
and having writ moves on
nor all thy piety nor wit
can lure it back to cancel half a line
nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.
So the Taliban are resorting
to splashing acid in the eyes
of their sisters and daughters
to see if that works better than water.
And the National Rifle Association
inside the classroom
and outside the hospital
is defending the right
by force of the second amendment
as it's written in the Constitution
for every child to pack a lunch
the way their teachers pack guns to school
in pursuit of American happiness
and higher learning
with a competitive edge.
Why do the lean children of the poor die so readily
like one of the seven plagues of Egypt
in back alleys and abandoned buildings
with needles stuck in their arms
while the obese children of the rich
are having the fat of the land removed surgically?
Why do the rich spend twenty million dollars
on a painting of a child
with impressionist skin by Renoir
while a real child lies torn at their feet
in a surrealistic abattoir
signed in its own blood
like the masterpiece of an unknown genius?
Why is so much squandered on the rarity of things
than on their commonality
like children and green oxygen?
Why are movie-stars and football players
paid more on a yearly basis
to live out our fantasies of sex and violence
than it would take
to keep all the children in the Sudan
healthy and alive for a year?
Is it better in this world
to be born a corrupt politician
with a command of words like maggots
than it is to be born innocent
and have nothing to say for yourself
because you're too young
to speak for anyone else
even when you're murdered?
Why do the children of the poor die so readily?
How does it come about
that the United States Supreme Court
accords an oil corporation
all the rights and privileges
of a genuine bigger-than-life individual
backed up by a birth certificate
from a lapwing government
though it's a succubus among humans
and twenty-five million children a year
die anonymously in misery
right at the peak of their suffering
like the fame of the nameless logos
on a generic death
where one size fits all?
Why do the children of the poor die so readily?
Is it because the poor are waiting for lung transplants
that have been inflated into footballs
to score political points
for a ghoul in a governor's office
to balance the budget like death
in favour of the rich
who are waiting for yachts?
Is it because the road we were on
just suddenly got up one day
like human evolution
and walked away from us in disgust
to go look for the lost children
we left like the wings on our heels in the dust?
Is it because as Basho says in a haiku
for those who say
they have no time for children
there are no flowers
and we're so blind to the peach blossoms
we can't see the depth of the curse in this
that we give so little mind
to what we have uprooted from the garden
as if the children of agrarian Adam
scratching for a living in the dirt
weren't as legitimate as those
that were sired
by an industrial
Johnny Appleseed?
Is it because the children of the poor
are born first
to be thrown into the mouths
of corporate Moloch and Wall Street Baal
like a blood sacrifice to a cosmic monstrosity
just so Carthage doesn't fall again
to the venture capital
of down-to-earth Romans
like the price of salt on a sterile market
or the soil of the Love Canal?
Is it because the children of the poor
are the expression of a death-wish
to raise our own assassins
as the only way of finding forgiveness
for what we did to them
before during and after they were born?
Why do the children of the poor die so readily?
Is it because we think of the children of the profligate poor
as the repeating decimals
of a future that goes on forever incommensurately
like one generation after another
or a clepshydra of blood
or a tiny thread of a mindstream
trickling down from the top of the world mountain
like a loose thread of life
that we think we can sever their lives anywhere
or pull down the pillars of pi
by cutting their legs out from under them
like the fundamentals of life
without drawing the knife across our own jugular
like the intestate balls of a castrated ram
or the throat of a wedding bell without a womb?
Why do the children of the poor die so readily?
Is it because...

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Patrick White

It's Writing Me

It’s writing me.
I’m not writing it.
It’s got nothing to do with obedience
and there’s no chance of betraying it
even now that I’m three thousand miles
and forty light years away
and all the fireflies and lightning bolts
in my mystic cloud of unknowing
have turned into a frenzy of fanatical killer bees.
I’m swarmed by anxieties like mental space junk
and snakey wavelengths of yesterday
still trying to shed the sky like sunburnt skin.
Like the mythic names of old lovers
tattooed on our foreheads and firearms forever
and the obsolete starmaps in braille
that we followed like the magi
across this friendless desert of stars
as the signage of something divine.
And it isn’t the ironic sublimity
of the implacable circumstances of fate
that dictate whether the gate to the garden
is shut to me or not
that I fear the most
but the caprice of cornerstones
that turn into quicksand just to preserve the past.
I’ve grown more ruthless with my memories
over the past four decades.
I splash acid in the eyes
of those who are learning to read me like a book.
Others I send into exile
for trying to desecrate the image I have of me.
They write long sad poems
on the shores of the Black Sea in winter
and they’re never coming home again.
There’s more Tristes than Amores in the depth of my pain.
The rest I keep like lighthouses and lightning rods
to remind me what it was once like
when schools of silver fish swam
like poplar leaves when the wind
turns them all in the same direction at once
through warm water on the moon
and I had an atmosphere I could rely on.
Now some days I open my third eye
to the lucidity of the morning
as if it were a security camera
that took the picture of the thief
that stole the moon from my window last night.
But here you come again this morning
despite my priestly efforts
to exorcise your ghost
like an oxymoronic fragrance
of Parisian perfume and whale vomit
or as you would say expurgated ambergris
wearing that violet orchid of a blouse
and those tight black leather pants
that used to drive me so crazy
to see what could bloom
in the shadow of an outhouse
like waterlilies in a reeking swamp.
You’re leaning over a cedar rail fence
rotten with moss and lunar lichen
up to your hourglass waist line
in the sidereal surf of New England asters
and you’re feeding three black horses
gleaming like anthracite with sweat
and one with a star
in the middle of its forehead
that made me think
of the Great Square of Pegasus at the time,
a stranger’s apples from the palm of your hand.
And the wild gypsy mane of your own black hair
in the full glare of the sunlight
that bloodies the flyaway strands
like a hairdo of oracular serpents
wounded by the Bronze Age.
I saw the innocent face of Eve
under the mask of the Medusa
and I don’t believe even now
that I try every other day not to
I could have ever loved you more
than I did in that moment.
The delusions and the deceptions
have long ago been swept off the stairs
of the whirling castle of Arianrhod
in Corona Borealis
like stars that gave up their fixed places
to blossom awhile and fall
by the janitors who came after us.
And the gnostic gospels of the autumn leaves
we used to read together
when the weather got cold
have been buried in urns
deep in desert caves
like the holy books of persecuted outcasts
that had an epiphanous way of looking at things
that are hard to explain.
Very few things are things of beauty
and even fewer joys forever
but it’s ungracious to mourn
that it happens to be the way it is
but even so even so
as Basho would say.
Attachment too is a Buddha activity
and we mourn the flowers passing away.
And the rivers and the stars carry forth into themselves
like light and water and passion.
How little of what we said and did
means much now?
Two actors that have gone on to other plays.
A carnival of hearts on a road tour
with a big finale on closing night in the grave.
I remember you with much more discretion now
than I used to.
Things grow dark and clear in the winter.
The cold night air prunes your lungs with lunar scalpels
and though there’s less heat in them
than there is in the summer when
the stars burn through the thinner veils of the willows
with greater insight
than they did when they shone above us.
It would have been facile and insincere
to have been embittered by the biased juries
that prosecute a broken heart
trying to apply the law to love.
And for the most part I didn’t let
what was tender and enduring about us then
turn into hard evidence
and throw live rabbits into a snake pit
hoping to appeal the sentence.
I’ve done my time standing up
with my mouth shut
and left the snakes and the rabbits
to fend for themselves
as you and I did
when the final judgement came down.
And the truth will out
I still remember you as a window
I once looked through
into the creative genius of God
when she comes down to earth
in all her radiance
to see what charms the sons of men
what lights them up
like new stars in the Pleiades
and blows them out like black dwarfs
that collapse under their own gravity
after the last ray of light
finishes shredding the secret documents
that would have incriminated us
for once having been in love
and escapes its abandoned embassy
in the Great Nebula of Orion.
And even as a muse
as this poem attests
you arise occasionally
into my field of vision
from era to era
like the ghost of a constellation
or a bird in transit across the moon
or the smoking root fires
of stars that haven’t quite gone out.
And I see in you now
as I did way back then
all aspects of lunar women
reflected in these briefly beautiful moments
that seem like notes of frozen music
at a nexus of the temporal and eternal
like jewels in the eye of a diamond cutter
who’s always grateful
for the long red wavelengths of inspiration
that come to him like retroactive love letters
as expansive with farewell
as the widening wakes of the past
but who knows a lot more about shining
than he did way back then
when the light was more obvious
than it is now.
I will always see the mystery of woman
like an ancient wine
brewed from a blood red eclipse of grapes
that ripened in the sun at midnight
on the dark side of the moon
and as every man is bound to drink
from the cup the moon offers him
I drink.
I drink down to the very last dropp of night
in my crystal skull.
And I can still taste the delirium
of lightning and fireflies
all the stars and jewels and chandeliers
all the eerie flavours of your translucency
that once shuddered through me like spears of light.
I drink the wine
as I would have taken the apple years ago
from the open palm of your hand
like any one of those three black horses
and one with a star in the middle of its forehead
you were coaxing to approach you
over a cedar rail fence in the Garden of Eden.
And though it’s sad and beautiful and dangerous
to remember why we were exiled from the ode
I’ve come to see that broken taboos
are just the eggshells of hidden blessings
that take to their wings
like the silhouettes
of waterbirds in the moonlight.
And I’m a better poet now that I live on my own
with all these afterlives for company
who whisper in my ear
like the rustling of autumn calendars
let things go
let things go
like a windfall of storm-shaken apples.
And I have.
I’ve learned to let things go
like blossoms and leaves and starmaps
that used to glow in the dark
inside my head as I slept
dreaming up schemes for my enlightenment.
I take a deep delight
in the winds of transformation
that feather my dinosaurs into dragons.
I can still feel the rapture and the ecstasy
laced like silver threads of lightning
in the disappointment and despair
of watching the changes
without knowing where I’m going
this far from home
and all my starmaps obsolete.
But I’ve still got a great eye
for the mood swings of colour and light
and the subtle spiritual tones
in the emotional life of the night.
And the beauty I saw incarnated in you that day
like an epiphany that wouldn’t be denied a body
has only rooted more deeply
in my memory over the years
and grown like wild grape vines
with musically inclined tendrils
like the wine of an old theme song
so inevitably ripe with joy and sorrow
it refuses to be watered down
from the original miracle
no matter how many tears have been shed
since we left the wedding.
And it’s strange how memories
can arise more like revelations
and prophecies of yesterday
like time-delayed inspirations
when you’re living on your own.
In art and life and love
they’ve taught me
time and time again
how emotions frozen with pain
that calved icebergs like glaciers
into the shipping lanes
of the mindstream
can thaw ice-age mirrors into tears
when they lose a grip on themselves like snow.
That the reasons to stay
are no less relevant than the reasons
to go off into the unknown.
That it doesn’t matter
whether you wash your hands at home
of the things you’ve touched
and in turn have touched you
or take a bath in the stars
to wash off the ghosts that cling
to your skin and hair
like the dust of the road.
We’re all swimming
in the same water clock
against the flow of the stream
like spawning salmon
summoned out of the great sea
of urgent awareness
back to where we were born.
We’re called to love and death
sex and extinction
at the same time.
And one is not to be revered
any less than the other.
Summer’s flawless.
And so’s the winter.
But more than anything else
looking back over
the event horizons
of the people and things I’ve known
reflecting on the timing
of my content
like seasons of my own
nine times out of ten
I know when
to leave perfection
well enough alone.

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The Poor Of The Borough. Letter XXI: Abel Keene

A QUIET, simple man was Abel Keene,
He meant no harm, nor did he often mean;
He kept a school of loud rebellious boys,
And growing old, grew nervous with the noise;
When a kind merchant hired his useful pen,
And made him happiest of accompting men;
With glee he rose to every easy day,
When half the labour brought him twice the pay.
There were young clerks, and there the

merchant's son,
Choice spirits all, who wish'd him to be one;
It must, no question, give them lively joy,
Hopes long indulged to combat and destroy;
At these they levelled all their skill and

strength, -
He fell not quickly, but he fell at length:
They quoted books, to him both bold and new,
And scorn'd as fables all he held as true;
'Such monkish stories, and such nursery lies,'
That he was struck with terror and surprise.
'What! all his life had he the laws obey'd,
Which they broke through and were not once afraid?
Had he so long his evil passions check'd,
And yet at last had nothing to expect?
While they their lives in joy and pleasure led,
And then had nothing at the end to dread?
Was all his priest with so much zeal convey'd
A part! a speech! for which the man was paid!
And were his pious books, his solemn prayers,
Not worth one tale of the admir'd Voltaire's?
Then was it time, while yet some years remain'd,
To drink untroubled and to think unchain'd,
And on all pleasues, which his purse could give,
Freely to seize, and while he lived, to live.'
Much time he pass'd in this important strife,
The bliss or bane of his remaining life;
For converts all are made with care and grief,
And pangs attend the birth of unbelief;
Nor pass they soon;--with awe and fear he took
The flowery way, and cast back many a look.
The youths applauded much his wise design,
With weighty reasoning o'er their evening wine;
And much in private 'twould their mirth improve,
To hear how Abel spake of life and love;
To hear him own what grievous pains it cost,
Ere the old saint was in the sinner lost,
Ere his poor mind, with every deed alarm'd,
By wit was settled, and by vice was charm'd.
For Abel enter'd in his bold career,
Like boys on ice, with pleasure and with fear;
Lingering, yet longing for the joy, he went,
Repenting now, now dreading to repent:
With awkward pace, and with himself at war,
Far gone, yet frighten'd that he went so far;
Oft for his efforts he'd solicit praise,
And then proceed with blunders and delays:
The young more aptly passions' calls pursue,
But age and weakness start at scenes so new,
And tremble, when they've done, for all they dared

to do.
At length example Abel's dread removed,
With small concern he sought the joys he loved;
Not resting here, he claim'd his share of fame,
And first their votary, then their wit became;
His jest was bitter and his satire bold,
When he his tales of formal brethren told;
What time with pious neighbours he discuss'd,
Their boasted treasure and their boundless trust:
'Such were our dreams,' the jovial elder cried;
'Awake and live,' his youthful friends replied.
Now the gay clerk a modest drab despised,
And clad him smartly, as his friends advised;
So fine a coat upon his back he threw,
That not an alley-boy old Abel knew;
Broad polish'd buttons blazed that coat upon,
And just beneath the watch's trinkets shone, -
A splendid watch, that pointed out the time,
To fly from business and make free with crime:
The crimson waistcoat and the silken hose
Rank'd the lean man among the Borough beaux:
His raven hair he cropp'd with fierce disdain,
And light elastic locks encased his brain:
More pliant pupil who could hope to find,
Se deck'd in person and so changed in mind?
When Abel walked the streets, with pleasent mien
He met his friends, delighted to be seen;
And when he rode along the public way,
No beau so gaudy, and no youth so gay.
His pious sister, now an ancient maid,
For Abel fearing, first in secret pray'd;
Then thus in love and scorn her notions she

'Alas! my brother! can I see thee pace
Hoodwink'd to hell, and not lament thy case,
Nor stretch my feeble hand to stop thy headlong

Lo! thou art bound; a slave in Satan's chain;
The righteous Abel turn'd the wretched Cain;
His brother's blood against the murderer cried,
Against thee thine, unhappy suicide!
Are all our pious nights and peaceful days,
Our evening readings and our morning praise,
Our spirits' comfort in the trials sent,
Our hearts' rejoicings in the blessings lent,
All that o'er grief a cheering influence shed,
Are these for ever and for ever fled?
'When in the years gone by, the trying years,
When faith and hope had strife with wants and

Thy nerves have trembled till thou couldst not eat
(Dress'd by this hand) thy mess of simple meat;
When, grieved by fastings, gall'd by fates severe,
Slow pass'd the days of the successless year;
Still in these gloomy hours, my brother then
Had glorious views, unseen by prosperous men:
And when thy heart has felt its wish denied,
What gracious texts hast thou to grief applied;
Till thou hast enter'd in thine humble bed,
By lofty hopes and heavenly musings fed;
Then I have seen thy lively looks express
The spirit's comforts in the man's distress.
'Then didst thou cry, exulting, 'Yes, 'tis fit,
'Tis meet and right, my heart! that we submit:'
And wilt thou, Abel, thy new pleasures weigh
Against such triumphs?--Oh? repent and pray.
'What are thy pleasures?--with the gay to sit,
And thy poor brain torment for awkward wit;
All thy good thoughts (thou hat'st them) to

And give a wicked pleasure to the vain;
Thy long, lean frame by fashion to attire,
That lads may laugh and wantons may admire;
To raise the mirth of boys, and not to see,
Unhappy maniac! that they laugh at thee
'These boyish follies, which alone the boy
Can idly act, or gracefully enjoy,
Add new reproaches to thy fallen state,
And make men scorn what they would only hate.
'What pains, my brother, dost thou take to prove
A taste for follies which thou canst not love!
Why do thy stiffening limbs the steed bestride -
That lads may laugh to see thou canst not ride?
And why (I feel the crimson tinge my cheek)
Dost thou by night in Diamond-Alley sneak?
'Farewell! the parish will thy sister keep,
Where she in peace shall pray and sing and sleep,
Save when for thee she mourns, thou wicked,

wandering sheep.
When youth is fallen, there's hope the young may

But fallen age for ever hopeless lies;
Torn up by storms, and placed in earth once more,
The younger tree may sun and soil restore;
But when the old and sapless trunk lies low,
No care or soil can former life bestow;
Reserved for burning is the worthless tree -
And what, O Abel! is reserved for thee?'
These angry words our hero deeply felt,
Though hard his heart, and indisposed to melt!
To gain relief he took a glass the more,
And then went on as careless as before;
Thenceforth, uncheck'd, amusements he partook,
And (save his ledger) saw no decent book;
Him found the merchant punctual at his task,
And that performed, he'd nothing more to ask;
He cared not how old Abel play'd the fool,
No master he, beyond the hours of school:
Thus they proceeding, had their wine and joke,
Till merchant Dixon felt a warning stroke,
And, after struggling half a gloomy week,
Left his poor clerk another friend to seek.
Alas! the son, who led the saint astray,
Forgot the man whose follies made him gay;
He cared no more for Abel in his need,
Than Abel cared about his hackney steed:
He now, alas! had all his earnings spent,
And thus was left to languish and repent;
No school nor clerkship found he in the place,
Now lost to fortune, as before to grace.
For town-relief the grieving man applied,
And begg'd with tears what some with scorn denied;
Others look'd down upon the glowing vest,
And frowning, ask'd him at what price he dress'd?
Happy for him his country's laws are mild,
They must support him, though they still reviled;
Grieved, abject, scorn'd, insulted, and betray'd,
Of God unmindful, and of man afraid, -
No more he talk'd; 'twas pain, 'twas shame to

His heart was sinking, and his frame was weak.
His sister died with such serene delight,
He once again began to think her right;
Poor like himself, the happy spinster lay,
And sweet assurance bless'd her dying-day:
Poor like the spinster, he, when death was nigh,
Assured of nothing, felt afraid to die.
The cheerful clerks who sometimes pass'd the door,
Just mention'd 'Abel!' and then thought no more.
So Abel, pondering on his state forlorn,
Look'd round for comfort, and was chased by scorn.
And now we saw him on the beach reclined,
Or causeless walking in the wintry wind;
And when it raised a loud and angry sea,
He stood and gazed, in wretched reverie:
He heeded not the frost, the rain, the snow,
Close by the sea he walk'd alone and slow:
Sometimes his frame through many an hour he spread
Upon a tombstone, moveless as the dead;
And was there found a sad and silent place,
There would he creep with slow and measured pace;
Then would he wander by the river's side,
And fix his eyes upon the falling tide;
The deep dry ditch, the rushes in the fen,
And mossy crag-pits were his lodgings then:
There, to his discontented thought a prey,
The melancholy mortal pined away.
The neighb'ring poor at length began to speak
Of Abel's ramblings--he'd been gone a week;
They knew not where, and little care they took
For one so friendless and so poor to look.
At last a stranger, in a pedlar's shed,
Beheld him hanging--he had long been dead.
He left a paper, penn'd at sundry times,
Entitled thus--'My Groanings and my Crimes!'
'I was a Christian man, and none could lay
Aught to my charge; I walk'd the narrow way:
All then was simple faith, serene and pure,
My hope was stedfast and my prospects sure;
Then was I tried by want and sickness sore,
But these I clapp'd my shield of faith before,
And cares and wants and man's rebukes I bore:
Alas! new foes assail'd me; I was vain,
They stung my pride and they confused my brain:
Oh! these deluders! with what glee they saw
Their simple dupe transgress the righteous law;
'Twas joy to them to view that dreadful strife,
When faith and frailty warr'd for more than life;
So with their pleasures they beguiled the heart,
Then with their logic they allay'd the smart;
They proved (so thought I then) with reasons

That no man's feelings ever lead him wrong:
And thus I went, as on the varnish'd ice,
The smooth career of unbelief and vice.
Oft would the youths, with sprightly speech and

Their witty tales of naughty priests unfold;
'Twas all a craft,' they said, 'a cunning trade;
Not she the priests, but priests Religion made.'
So I believed:'--No, Abel! to thy grief:
So thou relinquish'dst all that was belief: -
'I grew as very flint, and when the rest
Laugh'd at devotion, I enjoy'd the jest;
But this all vanish'd like the morning-dew,
When unemploy'd, and poor again I grew;
Yea! I was doubly poor, for I was wicked too.
'The mouse that trespass'd and the treasure

Found his lean body fitted to the hole;
Till, having fatted, he was forced to stay,
And, fasting, starve his stolen bulk away:
Ah ! worse for me--grown poor, I yet remain
In sinful bonds, and pray and fast in vain.
'At length I thought, although these friends of

Have spread their net, and caught their prey

Though my hard heart could not for mercy call,
Because though great my grief, my faith was small;
Yet, as the sick on skilful men rely,
The soul diseased may to a doctor fly.
'A famous one there was, whose skill had wrought
Cures past belief, and him the sinners sought;
Numbers there were defiled by mire and filth,
Whom he recovered by his goodly tilth:
'Come then,' I said, 'let me the man behold,
And tell my case:'--I saw him and I told.
'With trembling voice, 'Oh! reverend sir,' I

'I once believed, and I was then misled;
And now such doubts my sinful soul beset,
I dare not say that I'm a Christian yet;
Canst thou, good sir, by thy superior skill,
Inform my judgment and direct my will?
Ah! give thy cordial; let my soul have rest,
And be the outward man alone distress'd;
For at my state I tremble.'--'Tremble more,'
Said the good man, 'and then rejoice therefore!
'Tis good to tremble; prospects then are fair,
When the lost soul is plunged in deep despair:
Once thou wert simply honest, just, and pure,
Whole, as thou thought'st, and never wish'd a cure:
Now thou hast plunged in folly, shame, disgrace,
Now thou'rt an object meet for healing grace;
No merit thine, no virtue, hope, belief,
Nothing hast thou, but misery, sin, and grief;
The best, the only titles to relief.'
'What must I do,' I said, 'my soul to free?' -
'Do nothing, man; it will be done for thee.'
'But must I not, my reverend guide, believe?' -
'If thou art call'd, thou wilt the faith receive.'
'But I repent not.'--Angry he replied,
'If thou art call'd, though needest nought beside:
Attend on us, and if 'tis Heaven's decree,
The call will come,--if not, ah! woe for thee.'
'There then I waited, ever on the watch,
A spark of hope, a ray of light to catch;
His words fell softly like the flakes of snow,
But I could never find my heart o'erflow:
He cried aloud, till in the flock began
The sigh, the tear, as caught from man to man;
They wept and they rejoiced, and there was I
Hard as a flint, and as the desert dry:
To me no tokens of the call would come,
I felt my sentence, and received my doom;
But I complain'd--'Let thy repinings cease,
Oh! man of sin, for they thy guilt increase;
It bloweth where it listeth;--die in peace.'
- In peace, and perish?' I replied; 'impart
Some better comfort to a burthen'd heart.'
'Alas!' the priest return'd, 'can I direct
The heavenly call?--Do I proclaim th' elect?
Raise not thy voice against th' Eternal will,
But take thy part with sinners, and be still.'
'Alas, for me! no more the times of peace
Are mine on earth--in death my pains may cease.
'Foes to my soul! ye young seducers, know
What serious ills from your amusements flow;
Opinions you with so much ease profess,
Overwhelm the simple and their minds oppress:
Let such be happy, nor with reasons strong,
That make them wretched, prove their notions wrong;
Let them proceed in that they deem the way,
Fast when they will, and at their pleasure pray:
Yes, I have pity for my brethren's lot,
And so had Dives, but it help'd him not:
And is it thus?--I'm full of doubts: --Adieu!
Perhaps his reverence is mistaken too.'

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The Two Dreams

I WILL that if I say a heavy thing
Your tongues forgive me; seeing ye know that spring
Has flecks and fits of pain to keep her sweet,
And walks somewhile with winter-bitten feet.
Moreover it sounds often well to let
One string, when ye play music, keep at fret
The whole song through; one petal that is dead
Confirms the roses, be they white or red;
Dead sorrow is not sorrowful to hear
As the thick noise that breaks mid weeping were;
The sick sound aching in a lifted throat
Turns to sharp silver of a perfect note;
And though the rain falls often, and with rain
Late autumn falls on the old red leaves like pain,
I deem that God is not disquieted.
Also while men are fed with wine and bread,
They shall be fed with sorrow at his hand.

There grew a rose-garden in Florence land
More fair than many; all red summers through
The leaves smelt sweet and sharp of rain, and blew
Sideways with tender wind; and therein fell
Sweet sound wherewith the green waxed audible,
As a bird’s will to sing disturbed his throat
And set the sharp wings forward like a boat
Pushed through soft water, moving his brown side
Smooth-shapen as a maid’s, and shook with pride
His deep warm bosom, till the heavy sun’s
Set face of heat stopped all the songs at once.
The ways were clean to walk and delicate;
And when the windy white of March grew late,
Before the trees took heart to face the sun
With ravelled raiment of lean winter on,
The roots were thick and hot with hollow grass.

Some roods away a lordly house there was,
Cool with broad courts and latticed passage wet
From rush-flowers and lilies ripe to set,
Sown close among the strewings of the floor;
And either wall of the slow corridor
Was dim with deep device of gracious things;
Some angel’s steady mouth and weight of wings
Shut to the side; or Peter with straight stole
And beard cut black against the aureole
That spanned his head from nape to crown; thereby
Mary’s gold hair, thick to the girdle-tie
Wherein was bound a child with tender feet;
Or the broad cross with blood nigh brown on it.

Within this house a righteous lord abode,
Ser Averardo; patient of his mood,
And just of judgment; and to child he had
A maid so sweet that her mere sight made glad
Men sorrowing, and unbound the brows of hate;
And where she came, the lips that pain made strait
Waxed warm and wide, and from untender grew
Tender as those that sleep brings patience to.
Such long locks had she, that with knee to chin
She might have wrapped and warmed her feet therein.
Right seldom fell her face on weeping wise;
Gold hair she had, and golden-coloured eyes,
Filled with clear light and fire and large repose
Like a fair hound’s; no man there is but knows
Her face was white, and thereto she was tall;
In no wise lacked there any praise at all
To her most perfect and pure maidenhood;
No sin I think there was in all her blood.

She, where a gold grate shut the roses in,
Dwelt daily through deep summer weeks, through green
Hushed hours of rain upon the leaves; and there
Love made him room and space to worship her
With tender worship of bowed knees, and wrought
Such pleasure as the pained sense palates not
For weariness, but at one taste undoes
The heart of its strong sweet, is ravenous
Of all the hidden honey; words and sense
Fail through the tune’s imperious prevalence.

In a poor house this lover kept apart,
Long communing with patience next his heart
If love of his might move that face at all,
Tuned evenwise with colours musical;
Then after length of days he said thus: “Love,
For love’s own sake and for the love thereof
Let no harsh words untune your gracious mood;
For good it were, if anything be good,
To comfort me in this pain’s plague of mine;
Seeing thus, how neither sleep nor bread nor wine
Seems pleasant to me, yea no thing that is
Seems pleasant to me; only I know this;
Love’s ways are sharp for palms of piteous feet
To travel, but the end of such is sweet:
Now do with me as seemeth you the best.”
She mused a little, as one holds his guest
By the hand musing, with her face borne down:
Then said: “Yea, though such bitter seed be sown,
Have no more care of all that you have said;
Since if there is no sleep will bind your head,
Lo, I am fain to help you certainly;
Christ knoweth, sir, if I would have you die;
There is no pleasure when a man is dead.”
Thereat he kissed her hands and yellow head
And clipped her fair long body many times;
I have no wit to shape in written rhymes
A scanted tithe of this great joy they had.

They were too near love’s secret to be glad;
As whoso deems the core will surely melt
From the warm fruit his lips caress, hath felt
Some bitter kernel where the teeth shut hard:
Or as sweet music sharpens afterward,
Being half disrelished both for sharp and sweet;
As sea-water, having killed over-heat
In a man’s body, chills it with faint ache;
So their sense, burdened only for love’s sake,
Failed for pure love; yet so time served their wit,
They saved each day some gold reserves of it,
Being wiser in love’s riddle than such be
Whom fragments feed with his chance charity.
All things felt sweet were felt sweet overmuch;
The rose-thorn’s prickle dangerous to touch,
And flecks of fire in the thin leaf-shadows;
Too keen the breathèd honey of the rose,
Its red too harsh a weight on feasted eyes;
They were so far gone in love’s histories,
Beyond all shape and colour and mere breath,
Where pleasure has for kinsfolk sleep and death,
And strength of soul and body waxen blind
For weariness, and flesh entoiled with mind,
When the keen edge of sense foretasteth sin.

Even this green place the summer caught them in
Seemed half deflowered and sick with beaten leaves
In their strayed eyes; these gold flower-fumèd eves
Burnt out to make the sun’s love-offering,
The midnoon’s prayer, the rose’s thanksgiving,
The trees’ weight burdening the strengthless air,
The shape of her stilled eyes, her coloured hair,
Her body’s balance from the moving feet—
All this, found fair, lacked yet one grain of sweet
It had some warm weeks back: so perisheth
On May’s new lip the tender April breath:
So those same walks the wind sowed lilies in
All April through, and all their latter kin
Of languid leaves whereon the autumn blows—
The dead red raiment of the last year’s rose—
The last year’s laurel, and the last year’s love,
Fade, and grow things that death grows weary of.

What man will gather in red summer-time
The fruit of some obscure and hoary rhyme
Heard last midwinter, taste the heart in it,
Mould the smooth semitones afresh, refit
The fair limbs ruined, flush the dead blood through
With colour, make all broken beauties new
For love’s new lesson—shall not such find pain
When the marred music labouring in his brain
Frets him with sweet sharp fragments, and lets slip
One word that might leave satisfied his lip—
One touch that might put fire in all the chords?
This was her pain: to miss from all sweet words
Some taste of sound, diverse and delicate—
Some speech the old love found out to compensate
For seasons of shut lips and drowsiness—
Some grace, some word the old love found out to bless
Passionless months and undelighted weeks.
The flowers had lost their summer-scented cheeks,
Their lips were no more sweet than daily breath:
The year was plagued with instances of death.

So fell it, these were sitting in cool grass
With leaves about, and many a bird there was
Where the green shadow thickliest impleached
Soft fruit and writhen spray and blossom bleached
Dry in the sun or washed with rains to white:
Her girdle was pure silk, the bosom bright
With purple as purple water and gold wrought in.
One branch had touched with dusk her lips and chin,
Made violet of the throat, abashed with shade
The breast’s bright plaited work: but nothing frayed
The sun’s large kiss on the luxurious hair.
Her beauty was new colour to the air
And music to the silent many birds.
Love was an-hungred for some perfect words
To praise her with; but only her low name
“Andrevuola” came thrice, and thrice put shame
In her clear cheek, so fruitful with new red
That for pure love straightway shame’s self was dead.

Then with lids gathered as who late had wept
She began saying: “I have so little slept
My lids drowse now against the very sun;
Yea, the brain aching with a dream begun
Beats like a fitful blood; kiss but both brows,
And you shall pluck my thoughts grown dangerous
Almost away.” He said thus, kissing them:
“O sole sweet thing that God is glad to name,
My one gold gift, if dreams be sharp and sore
Shall not the waking time increase much more
With taste and sound, sweet eyesight or sweet scent?
Has any heat too hard and insolent
Burnt bare the tender married leaves, undone
The maiden grass shut under from the sun?
Where in this world is room enough for pain?”

The feverish finger of love had touched again
Her lips with happier blood; the pain lay meek
In her fair face, nor altered lip nor cheek
With pallor or with pulse; but in her mouth
Love thirsted as a man wayfaring doth,
Making it humble as weak hunger is.
She lay close to him, bade do this and this,
Say that, sing thus: then almost weeping-ripe
Crouched, then laughed low. As one that fain would wipe
The old record out of old things done and dead,
She rose, she heaved her hands up, and waxed red
For wilful heart and blameless fear of blame;
Saying “Though my wits be weak, this is no shame
For a poor maid whom love so punisheth
With heats of hesitation and stopped breath
That with my dreams I live yet heavily
For pure sad heart and faith’s humility.
Now be not wroth and I will show you this.

“Methought our lips upon their second kiss
Met in this place, and a fair day we had
And fair soft leaves that waxed and were not sad
With shaken rain or bitten through with drouth;
When I, beholding ever how your mouth
Waited for mine, the throat being fallen back,
Saw crawl thereout a live thing flaked with black
Specks of brute slime and leper-coloured scale,
A devil’s hide with foul flame-writhen grail
Fashioned where hell’s heat festers loathsomest;
And that brief speech may ease me of the rest,
Thus were you slain and eaten of the thing.
My waked eyes felt the new day shuddering
On their low lids, felt the whole east so beat,
Pant with close pulse of such a plague-struck heat,
As if the palpitating dawn drew breath
For horror, breathing between life and death,
Till the sun sprang blood-bright and violent.”

So finishing, her soft strength wholly spent,
She gazed each way, lest some brute-hoovèd thing,
The timeless travail of hell’s childbearing,
Should threat upon the sudden: whereat he,
For relish of her tasted misery
And tender little thornprick of her pain,
Laughed with mere love. What lover among men
But hath his sense fed sovereignly ’twixt whiles
With tears and covered eyelids and sick smiles
And soft disaster of a painèd face?
What pain, established in so sweet a place,
But the plucked leaf of it smells fragrantly?
What colour burning man’s wide-open eye
But may be pleasurably seen? what sense
Keeps in its hot sharp extreme violence
No savour of sweet things? The bereaved blood
And emptied flesh in their most broken mood
Fail not so wholly, famish not when thus
Past honey keeps the starved lip covetous.

Therefore this speech from a glad mouth began,
Breathed in her tender hair and temples wan
Like one prolonged kiss while the lips had breath:
“Sleep, that abides in vassalage of death
And in death’s service wears out half his age,
Hath his dreams full of deadly vassalage,
Shadow and sound of things ungracious;
Fair shallow faces, hooded bloodless brows,
And mouths past kissing; yea, myself have had
As harsh a dream as holds your eyelids sad.

“This dream I tell you came three nights ago:
In full mid sleep I took a whim to know
How sweet things might be; so I turned and thought;
But save my dream all sweet availed me not.
First came a smell of pounded spice and scent
Such as God ripens in some continent
Of utmost amber in the Syrian sea;
And breaths as though some costly rose could be
Spoiled slowly, wasted by some bitter fire
To burn the sweet out leaf by leaf, and tire
The flower’s poor heart with heat and waste, to make
Strong magic for some perfumed woman’s sake.
Then a cool naked sense beneath my feet
Of bud and blossom; and sound of veins that beat
As if a lute should play of its own heart
And fearfully, not smitten of either part;
And all my blood it filled with sharp and sweet
As gold swoln grain fills out the huskèd wheat;
So I rose naked from the bed, and stood
Counting the mobile measure in my blood
Some pleasant while, and through each limb there came
Swift little pleasures pungent as a flame,
Felt in the thrilling flesh and veins as much
As the outer curls that feel the comb’s first touch
Thrill to the roots and shiver as from fire;
And blind between my dream and my desire
I seemed to stand and held my spirit still
Lest this should cease. A child whose fingers spill
Honey from cells forgotten of the bee
Is less afraid to stir the hive and see
Some wasp’s bright back inside, than I to feel
Some finger-touch disturb the flesh like steel.
I prayed thus; Let me catch a secret here
So sweet, it sharpens the sweet taste of fear
And takes the mouth with edge of wine; I would
Have here some colour and smooth shape as good
As those in heaven whom the chief garden hides
With low grape-blossom veiling their white sides
And lesser tendrils that so bind and blind
Their eyes and feet, that if one come behind
To touch their hair they see not, neither fly;
This would I see in heaven and not die.
So praying, I had nigh cried out and knelt,
So wholly my prayer filled me: till I felt
In the dumb night’s warm weight of glowing gloom
Somewhat that altered all my sleeping-room,
And made it like a green low place wherein
Maids mix to bathe: one sets her small warm chin
Against a ripple, that the angry pearl
May flow like flame about her: the next curl
Dips in some eddy coloured of the sun
To wash the dust well out; another one
Holds a straight ankle in her hand and swings
With lavish body sidelong, so that rings
Of sweet fierce water, swollen and splendid, fail
All round her fine and floated body pale,
Swayed flower-fashion, and her balanced side
Swerved edgeways lets the weight of water slide,
As taken in some underflow of sea
Swerves the banked gold of sea-flowers; but she
Pulls down some branch to keep her perfect head
Clear of the river: even from wall to bed,
I tell you, was my room transfigured so.
Sweet, green and warm it was, nor could one know
If there were walls or leaves, or if there was
No bed’s green curtain, but mere gentle grass.
There were set also hard against the feet
Gold plates with honey and green grapes to eat,
With the cool water’s noise to hear in rhymes:
And a wind warmed me full of furze and limes
And all hot sweets the heavy summer fills
To the round brim of smooth cup-shapen hills.
Next the grave walking of a woman’s feet
Made my veins hesitate, and gracious heat
Made thick the lids and leaden on mine eyes:
And I thought ever, surely it were wise
Not yet to see her: this may last (who knows?)
Five minutes; the poor rose is twice a rose
Because it turns a face to her, the wind
Sings that way; hath this woman ever sinned,
I wonder? as a boy with apple-rind,
I played with pleasures, made them to my mind,
Changed each ere tasting. When she came indeed,
First her hair touched me, then I grew to feed
On the sense of her hand; her mouth at last
Touched me between the cheek and lip and past
Over my face with kisses here and there
Sown in and out across the eyes and hair.
Still I said nothing; till she set her face
More close and harder on the kissing-place,
And her mouth caught like a snake’s mouth, and stung
So faint and tenderly, the fang scarce clung
More than a bird’s foot: yet a wound it grew,
A great one, let this red mark witness you
Under the left breast; and the stroke thereof
So clove my sense that I woke out of love
And knew not what this dream was nor had wit;
But now God knows if I have skill of it.”

Hereat she laid one palm against her lips
To stop their trembling; as when water slips
Out of a beak-mouthed vessel with faint noise
And chuckles in the narrowed throat and cloys
The carven rims with murmuring, so came
Words in her lips with no word right of them,
A beaten speech thick and disconsolate,
Till his smile ceasing waxed compassionate
Of her sore fear that grew from anything—
The sound of the strong summer thickening
In heated leaves of the smooth apple-trees:
The day’s breath felt about the ash-branches,
And noises of the noon whose weight still grew
On the hot heavy-headed flowers, and drew
Their red mouths open till the rose-heart ached;
For eastward all the crowding rose was slaked
And soothed with shade; but westward all its growth
Seemed to breathe hard with heat as a man doth
Who feels his temples newly feverous.
And even with such motion in her brows
As that man hath in whom sick days begin,
She turned her throat and spake, her voice being thin
As a sick man’s, sudden and tremulous;
“Sweet, if this end be come indeed on us,
Let us love more;” and held his mouth with hers.
As the first sound of flooded hill-waters
Is heard by people of the meadow-grass,
Or ever a wandering waif of ruin pass
With whirling stones and foam of the brown stream
Flaked with fierce yellow: so beholding him
She felt before tears came her eyelids wet,
Saw the face deadly thin where life was yet,
Heard his throat’s harsh last moan before it clomb:
And he, with close mouth passionate and dumb,
Burned at her lips: so lay they without speech,
Each grasping other, and the eyes of each
Fed in the other’s face: till suddenly
He cried out with a little broken cry
This word, “O help me, sweet, I am but dead.”
And even so saying, the colour of fair red
Was gone out of his face, and his blood’s beat
Fell, and stark death made sharp his upward feet
And pointed hands: and without moan he died.
Pain smote her sudden in the brows and side,
Strained her lips open and made burn her eyes:
For the pure sharpness of her miseries
She had no heart’s pain, but mere body’s wrack;
But at the last her beaten blood drew back
Slowly upon her face, and her stunned brows
Suddenly grown aware and piteous
Gathered themselves, her eyes shone, her hard breath
Came as though one nigh dead came back from death;
Her lips throbbed, and life trembled through her hair.

And in brief while she thought to bury there
The dead man that her love might lie with him
In a sweet bed under the rose-roots dim
And soft earth round the branchèd apple-trees,
Full of hushed heat and heavy with great ease,
And no man entering divide him thence.
Wherefore she bade one of her handmaidens
To be her help to do upon this wise.
And saying so the tears out of her eyes
Fell without noise and comforted her heart:
Yea, her great pain eased of the sorest part
Began to soften in her sense of it.
There under all the little branches sweet
The place was shapen of his burial;
They shed thereon no thing funereal,
But coloured leaves of latter rose-blossom,
Stems of soft grass, some withered red and some
Fair and fresh-blooded; and spoil splendider
Of marigold and great spent sunflower.

And afterward she came back without word
To her own house; two days went, and the third
Went, and she showed her father of this thing.
And for great grief of her soul’s travailing
He gave consent she should endure in peace
Till her life’s end; yea, till her time should cease,
She should abide in fellowship of pain.
And having lived a holy year or twain
She died of pure waste heart and weariness.
And for love’s honour in her love’s distress
This word was written over her tomb’s head;
“Here dead she lieth, for whose sake Love is dead.”

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