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There Is a Freedom That Comes

What are you going to do with it?
Sit and sulk?
Or use it to get results?

There is a freedom that comes,
When one is labelled crazed!
And then one day the truth overpowers.
It stuns many.
And will amaze.

And once one has it,
All conflict is lifted from the consciousness.
Some choose to sit like you do!
While others confront the ones who have abused them...
Just to be amused they are armed with truth.
Knowing from within their minds,
They are free and don't care...
Who finds the time to call them foolish,
Or stupid or criticize what they say or do!

To hear these words,
Becomes a luxury deserved.

What are you going to do with it?
Sit and sulk?
Or use it to get results?

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People Who Have Prioritized Them As Waste

It is easy to make fun,
Of the odd one out.
Isn't it?
Especially in an environment,
That seems not only to condone it...
But solicits a provoking of this behavior.
It is a condition that is taught...
And learned very well.

Then it is wished a unity is done.
But those that have become alcohol abusers,
And drug addicts...
Social misfits and psychopaths,
Appear to have other agendas.
And to express a vacancy of love,
Is not one of them.

And the people who have prioritized them as waste...
Can be observed, examined and witnessed,
As being the real victims!
They are the vagrants adorning false masks.
Since they've invested their time...
Ensuring their own kind were driven out of their minds.

And they wander about,
Making sure this task is successfully done.
Or they 'hang' in there...
Despairingly.

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Initiative And Effort

Fantasy based realities,
Have eroded the sensibilities of many.
Bittersweet is the taste of the pudding these days.
And defiant are the stances taken,
By those unaccepting that a making of dreams...
Takes initiative and effort.

And those behind the scenes doing this...
Are not wasting time,
Parading around delivering statements.
Time does not permit this,
As if a magic wand is in use.

Success that comes to one,
Has not been achieved because of a lucky break...
In most cases!
People sweat and toil to make things happen!

A greatness maintained,
Takes a persistent sleeplessness.
Mistakes and re-evaluation!
And not constant public pronouncements.

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There Is Nothing Like A Cleared Unobstructed Vision

The satisfaction that comes...
When one has accepted and identified,
A life lived with experiences...
And highlighted with emotional sacrifice and risks,
Confronted to overcome...
When they arrive with a back to back crisis,
To survive.
Is this realization...

There is nothing one has to tolerate,
If it disturbs or even slightly irritates.
Expecially if one has learned to appreciate...
Why those ups and downs came to inflict,
To eventually settle...
To identify the keeping of one's peace complete.
With a knowing when to leave nonsense behind,
For what it is!

There is nothing like a cleared unobstructed vision.

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How Joyous Is That Song Sung?

Is there really a freedom that comes,
When one is released from the fear
Of obstacles?
Isn't that experience secretly enjoyed,
In one's life?
To awaken each day to face created challenges?
If they are gone...
How joyous is that song sung?

Doesn't it become monotonous,
To eventually sing the same tune endlessly?
To then begin feeling guilty about continuous joy felt?
And becoming afraid to express it,
Knowing someone will be annoyed by this?

There seems to be more happiness shared,
Between those who are depressed.
At least they are not moaning alone.
They seem to be together,
In a bonded collectiveness.

But when one is laughing...
And no one else is around?
A staring is done.
And it is difficult to determine,
If this is resentment.
Or expressions of sympathy given.
Especially if the laughter done increases.

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Isolated And Distant They Are Detached

There are so many people out of touch,
With life, themselves, others and their surroundings...
That the word 'Reality' could be painted ten feet tall,
On the side of a jumbo jet...
And they 'still' would try to convince those viewing it,
What appears is not yet in their vision to believe.
That's how isolated and distant they are detached,
From themselves, their minds to accept the comfort...
Of living in denial and rejection.

'Get away from me.
You are always talking with negativity.
These children today are no different than we were.
They are just seeking to be hugged and loved.
It is foolish to suggest they express disrespect,
Because they lack discipline, identity and a swift kick...
Where it can be felt.
I have always shown my kids by example,
They can do whatever they please.'

I agree.
Where are you going?

'Both of my 'babies' are in prison.
I am bringing to them some cookies...
To ensure them I am in their corner.
And to let them know,
I understand them completely.'

What a good parent you are.

'Thank you for noticing.'

It's the 'system' isn't it?

'The what? '

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One Day The Earth Will Open Up For My Brother On What Would Have Been His Seventy- Second Birthday

One day the earth will open up
And take me also
As it has taken so many others I love

Dear Brother
Twenty years
Gone from this world
Will we ever see each other again?
I doubt it

As I walk home in the morning after davvaning
These leaves these flowers these trees
How I wish you could see them also.

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They Say The Gods Are Here

on earth
they say the gods are here
and i look at
each on each face
and they do not
look at all
different than me

or you and i touch their skins
and feel that they too have
bones much like
our own brittleness

but they say they are gods
and i am but a very
insignificant flicker

dust
atom invisible to the
importance of themselves

i get lost
and they get lost &
at the end
i have no respect left
or sense of awe
or ardor
for adoration of whatever
sacred name
they put on their breasts
or name tags
on their foreheads

holy cow! i tell myself
what the hell! i curse the wind
what a mess! i type at the end
of the haggle


must i be wrong
correct me if you may

for i have mistaken them
as myself.

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They' Who Have Answered

Every message you have delivered,
I have received them.
Every signal you have sent...
I have heard.
You wanted to contact me,
And I knew this!

Every satellite propelled in space,
Beaming with signals throughout this universe.
And rocketships sent to other planets...
Equipped with devices to depict our location,
Has been witnessed and followed...
And now it is denied,
Visitors have arrived!
And some try to hide them...
Although a request for them to be guests,
Has confused!

'They' who have answered the invitations,
Aren't amused!
Would you?
If you had replied to an RSVP...
And was refused?

'Répondez s'il-vous-plaît'
~Perhaps they did not understand,
What they sent to us?
Why are they shocked?
Did they not realize we would come? ~

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What They Say

they say what is it that i have seen
your eyes are too ordinary
but i see them as warm suns
rising with time for my lonely morning

they say your lips are like any other mortal lips
but no, they are the luscious sacred flesh
too sweet too ripe for my tasting
my tongue always dream about fibers
and flesh and dripping drops of juice

they say your are just one mortal walking
on the common streets of this village
but no, you're so divine, a goddess,
a progeny of light descending
from the glory of the heavens
to the profanity of my distant world

they say i belong to the genealogy of the gods
and i must not defy the law that gives justice to our kind
but no, i love you, and i am descending from this throne

i now sleep on the grass, naked without my crown
disrobed, undressed, i am alone now, away from them,
they that mock me, i am alone now, long waiting for you.

how can you be so unkind? you send the message
you are not finally coming to be with me.

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The Ones Who Now Look Back

For most of their lives,
They did exactly what they wanted.
And signs of change,
Were beginning to glow...
With neon messages no one could ignore.

Those choices chosen,
Were made regardless of objections raised...
By those who were told where to go.

And those places told where to go,
Have been taken without looking back.

And the ones who now look back,
Wondering where those who were told to go...
Away to live in their own worlds,
Have done so to live lives...
Without taking theirs for granted.

As those who look back seeking satisfaction,
Have come to realize their own satisfactions...
Had been placed on the wrong track.
With a blaming on others,
As to where their lives lived are at.

'Excuse me,
But can you tell me...
If that boat that sailed many years ago from here,
Is due to make a comeback anytime soon? '

~I'm sorry I couldn't.
I don't live in this neighborhood.
Have you tried asking any ot those people over there,
Standing on the corner watching their lives go by?
I'm sure they haven't been anywhere.
You could spend time with them reminiscing.
And they could probably answer that question for you.~

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Some Folks Who Have 'Arrived

I too am 'degreed'.
But I don't consider myself,
As part of the 'elite'.
I could throw down my rèsumé...
With some of the best.
And then proclaim I am nationally known.
Acclaimed and famous too.
Just to put some flapping lips to rest.

But I am both blessed and grateful,
To have achieved what I've done.
And in a field many said...
My deluded mind had been stung!
With 'drugged' out visions that come.

'Oh, the things I hear! '

And yet some folks who have 'arrived'
Believe they are better than everyone.
Because they have a few more dollars to spend.
That allows an excessive tax to be placed,
On their credit based incomes.
With a fear of losing them near!

I am not a snob and never chose to be.
My neighbors are considered 'minorities'
And I love them dearly.
I ride the local bus.
And listen to folks sometimes scream and cuss.
And for me this is a life more real.
Since it seems more 'organic' with an honesty I trust.
With a unity amongst the people!
I endear.
Unlike those who are 'degreed'...
Who prefer to name dropp and lust!

And...
I just can't imagine them,
Riding on a public bus!
Or have them considered,
To be one of 'us'.

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Waiting For That Day/you Cant Always Get What You Want

Now every day I see you in some other face
They crack a smile, talk a while
Try to take your place
My memory serves me far too well
I just sit here on this mountain
Thinking to myself
Youre a fool boy
Why dont you go down
Find somebody
Find somebody else
My memory serves me far too well
Its not as though we just broke up
Its not as though it was yesterday
But something I just cant explain
Something in me needs this pain
I know Ill never see your face again
Cmon now
Ive got to be strong now
Now everybodys talking about this
New decade
Like you say the magic numbers
Then just say goodbye to
The stupid mistakes you made
Oh my memory serves me far too well
Dont you know that
The years will come and go
Some of us will change their lives
Some of us still have nothing to show
Nothing baby
But memories
And if these wounds
They are self inflicted
I dont really know
How my poor heart could have
Protected me
But if I have to carry this pain
If you will not share the blame
I deserve to see your face again
Cmon now
You dont have to be strong now
Come back
Come back to me darling
I will make it worth your while
Come on back to your baby
I miss your kiss
I miss your smile
Seems to me the peace I search to find
Aint gonna be mine
Until you say you will
Dont you keep me waiting for that day
I know
You hear these words that I say
You cant always get what you want

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Effects of what Others Do

Don't you dislike those implications?
I know I use to.
Especially the ones made,
By those who owe their lives to you.
The ones who have lied to others...
Who now have everything surfacing,
To have people see them...
As the fools I knew.

Those are the ones who like to take credit,
For things they did not do.
And today they want to prove themselves,
By overcompensating their judgements passed.
Only to find themselves,
Trapped by lies and deceit believed...
Buried in their past.
To now see what they've done now being trashed.

And not by me!
By that reflection they see.

'What goes around comes around.'
My mother use to say.
And, 'God don't like ugly, boy.
So you don't be that way.
He knows what's going on.
You'll see that one day.'

And as I've aged and matured,
I see the effects left by what others do.
With the attempt made to ruin lives of others.
And I know if they could have their druthers,
They would wish their feelings now felt inside...
Would not cling to linger as truths they can not deny.

'There is a reason WHY for everything.'

And I...
Use to dislike those implications made.
But I must say today I realize as I empathize...
Those I had despised,
Ruined their own lives not mine.

I'm not the one sitting with wishes,
I had lived a more righteous life.
I am happy living the life God to me has given!
With a conscious free and glad I had listened.
And did not rush to revenge those judgements.

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Visit With The Vampire

You mention a vampire
and your thoughts turn to Dracula
that bloodsucking fiend
or a creature like that.
Protruding fangs and bite in the neck,
but they are not the only bloodsuckers around.

You sit there in a line waiting to be called.
The room is sterile and not what you would expect
from the home of a twenty first century vampire.
You feel a bit queasy
and wonder if it will hurt.

You see them go in the door,
but so far, none has come out.
No sounds come from within
and the willing victims beside me
are all filled with smiles and not a care.
Then a number pops up
and the next victim goes in.

The queue is getting shorter
and soon it will be my turn.
Then the one next to me goes in,
but they do not come back.
My face is getting paler
and I can feel my blood rushing to my feet.
I smile a little bit;
at least they will not find it there.

Then my number is called
and I go in without a whimper.
“Take your coat off
and roll up your sleeve Mr Harris.
This won’t hurt a bit.”
I instinctively do as I am told
and then she takes her needle out.

Advancing towards me
my eyes roll in my sockets
and my head goes spinning around.
She shoves the needle in my arm
and withdraws her portion
of my precious blood.
Everything goes white
and I feel myself thump to the ground.

Someone is slapping my face.
You can wake up now Mr Harris it is all done.
We will see you next week.”
Not likely if I can help it
and then I get the hell out of there
and down to the pub to get a pint
of Guinness to get my circulation going around.

Well, they do say Guinness
is good for you
especially after visit with the Vampire.
Now I am going
just to test their theory.

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At the time of disaster

A remembrance to God only at the time of disaster
we have become non-believer and master
We want to grow in materialistic world
shifting the sand and blowing hot and cold

The success and glory makes human being to go blind
He has all the doubts about natural powers to find
as if the he has been gifted with divine eye
he has all the doubts and habit of raising questions with why

Many people tend to deny the existence of almighty
we can lament their behavior and feel pity
we are helpless in the hands of lord
why do we lack the use of proper or suitable word?

We can live under false impression
create falsehood and live with obsession
no one has denied so far the power of nature
we have existed this before not for pleasure

You can not have any distance
you got to believe at once
the world existed this before and will continue
we must realize the fact without different views

It is suicidal not to fall in line
you cn not live under the influence of wine
there is some limit where you must stop
you have to look back even after reaching at the top

All human bodies are subjected to decay
your arguments can hold ground and stay
you can preserve it but can not bring back
you will be considered mad and crack

No right person may by buy your argument
even though he may be agreeable to your comment
the world at large has full faith in the system
It is not at all worrying them

We are bound to be guided by super natural powers
we may raise high buildings and towers
a natural curse is not going to fall all of sudden
it may not fall at all even

you may find thousands of followers
they continue to pray and are keen believers
they will go by the inner instinct and voice
they will not raise the doubt and create noise

We are powerless and simply a pawn
at any time of little blow you may go down
the best of the system may not come to the rescue
the end is certain for anybody when falling due

it is of no use to create a bogey
A lesson can be learnt from honey bee
they do nothing to survive their end
we continue to deny it with new progressive trend

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Patrick White

I Don't Care If You Remember Me Or Not

I don't care if you remember me or not.
I'm not going anywhere. I'll still be here.
But I'm going to disappear soon enough
and you can have the mirror all to yourself.
I can't imagine dying alone is any deeper
than this solitude I've been living on my own.
Take that chisel of a tongue and chip
my cartouche off that gravestone I'm not under yet
as if you just discovered a new talent
for pecking away at death as if you were married to it.

I'm out of here. This is my grand exit. Like Keats
I make it with an awkward bow, the way the deer do
when they come down to the river to drink.
I don't make it in anger. I'm not judging a mirage
because it doesn't slake my thirst for real water.
I'm not bitter, vicious, or proud. I see myself
in you, especially when you're crying without
a knife in your hand you wield like a paper cut
of the last crescent of the moon. It makes me sad
that we live more separately than we ever will in death.
I can remember when you first took my breath away,
and now, if you want to give it back, that's ok,
that's ok, too, as my brother would say, listening
like an amputee to the one-handed applause of the Buddha.

There are gaps, there are voids and abysses,
there are neuronic synapses, godheads, bardo states
and black holes we all have to bridge sooner or later.
Love's one of them. Death's another. And life's
a country road with so many potholes it's shell-shocked.
You can efface my name from your memorial wall
but I'm sure I'll turn you into poetry somewhere
along the way. I'm thawing into tears
like an Arctic ice cap faster than I should
but I'll hold you in my cold, cold heart forever
like a dolmen without snow nobody knows the name of.

More wonderful things get said in the doorways
of farewell through the veils of our motiveless tears
than you're ever going to hear on the thresholds of hello
when everyone mythically inflates their uncontested lies
in the name of love. It's not much of a triumph
to ride in a golden chariot of the sun through a slum.
It's a little vehicle, and come the first serious eclipse,
you're on black ice on a highway late at night on your own,
however many corpses you've sand-bagged in the rear
to give it some weight. Kitty litter and ashes
for traction are better than rose-petals and thorns
strewn along your path. You get a better grip on things
as you're turning your wheels into the direction of your spin
or somersaulting over your handle bars like a cow
that jumped over the moon. As for me. The moonrise
raises a spoonful of ashes to my lips and I try
to take my medicine like a solitary nightbird
sipping from the fountain of a dark muse
like a lunar fish in the watershed of a total eclipse.

I'll never wish you ill. And I'll try really hard
never to dispel your delusions of me as someone
you might have been able to love. Sorry about the discrepancy.
Mirages on a sundial. Lighthouses on the moon.
Sharks and shipwrecks. Shouldn't our dreams and delusions,
our secret nightmares, be accorded the same
ontological dignity as any other God particle
in the transmorphic context of reality? They move
the world as much as mass or gravity and they're
as counterintuitively absolute and constant
as the speed of light. Everyone's trying to write
their own unified field theory to explain everything
all at once to themselves, as if they were whispering
seas of rising awareness into their own ear.

I've lived too long under this cloak of the mystery
I bear as best I can like a mantle of starmud
in the name of a thousand poets who bore it
in their turn to suffer the solitude of their revelry
like the calyx of a black hole in the center of a galaxy
consuming two hundred billion stars in a single gulp
to stay drunk enough for light years to learn
to breathe in the light before they're willing to let it go.
To kiss the bud of the wildflower into the open
and step back into the light like a shadow at noon
and watch it grow without you. Noblesse oblige.
And I don't mean it cynically. The wolf howls.
The dog barks. The road leads like a trail of blood
to a dark grove of trees where everything heals by itself
and death is a retroactive edition of a posthumous future
that lies up ahead like road kill. Like it or not.

Sooner or later every persistent absurdity is interred
in an aura of grace, as if we gave the dead
the benefit of the doubt we begrudge the living.
That said. Still hard to kiss the stinging nettles
like hooded cobras on the head spitting in your eyes
like the Taliban just as you're learning to read
the writing on the wall. So the blind prophets
learn to love the dark. So the candle that's burning
to shed some light on the night and the stars
goes out in a gust of breath like a secret chandlier
on the dark side of death. And what are we left with
that might remotely stick it out with us
in search of a treasure chest that isn't
just another bone box of sacred relics? I used to think
scars from the stars that enlightened us
like Medusas of white phosphorus that bit
like high frequency wavelengths in a snake pit
the moon was agitating like ripples and scales
on the skin of a mirror we thought we'd shed
relationships ago. But now my youth has outgrown me
I go well out of my way to err on the side of compassion
more than I ever longed to know the truth
of what we're all doing here together
trying to stay true to the circuitous path we're on
by getting lost in each other's eyes and arms.

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Sleepy Bee, He Is Rising Beneath Me, The Hidden God Is Pleased

Sleepy Bee, He Is Rising Beneath Me, The Hidden God Is Pleased

for Karthik

Somniculosus Apis, Sleepy Bee
Ascendit infra me, He rises beneath me
Deus absconditus placet, The hidden God is pleased


'...descend and of the curveship lend a myth to God.' - Hart Crane

The boys, seven falling: Jamey Rodemayer, Tyler Clementi,
Raymond Chase, Asher Brown, Billy Lucas, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg


Oh Valdosta,

He is busy preparing a repast for many paying guests who will watch him cook sacred chilies of his Mother's garden born, who will hear him sing their praises...Krishna was over yesterday more radiant than when we first met beside the cardamom and the ghee in the intoxicating basement of the Indian spice and food shop not easily hidden below the sidewalk, such aromas cannot to be tucked away like the shop is beside and below the avenue.

Which flower should I adorn my table with? I ask, approaching shyly beside the spice bins. I buzz inside, a bee for the nectar.

If you serve, said he, If you serve with cardamom and ghee then flowers three are best, the jasmine, the oleander, the anthurium. But if choosing only one, he looks at me, something insistent, responding, in his eyes, I would choose for you the anthurium.

And so we began our time together, the first demur approaches, the blushing papayas, the cooking lessons, then the fires, the chilies harvested, curtains drawn. One day perhaps I to shall fall but in this way:

I shall fling back the curtains
Open the window
Throw cut sleeves for years
gathered, hidden, to the street.
Shouting out names of lovers,
I shall then leap openly into life
land softly upon the Autumn
ginkgo leaves and, golden,
kiss every parked car
on the street leaving
lips like leaves and all
the cut sleeves in love
with all the world and if
not all the world then
all the cars and a fiddle
dee dee for the fall of me


Yesterday I coached him how to slow down as he speaks (his accent is thickly, richly Tamil) , how to enunciate each syllable. He had several stories to choose from which he may relate to the guests, all of which he related to me, a sweet one of him as a little boy waking up at dawn, asking his dear mama for an omelet to eat:

'Sleepy Bee, ' she called to him. 'Go, my Sleepy Bee, to the garden and be sure to smell the jasmine there, touch softly the spices in trembling rows, fetch then some chilies of many colors and I will prepare for you a dish as you wish. When the teacher makes you sleepy by noon reach then your fingers to your face, smell the spices there, remember the touch of smooth skinned chilies whispering of lingering liaisons to come, and you will brighten my Sleepy Bee.'

A chili omelet she would make, a side of yogurt to soothe the burn, and milk from the cow drawn before dawn's first udder swelled against the press of distant hills where even the Temple soundly sleeps so very full and pleased with itself. Mother, each morning as he stumbles, rubbing his eyes, into the garden, tells him,

You may shout if you wish to wake

the Temple for the cow cannot speak -

Wake up! Awake! Make haste!

Lord Indra comes! Prepare the wicks,

the incense sticks for His Holy Fire!

Hasten! Hurry! Quicken!

There beside Lord Indra's captured fire in the little grate her Bee awakens watching her slow movements, the slicing of chilies, the removal of seeds, the washing again of plump hands, the cracking of eggs, beating them with the whisk, spreading ghee upon the hot flat stone, the enchantment of liquid whites and yokes becoming firm, becoming food. She turns them in round rhythms as she rhythmically prays.

After eggs and chilies are eaten comes the rose oil poured upon his raven hair smoothly brushed back to reveal his shining face, his smile. She prepares him for school with kisses, his uniform freshly cleaned, ironed, smelling, too, of rose-flavored soap. Then off to school with a lunch, a string of chilies of all colors sewn together, sewn when he was still in a waking dream.

'The chilies may burn, ' he tells me, speaking slowly, enunciating each syllable, practicing through smiles, returning to my gaze. 'But not like the touch of my mother's hand. She is far away but I can feel her burning hands on me now.' He smiles. I stammer. How can one enunciate such wonder?


Visionary company, Krishna, his mother, and me.


I have been encouraging Krishna (which is a funny thing to say, Krishna being a bold, blue God) to find a language coach to help him with his accent, to tone it down while keeping the wonderful music/lilt of it and he's going to do that...he complains of tilting his head as he talks 'as all Indians do' but I insist he merely speak and let his head and hands speak, too, in their own way. If he does more public events he will need to be understood clearly when he speaks while preparing his magnificent dishes from his country, his rich feasts of stories of the chilies from his mother's garden entwined by morning glories, the morning cock already at quarrel with the world just beyond the tin reaching in to take some spices too enticing to refuse...

I always feel as if he is, or will soon be, bored with me and my humble 'ministrations' but he sweeps into my little 'box-doir' - you recall how tiny my expensive studio on the 5th floor is! - like a Raj, a young prince beaming, brimming full of stories to tell me, usually some food, spicy hot, he has prepared for me, offered with a grin. Then he strips instantly down, lays upon the down pallet in easy, unabashed nakedness - it catches my breath, I do want to see! - checks his Blackberry for the latest cricket scores while I hurriedly 'hide' my Ganesha, the prominent statue of the god I have in front of my useless fireplace; this hiding I half understand...but still, naked, he has a fresh and beautifully made tattoo of Ganesha on his shoulder, he wears a Ganesha necklace, a Ganesha bracelet, and a Ganesha waist scapular, the image of which is just below his navel. So why, I ask only myself and Ganesha, never Krishna, why must I hide my large wooden Ganesha statue? But I do hide Him in deference to Krishna's wishes and meanwhile have intercourse with the god-in-miniature, scraping a necklace trunk with an ear, a tongue, receive a scapular kiss of the image upon my forehead as I trace those wonderful hairlines of the male body on my way to other deities.

Ah! give me all the beans in the world in all my poverty! Am I not, too, a Raj of floors and scented pillows, this beaming god beneath me thrusting utterly to reveal his secrets, his desires, his pleasures to me who am not a god?

Life, dear Valdosta, over all, is good, yes? I wish it no ill. But, agreeing with the cock, I will quarrel, even fight, with life when young men still leap too soon from bridges because I have learned (and relearn it hard lesson by hard lesson at a time) visionary company insists its tracings in many forms, man to man being but one holy expression, those sons, burning mother's hands upon them demanding, insisting to life that each her sons is a rajah, a Sleepy Bee.

So please the intemperate humanity, in the face of patient deities the burning ones are leaping still and I am ill with grief, with prayer, their dead bodies gone, their now emptier hands.


And he leaves me.


I return to my poems.

The room is filled with Krishna, aromas of rose oil in his hair, pungent spices in his sweat and upon his hands and skin, and sex.

I retrieve Lord Ganesha out from his little sanctuary of hiding (it seems I am always retrieving deities) and we both laugh richly. I remember to sprinkle some cologne upon Him, to pour out some milk into His votive bowl, to rub His belly, to light another candle (the other extinguished, panting, while we were busy bees exchanging knees and sighs, diffusing male spices into bracing air, fingers upon oily chilies thickening in always morning hunger) .

I light more incense and thank the Lord Ganesha in all his forms, appearing both large and small, His adornment of Secrets, though one cannot easily hide an Elephant, man-love and more in such a small infinite universe whose toes I seek to tickle then gather for a shoe as tides shrink and swell, grow and diminish depending upon the worshipers, those who will do so in spite of those who would kill delicate or manly infidels whose worship, forever babies breath, is all the more meaningful.

Be damned the trellises. The petals shall reach, shall extend outward.

The violin's throat cut.

'Do not ask me to see it! '

Then, Ganesha restored to His rightful place; good-natured about being hidden, it is back to the kitchen, the slicing of the onion, the crushing of the garlic, the pouring of the wine, the selecting of the greens and washing them of the clinging sand and grit they kindly bring, then to the pot to cook them in, the meat to go with, and begins the fire, O Indra, more aromas extend into, entwine with what Krishna has left to me and the god and I am grateful, full of heart, for each time he is here is a miracle. A grace. Mother India with hot hands gifts me one of Her Raj's who graces me with his presence evoking praise bestowed from oft bitter lips and tongue made the more bilious by aging, aching joints, laxer muscles, and yet the encroaching decrepitude is bent and stretched, the better for the wear from Krishna's 'half nelsons' and yogic overreaches. More the better for me.

Yet I remain bitter, too, from the senseless loss of young men who could not endure, no fault of their own, for sure, who leap from bridges, forced to by killing edges broken open within and by hateful, fearful others forgetting, if ever had, those restorative burning constancies of a Mother's hands upon them

I have placed your picture, dear Valdosta, upon my altar beside Lorca's portrait, and Hart Crane's young face, the image of a sweet Christ holding a lamb en perpetua, and the yellowed newspaper clipping from Spain of the Matador's death, along with photos of the young men in the past two weeks who have joined Hart becoming ghostly visionary company. They now remain forever chaste not having lived long enough to be wasted, emptied of love from loving deeply out into love for more love, endlessly bleeding out like our Lorca, a corrida of laurel encircling his head no longer remembering but remembering only one sound, guns exploding outward, extending, bullets, petals, one by one beyond the wall where he stood stunned, 'how young and handsome are assassins' faces', he flew backward in the wall graced with his brave shadow then his blood until he fell. I believe he fell hard for life demands it as does death which will continue its duende.

Love, as Hart and all hearts love, is still a vision not yet fully, solidly formed in spite of stones and walls forgetting noble shadows, but there are foolish Krishnas, restoring Krishna-moments, patient hidden gods though human hearts and bodies remove themselves from the potter's wheel too early, too broken, too tired, too alone to try to shape love from Love from the tiny shard, the remnant bone of the ancient mastodon, the last one, dreaming within each heart of that Love which all Nature yearns for.

I pray for my inherited brood of brothers, and remember to be gay for all the gray afternoons in this sad but forgiving confessional, while not forgetting mine and the cock's quarrel with life, in the booth by the cracked window near the corner of 7th and Second.

I am yours, bleating, sometimes crowing, but almost always bestowing praise. I am loved, Valdosta, and I love you.


N. Nightingale

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Of Ancient Mastodon, Sleepy Bee & Young Men Who Leap Too Soon From Bridges - Nightingale Confesses Into Straighter Teeth

'...descend, and of the curveship lend a myth to God.' - Hart Crane

Pueri aeterna, septem cadens
Etiam plures ad

The boys eternal, seven falling
Too many more to come

Jamey Rodemayer
Tyler Clementi
Raymond Chase
Asher Brown
Billy Lucas
Seth Walsh
Justin Aaberg

Sub olivae, pacem
Ut vos omnes adoremus orientatio

Under the olive trees, peace
May you all adore this orientation


******

"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their
hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once
hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain."

- James Baldwin


'Ignacio goes up the tiers
with all his death on his shoulders.
He sought for the dawn
but the dawn was no more.
He seeks for his confident profile
and the dream bewilders him
He sought for his beautiful body
and encountered his opened blood

Do not ask me to see it! '

- Federico Garcia Lorca*


1


Even the pigeons on my stoop are silent now.
One mourning dove coos tenderly for these who
have taken their own lives publicly on our behalf,
for those many gone before them, broken hearts
enraged, no more to engage the unpersuaded
world which, one of them, one of the public ones,
in spite of murmuring wharves, in spite of amorous
dark alleys bitter in the pitch of the last hateful
American Century, Hart Crane, wrote before his leap
from the ship beside the phallic curve where Cuba
meets the lisping sea, took his tongue away which
sang of chill dawns breaking upon bridges whose
spans still freely splinter light returning hungover
from the night wharves, grottoes, and denim World
Wars, industrial embraces crushing every man and
now another one abandons his fingers and fiddling
to scattering light, takes flight from ledges to
edge close to an embrace no longer forbidden -

'And so it was I entered the broken world
to trace the visionary company of love...'

I am at the 'Way of Peace Bistro, ' where the server
Alberto whose cousins are the famous Wolf Boys in
Jalisco, Mexico, hirsute himself, gives me free double
espressos so I may hear his confession, who only just
yesterday came out to me in my confessional booth
here at the perpetually wobbly table in the far corner
at the cracked window rocking with Hart's un-confessed
bones wrapped in soothing silt which he now dreams
to be his silken pall.

Life is indeed strange above the veiled bottom.
I do receive confessions here where I weekly haunt
for studying, writing, chasing down dreams, waves,
receding horizons.

Why, I wonder, is each window where I sit cracked?

I am the itinerant priest who sits at meager feasts.
Suffering congregants, forlorn over their starfish
and soup, ask about dreams, confess to anguish, ask
what should be done. I consult espresso foam, open
the nearest book at hand willy nilly to see what advice
or wisdom might be gained from That which, we hope,
indiscriminately sustains us all here straining after
some realing thing to keep us going when Hart and
those too recent others obey some impulse to place
at last the final period, reifiying the punctuate
though unrepentant ending of this too too long run-on
sentence of hate. One hopes this period holds fast,
that Logos/meaning is somehow, plates of starfish
with fork and knife beside, true or truing at least.

One serves where needed. And when.
So come unto me you 'sad young men.
All the news is bad again so kiss your dreams goodbye.'**

Here at my confessional I can only plead mercy upon the boys
who have jumped from bridges, hung themselves, cut, sliced their
compulsive hands, exploded hearts, leaping dears eyes ablaze in
thrall of antlers, trembling flanks strong to fly decrying the
violent hunt which always ends in a death bequeathing these
chopped bits to me and to others like me who remain at table,
plates before, to stare at what is to be later scattered, sown,
these pieces in and for Love-without-name still a stain upon
confused local deities and their wild-eyed supplicants.


But there is no stain upon the promiscuous sea.

The compliant sky is not confused.

Neither is all that is between confused,
allowing birth and blessing, passing of
all kinds in all manner of motive and motion.
But in the human world, distressing, there
will be more boys, more men growing up as
from the very beginning where earliest enmity
mythically grew strong before shoes, before
hearts were capable of breaking, before turgid
theological floods spilled blood of brother
by brother turning witness stones toward silence,
echoing lamenting Federico,

'Do not ask me to see it! '

I don't want to see it!

I will not see it!

But I, but perhaps we, who remain to plant these
petaled parts of these unwitting scapegoats whose
eyes are milk now forever, we must bar sentimentality,
must move toward genuine knowing which comes from
the long hard stare beyond Milky Ways at the way
things still inexorably are. 'Nothing gets better -
or changes for the better - until it is what it is.'
But the falling ones, half-way to eternity while
here and eschewed, know what the 'is' is of the matter,
that it is the others, too many of them, who don't
or won't know, who willingly refuse to see 'what is'
in order to reach beyond the collective NOT SEE
solutions' of hetero-normative culture/religion.

Perhaps even in the deepest fault of the ocean that
very visionary company - in league with stuporous
pigeons, a mourning dove, me here who remains-not
-yet-remains, tearful over my espresso looking for
signs, finding only an endlessly fracturing rainbow,
remembering, too, the murmuring secrets of wharves
and co-mingled breath - that very visionary company
traces all the sunken ones, the jumping ones, those
with other means for departure by their own hands
empty now of demands for love.

Here I sit, arthritic living hands still
demanding, remembering full of past and
present griefs the Violin with a cut throat
in a youthful suicide once writ years ago,
hidden, hiding out, refusing to shout my
rage to Almighty 'Nothing-But':

Do not hear nothing but the cabin walls,
do not hear nothing but late summer roses
petal by petal leaping from the still too
white trellises, leaping pinkly, redly,
memory to breezes, overwhelmed by trellises
shagged with cut sleeves.***

But not me. Not yet.

I don't want to see it!

I will not see it.

On the mute page, the Violin refusing to sing

- in love with Garcia Lorca,
the goring horn of the Bull,
the destined cornada -

each and all appalling, commanding 'Write'
in long nights working where the mentally ill
wandered with me, keys ironically in my hand,
the yellowing hallways with even more ironic
EXIT signs brightly RED above the locked doors,
silent companions somnolent but for the jangling
joke of the keys.

Do not ask me to see it!

I don't want to see it!

I will not see it.


Still, I have now these better days in the Village,
broke or near to it, with eggs and beans, cheap but
edible things. An epicurean after all, I do luxuriously
head to the Polish butcher shop nearby to gather meat
but not any of the young butchers want to be gathered
- too Catholic - for Poland is 'passing strange' with
bad teeth, fingers stained with nicotine. Or is it rust
from once Curtains of Iron,

or the Blood of the Acetylene Virgin? ****

I get my meat, cook my greens and things, have good-enough feasts for garlic and the right spice make grander the demanded abstemiousness of current coin. I purloin my pleasure during eats in my dirty yet happy apron with recordings of poetry, lectures or a good aria or two to salt my food with tears, a blubbering fool beside his one low watt lamp, darkness too too comfortable like a pooch or cat at feet. What is that bleating in the darker corner? I shall wait for daylight to see what it can be. And if I can I shall free it from it's trap and in doing so perhaps free me from all this, all this witnessing as life demands I must, of young ones setting themselves free because they are forced to do so by collective psychopathology now rendered even more effective and efficient via technology, via internet, emphasis upon the 'net', where the ills set free from Pandora's Modem have only begun to be revealed.

But I shall use that 'net' and my still goodly paper and goodly pen to dim whatever ill tides there are and to come, as they surely will in spite of low wattage. I'll jangle keys on the night watches reading my mystic books, making my prayers with roamers of wards and wharves glancing up, considering bridges, edges, silty bottoms. The tides are here even now. But right now I wish to sing a lullaby in protest to those hurting departed, even to those coming ills, that I may sing innocence dumbly back to those who may come ashore again more gently having forgotten enforcing depths insisting them toward resistant yet resolved embraces...


...So breech then, waves. Feet first. Heads in the brine. I shall keep time on your wrinkled toes sticking up from the sand, play peek-a-boo. Then while you sleep I shall harvest gently, place them firmly in that old woman's shoe...'there was an old woman who lived in a shoe, had so many children she didn't know what to do'.

She may yet have learned what to by now.


I haven't. But for my one strange harvest here below...


2


Somniculosus Apis, Sleepy Bee
Ascendit infra me, He rises beneath me
Deus absconditus placet, The hidden God is pleased

He is busy even as I write this preparing a repast for many paying guests who will watch him cook sacred chilies of his Mother's garden born, who will hear him sing their praises...Krishna was over yesterday, nervous and excited about it all. Working out regularly at the gym he is now very toned, muscular in a good way, not too pumped in exaggerated lumps, and he is even more radiantly beautiful/handsome than when we first met beside the cardamom and the ghee in the intoxicating basement of the Indian spice and food shop not easily hidden, such aromas are not to be tucked down like the shop is beside and below the avenue.

Which flower should I adorn my table with? I ask, approaching shyly beside the spice bins. I buzz inside, a bee for the nectar.

If you serve, said he, If you serve with cardamom and ghee then flowers three are best, the jasmine, the oleander, the anthurium. But if choosing only one, he looks at me, something insistent, responding, in his eyes, I would choose for you the anthurium.

And so we began our time together, the cooking lessons, the first demur approaches, the blushing papayas, then the fires, the chilies harvested, curtains drawn. One day perhaps I to shall fall but in this way:

I shall fling back the curtains
Open the window
Throw cut sleeves for years
gathered, hidden, to the street.
Shouting out names of lovers,
I shall then leap openly into life
land softly upon the Autumn
ginkgo leaves and, golden,
kiss every parked car
on the street leaving
lips like leaves and all
the cut sleeves in love
with all the world and if
not all the world then
all the cars and a fiddle
dee dee for the fall of me


Yesterday I coached him on slowing down as he speaks (his accent is thickly, richly Tamil) , how to enunciate each syllable. He had several stories to choose from which he may relate to the guests, all of which he related to me, a sweet one of him as a little boy waking up at dawn, asking his dear mama for an omelet to eat:

'Sleepy Bee, ' she called to him. 'Go, my Sleepy Bee, to the garden and be sure to smell the jasmine there, touch softly the spices in trembling rows, fetch then some chilies of many colors and I will prepare for you a dish as you wish. When the teacher makes you sleepy by noon reach then your fingers to your face, smell the spices there, remember the touch of smooth skinned chilies whispering of lingering liaisons to come, and you will brighten my Sleepy Bee.'

A chili omelet she would make, a side of yogurt to soothe the burn, and milk from the cow drawn before dawn's first udder swelled against the press of distant hills where even the Temple soundly sleeps so very full and pleased with itself. Mother, each morning as he stumbles, rubbing his eyes, into the garden, tells him,

You may shout if you wish to wake

the Temple for the cow cannot speak -

Wake up! Awake! Make haste!

Lord Indra comes! Prepare the wicks,

the incense sticks for His Holy Fire!

Hasten! Hurry! Quicken!

There beside Lord Indra's captured fire in the little grate her Bee awakens watching her slow movements, the slicing of chilies, the removal of seeds, the washing again of plump hands, the cracking of eggs, beating them with the whisk, spreading ghee upon the hot flat stone, the enchantment of liquid whites and yokes becoming firm, becoming food. She turns them in round rhythms as she rhythmically prays.

After eggs and chilies are eaten comes the rose oil poured upon his raven hair smoothly brushed back to reveal his shining face, his smile. She prepares him for school with kisses, his uniform freshly cleaned, ironed, smelling, too, of rose-flavored soap. Then off to school with a lunch, a string of chilies of all colors sewn together, sewn when he was still in a waking dream.

'The chilies may burn, ' he tells me, speaking slowly, enunciating each syllable, practicing through smiles, returning to my gaze. 'But not like the touch of my mother's hand. She is far away but I can feel her burning hands on me now.' He smiles. I stammer. How can one enunciate such wonder?


Visionary company, Krishna, his mother, and me.


I have been encouraging Krishna (which is a funny thing to say, Krishna being a bold, blue God) to find a language coach to help him with his accent, to tone it down while keeping the wonderful music/lilt of it and he's going to do that...he complains of tilting his head as he talks 'as all Indians do' but I insist he merely speak and let his head and hands speak, too, in their own way. If he does more public events he will need to be understood clearly when he speaks while preparing his magnificent dishes from his country, his rich feasts of stories of the chilies from his mother's garden entwined by morning glories, the morning cock already at quarrel with the world just beyond the tin reaching in to take some spices too enticing to refuse...

I always feel as if he is, or will soon be, bored with me and my humble 'ministrations' but he sweeps into my little 'box-doir' - you recall how tiny my expensive studio on the 5th floor is! - like a Raj, a young prince beaming, brimming full of stories to tell me, usually some food, spicy hot, he has prepared for me, offered with a grin. Then he strips instantly down, lays upon the down pallet in easy, unabashed nakedness - it catches my breath, I do want to see! - checks his Blackberry for the latest cricket scores while I hurriedly 'hide' my Ganesha, the prominent statue of the god I have in front of my useless fireplace; this hiding I half understand...but still, naked, he has a fresh and beautifully made tattoo of Ganesha on his shoulder, he wears a Ganesha necklace, a Ganesha bracelet, and a Ganesha waist scapular, the image of which is just below his navel. So why, I ask only myself and Ganesha, never Krishna, why must I hide my large wooden Ganesha statue? But I do hide Him in deference to Krishna's wishes and meanwhile have intercourse with the god-in-miniature, scraping a necklace trunk with an ear, a tongue, receive a scapular kiss of the image upon my forehead as I trace those wonderful hairlines of the male body on my way to other deities.

Ah! give me all the beans in the world in all my poverty! Am I not, too, a Raj of floors and scented pillows, this beaming god beneath me thrusting utterly to reveal his secrets, his desires, his pleasures to me who am not a god?

Life, dear Valdosta, over all, is good, yes? I wish it no ill. But, agreeing with the cock, I will quarrel, even fight, with life when young men still leap too soon from bridges because I have learned (and relearn it hard lesson by hard lesson at a time) visionary company insists its tracings in many forms, man to man being but one holy expression, those sons, burning mother's hands upon them demanding, insisting to life that each her sons is a rajah, a Sleepy Bee.

So please the intemperate humanity, in the face of patient deities the burning ones are leaping still and I am ill with grief, with prayer, their dead bodies gone, their now emptier hands.


And he leaves me.


I return to my poems.

The room is filled with Krishna, aromas of rose oil in his hair, pungent spices in his sweat and upon his hands and skin, and sex.

I retrieve Lord Ganesha out from his little sanctuary of hiding (it seems I am always retrieving deities) and we both laugh richly. I remember to sprinkle some cologne upon Him, to pour out some milk into His votive bowl, to rub His belly, to light another candle (the other extinguished, panting, while we were busy bees exchanging knees and sighs, diffusing male spices into bracing air, fingers upon oily chilies thickening in always morning hunger) .

I light more incense and thank the Lord Ganesha in all his forms, appearing both large and small, His adornment of Secrets, though one cannot easily hide an Elephant, man-love and more in such a small infinite universe whose toes I seek to tickle then gather for a shoe as tides shrink and swell, grow and diminish depending upon the worshipers, those who will do so in spite of those who would kill delicate or manly infidels whose worship, forever babies breath, is all the more meaningful.

Be damned the trellises. The petals shall reach, shall extend outward.

The violin's throat cut.

'Do not ask me to see it! '

Then, Ganesha restored to His rightful place; good-natured about being hidden, it is back to the kitchen, the slicing of the onion, the crushing of the garlic, the pouring of the wine, the selecting of the greens and washing them of the clinging sand and grit they kindly bring, then to the pot to cook them in, the meat to go with, and begins the fire, O Indra, more aromas extend into, entwine with what Krishna has left to me and the god and I am grateful, full of heart, for each time he is here is a miracle. A grace. Mother India with hot hands gifts me one of Her Raj's who graces me with his presence evoking praise bestowed from oft bitter lips and tongue made the more bilious by aging, aching joints, laxer muscles, and yet the encroaching decrepitude is bent and stretched, the better for the wear from Krishna's 'half nelsons' and yogic overreaches. More the better for me.

Yet I remain bitter, too, from the senseless loss of young men who could not endure, no fault of their own, for sure, who leap from bridges, forced to by killing edges broken open within and by hateful, fearful others forgetting, if ever had, those restorative burning constancies of a Mother's hands upon them

I have placed your picture, dear Valdosta, upon my altar beside Lorca's portrait, and Hart Crane's young face, the image of a sweet Christ holding a lamb en perpetua, and the yellowed newspaper clipping from Spain of the Matador's death, along with photos of the young men in the past two weeks who have joined Hart becoming ghostly visionary company. They now remain forever chaste not having lived long enough to be wasted, emptied of love from loving deeply out into love for more love, endlessly bleeding out like our Lorca, a corrida of laurel encircling his head no longer remembering but remembering only one sound, guns exploding outward, extending, bullets, petals, one by one beyond the wall where he stood stunned, 'how young and handsome are assassins' faces', he flew backward in the wall graced with his brave shadow then his blood until he fell. I believe he fell hard for life demands it as does death which will continue its duende.

Love, as Hart and all hearts love, is still a vision not yet fully, solidly formed in spite of stones and walls forgetting noble shadows, but there are foolish Krishnas, restoring Krishna-moments, patient hidden gods though human hearts and bodies remove themselves from the potter's wheel too early, too broken, too tired, too alone to try to shape love from Love from the tiny shard, the remnant bone of the ancient mastodon, the last one, dreaming within each heart of that Love which all Nature yearns for.

I pray for my inherited brood of brothers, and remember to be gay for all the gray afternoons in this sad but forgiving confessional, while not forgetting mine and the cock's quarrel with life, in the booth by the cracked window near the corner of 7th and Second.

I am yours, bleating, sometimes crowing, but almost always bestowing praise. I am loved, Valdosta, and I love you.


N. Nightingale


******************

*Opening quote is from Lorca's elegy, 'Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías'

** The Ballad of the Sad Young Men

Music written by: Tommy WolfLyrics written by: Fran Landesman

(best version sung that I know of is by an aged Mabel Mercer in concert, hard to find it now) 

Sing a song of sad young men
Glasses full of rye
All the news is bad again so
Kiss your dreams goodbye

All the sad young men
Sitting in the bars
Knowing neon nights
Missing all the stars

All the sad young men
Drifting through the town
Drinking up the night
Trying not to drown

All the sad young men
Singing in the cold
Trying to forget
That they're growing old

All the sad young men
Choking on their youth
Trying to be brave
Running from the truth

Autumn turns the leaves to gold
Slowly dies the heart
Sad young men are growing old
That's the cruelest part

All the sad young men
Seek a certain smile
Someone they can hold
For a little while

Tired little bird,
She does the best she can
Trying to be gay for her
sad young man

While the grimy moon
Blossoms up above
All the sad young men
Play at making love

Misbegotten moon
Shine for sad young men
Let your gentle light
Guide them home again

All the sad young men


***In China homosexuality was referred to as 'the cut sleeve'.

Read an excellent account of this in

Passions of the Cut Sleeve, The Male Homosexual Tradition in China.

http: //www.ucpress.edu/book.php? isbn=9780520078697

 ****Surrealistic Sutures For The Acetylene Virgin by Warren Falcon

'I think that poetry should stay awake all night drinking in dark cellars.' - Thomas Merton


Look to the body for metaphor


Look to blood, use this word
in relation to dreams or flowers
while silver runs in veins which
are usually streets or vines.

Breasts, male and female,
are stars, have to do with
a handful or feet to span them.

Abdomen, then, is a great
Milky Way gathering,
holding, expelling comets,
caroling colons' humming.

Spleens are bones to
pick teeth with, teeth
which are, of course,
sea horses or gravestones
bearing images of the Flagrant
Heart to tame this spot of
gypsum and flint, to charm
where Violin's cut throat
sings itself awake, one
black breast out of its fold
slapping metal seas against
dropping metal shores in
Sidelight's shadow across
this hand writing now,
slap of waves mute in
this stillness of knees.

So lend a darkness to gardens,
ancient pattern of a breast,
cloth lightly lifting, black on black.

From Her chest reveal a slenderer throat
that nods when she swallows
and names her peace.

The delicate will not pass away just yet.


Great Seamstress of Space

sew, please,

with fingers of dew.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 3

But as the sun was rising from the fair sea into the firmament of
heaven to shed Blight on mortals and immortals, they reached Pylos the
city of Neleus. Now the people of Pylos were gathered on the sea shore
to offer sacrifice of black bulls to Neptune lord of the Earthquake.
There were nine guilds with five hundred men in each, and there were
nine bulls to each guild. As they were eating the inward meats and
burning the thigh bones [on the embers] in the name of Neptune,
Telemachus and his crew arrived, furled their sails, brought their
ship to anchor, and went ashore.
Minerva led the way and Telemachus followed her. Presently she said,
"Telemachus, you must not be in the least shy or nervous; you have
taken this voyage to try and find out where your father is buried
and how he came by his end; so go straight up to Nestor that we may
see what he has got to tell us. Beg of him to speak the truth, and
he will tell no lies, for he is an excellent person."
"But how, Mentor," replied Telemachus, "dare I go up to Nestor,
and how am I to address him? I have never yet been used to holding
long conversations with people, and am ashamed to begin questioning
one who is so much older than myself."
"Some things, Telemachus," answered Minerva, "will be suggested to
you by your own instinct, and heaven will prompt you further; for I am
assured that the gods have been with you from the time of your birth
until now."
She then went quickly on, and Telemachus followed in her steps
till they reached the place where the guilds of the Pylian people were
assembled. There they found Nestor sitting with his sons, while his
company round him were busy getting dinner ready, and putting pieces
of meat on to the spits while other pieces were cooking. When they saw
the strangers they crowded round them, took them by the hand and
bade them take their places. Nestor's son Pisistratus at once
offered his hand to each of them, and seated them on some soft
sheepskins that were lying on the sands near his father and his
brother Thrasymedes. Then he gave them their portions of the inward
meats and poured wine for them into a golden cup, handing it to
Minerva first, and saluting her at the same time.
"Offer a prayer, sir," said he, "to King Neptune, for it is his
feast that you are joining; when you have duly prayed and made your
drink-offering, pass the cup to your friend that he may do so also.
I doubt not that he too lifts his hands in prayer, for man cannot live
without God in the world. Still he is younger than you are, and is
much of an age with myself, so I he handed I will give you the
precedence."
As he spoke he handed her the cup. Minerva thought it very right and
proper of him to have given it to herself first; she accordingly began
praying heartily to Neptune. "O thou," she cried, "that encirclest the
earth, vouchsafe to grant the prayers of thy servants that call upon
thee. More especially we pray thee send down thy grace on Nestor and
on his sons; thereafter also make the rest of the Pylian people some
handsome return for the goodly hecatomb they are offering you. Lastly,
grant Telemachus and myself a happy issue, in respect of the matter
that has brought us in our to Pylos."
When she had thus made an end of praying, she handed the cup to
Telemachus and he prayed likewise. By and by, when the outer meats
were roasted and had been taken off the spits, the carvers gave
every man his portion and they all made an excellent dinner. As soon
as they had had enough to eat and drink, Nestor, knight of Gerene,
began to speak.
"Now," said he, "that our guests have done their dinner, it will
be best to ask them who they are. Who, then, sir strangers, are you,
and from what port have you sailed? Are you traders? or do you sail
the seas as rovers with your hand against every man, and every man's
hand against you?"
Telemachus answered boldly, for Minerva had given him courage to ask
about his father and get himself a good name.
"Nestor," said he, "son of Neleus, honour to the Achaean name, you
ask whence we come, and I will tell you. We come from Ithaca under
Neritum, and the matter about which I would speak is of private not
public import. I seek news of my unhappy father Ulysses, who is said
to have sacked the town of Troy in company with yourself. We know what
fate befell each one of the other heroes who fought at Troy, but as
regards Ulysses heaven has hidden from us the knowledge even that he
is dead at all, for no one can certify us in what place he perished,
nor say whether he fell in battle on the mainland, or was lost at
sea amid the waves of Amphitrite. Therefore I am suppliant at your
knees, if haply you may be pleased to tell me of his melancholy end,
whether you saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some other
traveller, for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things
out of any pity for me, but tell me in all plainness exactly what
you saw. If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service, either
by word or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed among the Trojans,
bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all."
"My friend," answered Nestor, "you recall a time of much sorrow to
my mind, for the brave Achaeans suffered much both at sea, while
privateering under Achilles, and when fighting before the great city
of king Priam. Our best men all of them fell there- Ajax, Achilles,
Patroclus peer of gods in counsel, and my own dear son Antilochus, a
man singularly fleet of foot and in fight valiant. But we suffered
much more than this; what mortal tongue indeed could tell the whole
story? Though you were to stay here and question me for five years, or
even six, I could not tell you all that the Achaeans suffered, and you
would turn homeward weary of my tale before it ended. Nine long
years did we try every kind of stratagem, but the hand of heaven was
against us; during all this time there was no one who could compare
with your father in subtlety- if indeed you are his son- I can
hardly believe my eyes- and you talk just like him too- no one would
say that people of such different ages could speak so much alike. He
and I never had any kind of difference from first to last neither in
camp nor council, but in singleness of heart and purpose we advised
the Argives how all might be ordered for the best.
"When however, we had sacked the city of Priam, and were setting
sail in our ships as heaven had dispersed us, then Jove saw fit to vex
the Argives on their homeward voyage; for they had Not all been either
wise or understanding, and hence many came to a bad end through the
displeasure of Jove's daughter Minerva, who brought about a quarrel
between the two sons of Atreus.
"The sons of Atreus called a meeting which was not as it should
be, for it was sunset and the Achaeans were heavy with wine. When they
explained why they had called- the people together, it seemed that
Menelaus was for sailing homeward at once, and this displeased
Agamemnon, who thought that we should wait till we had offered
hecatombs to appease the anger of Minerva. Fool that he was, he
might have known that he would not prevail with her, for when the gods
have made up their minds they do not change them lightly. So the two
stood bandying hard words, whereon the Achaeans sprang to their feet
with a cry that rent the air, and were of two minds as to what they
should do.
"That night we rested and nursed our anger, for Jove was hatching
mischief against us. But in the morning some of us drew our ships into
the water and put our goods with our women on board, while the rest,
about half in number, stayed behind with Agamemnon. We- the other
half- embarked and sailed; and the ships went well, for heaven had
smoothed the sea. When we reached Tenedos we offered sacrifices to the
gods, for we were longing to get home; cruel Jove, however, did not
yet mean that we should do so, and raised a second quarrel in the
course of which some among us turned their ships back again, and
sailed away under Ulysses to make their peace with Agamemnon; but I,
and all the ships that were with me pressed forward, for I saw that
mischief was brewing. The son of Tydeus went on also with me, and
his crews with him. Later on Menelaus joined us at Lesbos, and found
us making up our minds about our course- for we did not know whether
to go outside Chios by the island of Psyra, keeping this to our
left, or inside Chios, over against the stormy headland of Mimas. So
we asked heaven for a sign, and were shown one to the effect that we
should be soonest out of danger if we headed our ships across the open
sea to Euboea. This we therefore did, and a fair wind sprang up
which gave us a quick passage during the night to Geraestus, where
we offered many sacrifices to Neptune for having helped us so far on
our way. Four days later Diomed and his men stationed their ships in
Argos, but I held on for Pylos, and the wind never fell light from the
day when heaven first made it fair for me.
"Therefore, my dear young friend, I returned without hearing
anything about the others. I know neither who got home safely nor
who were lost but, as in duty bound, I will give you without reserve
the reports that have reached me since I have been here in my own
house. They say the Myrmidons returned home safely under Achilles' son
Neoptolemus; so also did the valiant son of Poias, Philoctetes.
Idomeneus, again, lost no men at sea, and all his followers who
escaped death in the field got safe home with him to Crete. No
matter how far out of the world you live, you will have heard of
Agamemnon and the bad end he came to at the hands of Aegisthus- and
a fearful reckoning did Aegisthus presently pay. See what a good thing
it is for a man to leave a son behind him to do as Orestes did, who
killed false Aegisthus the murderer of his noble father. You too,
then- for you are a tall, smart-looking fellow- show your mettle and
make yourself a name in story."
"Nestor son of Neleus," answered Telemachus, "honour to the
Achaean name, the Achaeans applaud Orestes and his name will live
through all time for he has avenged his father nobly. Would that
heaven might grant me to do like vengeance on the insolence of the
wicked suitors, who are ill treating me and plotting my ruin; but
the gods have no such happiness in store for me and for my father,
so we must bear it as best we may."
"My friend," said Nestor, "now that you remind me, I remember to
have heard that your mother has many suitors, who are ill disposed
towards you and are making havoc of your estate. Do you submit to this
tamely, or are public feeling and the voice of heaven against you? Who
knows but what Ulysses may come back after all, and pay these
scoundrels in full, either single-handed or with a force of Achaeans
behind him? If Minerva were to take as great a liking to you as she
did to Ulysses when we were fighting before Troy (for I never yet
saw the gods so openly fond of any one as Minerva then was of your
father), if she would take as good care of you as she did of him,
these wooers would soon some of them him, forget their wooing."
Telemachus answered, "I can expect nothing of the kind; it would
be far too much to hope for. I dare not let myself think of it. Even
though the gods themselves willed it no such good fortune could befall
me."
On this Minerva said, "Telemachus, what are you talking about?
Heaven has a long arm if it is minded to save a man; and if it were
me, I should not care how much I suffered before getting home,
provided I could be safe when I was once there. I would rather this,
than get home quickly, and then be killed in my own house as Agamemnon
was by the treachery of Aegisthus and his wife. Still, death is
certain, and when a man's hour is come, not even the gods can save
him, no matter how fond they are of him."
"Mentor," answered Telemachus, "do not let us talk about it any
more. There is no chance of my father's ever coming back; the gods
have long since counselled his destruction. There is something else,
however, about which I should like to ask Nestor, for he knows much
more than any one else does. They say he has reigned for three
generations so that it is like talking to an immortal. Tell me,
therefore, Nestor, and tell me true; how did Agamemnon come to die
in that way? What was Menelaus doing? And how came false Aegisthus
to kill so far better a man than himself? Was Menelaus away from
Achaean Argos, voyaging elsewhither among mankind, that Aegisthus took
heart and killed Agamemnon?"
"I will tell you truly," answered Nestor, "and indeed you have
yourself divined how it all happened. If Menelaus when he got back
from Troy had found Aegisthus still alive in his house, there would
have been no barrow heaped up for him, not even when he was dead,
but he would have been thrown outside the city to dogs and vultures,
and not a woman would have mourned him, for he had done a deed of
great wickedness; but we were over there, fighting hard at Troy, and
Aegisthus who was taking his ease quietly in the heart of Argos,
cajoled Agamemnon's wife Clytemnestra with incessant flattery.
"At first she would have nothing to do with his wicked scheme, for
she was of a good natural disposition; moreover there was a bard
with her, to whom Agamemnon had given strict orders on setting out for
Troy, that he was to keep guard over his wife; but when heaven had
counselled her destruction, Aegisthus thus this bard off to a desert
island and left him there for crows and seagulls to batten upon- after
which she went willingly enough to the house of Aegisthus. Then he
offered many burnt sacrifices to the gods, and decorated many
temples with tapestries and gilding, for he had succeeded far beyond
his expectations.
"Meanwhile Menelaus and I were on our way home from Troy, on good
terms with one another. When we got to Sunium, which is the point of
Athens, Apollo with his painless shafts killed Phrontis the
steersman of Menelaus' ship (and never man knew better how to handle a
vessel in rough weather) so that he died then and there with the
helm in his hand, and Menelaus, though very anxious to press
forward, had to wait in order to bury his comrade and give him his due
funeral rites. Presently, when he too could put to sea again, and
had sailed on as far as the Malean heads, Jove counselled evil against
him and made it it blow hard till the waves ran mountains high. Here
he divided his fleet and took the one half towards Crete where the
Cydonians dwell round about the waters of the river Iardanus. There is
a high headland hereabouts stretching out into the sea from a place
called Gortyn, and all along this part of the coast as far as Phaestus
the sea runs high when there is a south wind blowing, but arter
Phaestus the coast is more protected, for a small headland can make
a great shelter. Here this part of the fleet was driven on to the
rocks and wrecked; but the crews just managed to save themselves. As
for the other five ships, they were taken by winds and seas to
Egypt, where Menelaus gathered much gold and substance among people of
an alien speech. Meanwhile Aegisthus here at home plotted his evil
deed. For seven years after he had killed Agamemnon he ruled in
Mycene, and the people were obedient under him, but in the eighth year
Orestes came back from Athens to be his bane, and killed the
murderer of his father. Then he celebrated the funeral rites of his
mother and of false Aegisthus by a banquet to the people of Argos, and
on that very day Menelaus came home, with as much treasure as his
ships could carry.
"Take my advice then, and do not go travelling about for long so far
from home, nor leave your property with such dangerous people in
your house; they will eat up everything you have among them, and you
will have been on a fool's errand. Still, I should advise you by all
means to go and visit Menelaus, who has lately come off a voyage among
such distant peoples as no man could ever hope to get back from,
when the winds had once carried him so far out of his reckoning;
even birds cannot fly the distance in a twelvemonth, so vast and
terrible are the seas that they must cross. Go to him, therefore, by
sea, and take your own men with you; or if you would rather travel
by land you can have a chariot, you can have horses, and here are my
sons who can escort you to Lacedaemon where Menelaus lives. Beg of him
to speak the truth, and he will tell you no lies, for he is an
excellent person."
As he spoke the sun set and it came on dark, whereon Minerva said,
"Sir, all that you have said is well; now, however, order the
tongues of the victims to be cut, and mix wine that we may make
drink-offerings to Neptune, and the other immortals, and then go to
bed, for it is bed time. People should go away early and not keep late
hours at a religious festival."
Thus spoke the daughter of Jove, and they obeyed her saying. Men
servants poured water over the hands of the guests, while pages filled
the mixing-bowls with wine and water, and handed it round after giving
every man his drink-offering; then they threw the tongues of the
victims into the fire, and stood up to make their drink-offerings.
When they had made their offerings and had drunk each as much as he
was minded, Minerva and Telemachus were forgoing on board their
ship, but Nestor caught them up at once and stayed them.
"Heaven and the immortal gods," he exclaimed, "forbid that you
should leave my house to go on board of a ship. Do you think I am so
poor and short of clothes, or that I have so few cloaks and as to be
unable to find comfortable beds both for myself and for my guests? Let
me tell you I have store both of rugs and cloaks, and shall not permit
the son of my old friend Ulysses to camp down on the deck of a ship-
not while I live- nor yet will my sons after me, but they will keep
open house as have done."
Then Minerva answered, "Sir, you have spoken well, and it will be
much better that Telemachus should do as you have said; he, therefore,
shall return with you and sleep at your house, but I must go back to
give orders to my crew, and keep them in good heart. I am the only
older person among them; the rest are all young men of Telemachus' own
age, who have taken this voyage out of friendship; so I must return to
the ship and sleep there. Moreover to-morrow I must go to the
Cauconians where I have a large sum of money long owing to me. As
for Telemachus, now that he is your guest, send him to Lacedaemon in a
chariot, and let one of your sons go with him. Be pleased also to
provide him with your best and fleetest horses."
When she had thus spoken, she flew away in the form of an eagle, and
all marvelled as they beheld it. Nestor was astonished, and took
Telemachus by the hand. "My friend," said he, "I see that you are
going to be a great hero some day, since the gods wait upon you thus
while you are still so young. This can have been none other of those
who dwell in heaven than Jove's redoubtable daughter, the
Trito-born, who showed such favour towards your brave father among the
Argives." "Holy queen," he continued, "vouchsafe to send down thy
grace upon myself, my good wife, and my children. In return, I will
offer you in sacrifice a broad-browed heifer of a year old,
unbroken, and never yet brought by man under the yoke. I will gild her
horns, and will offer her up to you in sacrifice."
Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer. He then led the
way to his own house, followed by his sons and sons-in-law. When
they had got there and had taken their places on the benches and
seats, he mixed them a bowl of sweet wine that was eleven years old
when the housekeeper took the lid off the jar that held it. As he
mixed the wine, he prayed much and made drink-offerings to Minerva,
daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove. Then, when they had made their
drink-offerings and had drunk each as much as he was minded, the
others went home to bed each in his own abode; but Nestor put
Telemachus to sleep in the room that was over the gateway along with
Pisistratus, who was the only unmarried son now left him. As for
himself, he slept in an inner room of the house, with the queen his
wife by his side.
Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Nestor left his couch and took his seat on the benches of white and
polished marble that stood in front of his house. Here aforetime sat
Neleus, peer of gods in counsel, but he was now dead, and had gone
to the house of Hades; so Nestor sat in his seat, sceptre in hand,
as guardian of the public weal. His sons as they left their rooms
gathered round him, Echephron, Stratius, Perseus, Aretus, and
Thrasymedes; the sixth son was Pisistratus, and when Telemachus joined
them they made him sit with them. Nestor then addressed them.
"My sons," said he, "make haste to do as I shall bid you. I wish
first and foremost to propitiate the great goddess Minerva, who
manifested herself visibly to me during yesterday's festivities. Go,
then, one or other of you to the plain, tell the stockman to look me
out a heifer, and come on here with it at once. Another must go to
Telemachus's ship, and invite all the crew, leaving two men only in
charge of the vessel. Some one else will run and fetch Laerceus the
goldsmith to gild the horns of the heifer. The rest, stay all of you
where you are; tell the maids in the house to prepare an excellent
dinner, and to fetch seats, and logs of wood for a burnt offering.
Tell them also- to bring me some clear spring water."
On this they hurried off on their several errands. The heifer was
brought in from the plain, and Telemachus's crew came from the ship;
the goldsmith brought the anvil, hammer, and tongs, with which he
worked his gold, and Minerva herself came to the sacrifice. Nestor
gave out the gold, and the smith gilded the horns of the heifer that
the goddess might have pleasure in their beauty. Then Stratius and
Echephron brought her in by the horns; Aretus fetched water from the
house in a ewer that had a flower pattern on it, and in his other hand
he held a basket of barley meal; sturdy Thrasymedes stood by with a
sharp axe, ready to strike the heifer, while Perseus held a bucket.
Then Nestor began with washing his hands and sprinkling the barley
meal, and he offered many a prayer to Minerva as he threw a lock
from the heifer's head upon the fire.
When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley meal
Thrasymedes dealt his blow, and brought the heifer down with a
stroke that cut through the tendons at the base of her neck, whereon
the daughters and daughters-in-law of Nestor, and his venerable wife
Eurydice (she was eldest daughter to Clymenus) screamed with
delight. Then they lifted the heifer's head from off the ground, and
Pisistratus cut her throat. When she had done bleeding and was quite
dead, they cut her up. They cut out the thigh bones all in due course,
wrapped them round in two layers of fat, and set some pieces of raw
meat on the top of them; then Nestor laid them upon the wood fire
and poured wine over them, while the young men stood near him with
five-pronged spits in their hands. When the thighs were burned and
they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest of the meat up
small, put the pieces on the spits and toasted them over the fire.
Meanwhile lovely Polycaste, Nestor's youngest daughter, washed
Telemachus. When she had washed him and anointed him with oil, she
brought him a fair mantle and shirt, and he looked like a god as he
came from the bath and took his seat by the side of Nestor. When the
outer meats were done they drew them off the spits and sat down to
dinner where they were waited upon by some worthy henchmen, who kept
pouring them out their wine in cups of gold. As soon as they had had
had enough to eat and drink Nestor said, "Sons, put Telemachus's
horses to the chariot that he may start at once."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said, and yoked the
fleet horses to the chariot. The housekeeper packed them up a
provision of bread, wine, and sweetmeats fit for the sons of
princes. Then Telemachus got into the chariot, while Pisistratus
gathered up the reins and took his seat beside him. He lashed the
horses on and they flew forward nothing loth into the open country,
leaving the high citadel of Pylos behind them. All that day did they
travel, swaying the yoke upon their necks till the sun went down and
darkness was over all the land. Then they reached Pherae where Diocles
lived, who was son to Ortilochus and grandson to Alpheus. Here they
passed the night and Diocles entertained them hospitably. When the
child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn; appeared, they again yoked their
horses and drove out through the gateway under the echoing
gatehouse. Pisistratus lashed the horses on and they flew forward
nothing loth; presently they came to the corn lands Of the open
country, and in the course of time completed their journey, so well
did their steeds take them.
Now when the sun had set and darkness was over the land,

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The Manuscript of Saint Alexius

There came a child into the solemn hall
where great Pope Innocent sat throned and heard
angry disputings on Free-Will in man,
Grace, Purity, and the Pelagian creed--
an ignorantly bold poor child, who stood
shewing his rags before the Pope's own eyes,
and bade him come to shrive a beggar man
he found alone and dying in a shed,
who sent him for the Pope, "not any else
but the Pope's self." And Innocent arose
and hushed the mockers "Surely I will go:
servant of servants, I." So he went forth
to where the man lay sleeping into death,
and blessed him. Then, with a last spurt of life,
the dying man rose sitting, "Take," he said,
and placed a written scroll in the Pope's hand,
and so fell back and died. Thus said the scroll:

Alexius, meanest servant of the Lord,
son of Euphemianus, senator,
and of Aglaia, writes his history,
God willing it, which, if God so shall will,
shall be revealed when he is fallen asleep.
Spirit of Truth, Christ, and all saints of Heaven,
and Mary, perfect dove of guilelessness,
make his mind clear, that he write utter truth.

That which I was all know: that which I am
God knows, not I, if I stand near to Him
because I have not yielded, or, by curse
of recreant longings, am to Him a wretch
it needs Such grace to pardon: but I know
that one day soon I, dead, shall see His face
with that great pity on it which is ours
who love Him and have striven and then rest,
that I shall look on Him and be content.

For what I am, in my last days, to men,
'tis nothing; scarce a name, and even that
known to be not my own; a wayside wretch
battening upon a rich lord's charity
and praying, (some say like the hypocrites),
a wayside wretch who, harboured for a night,
is harboured still, and, idle on the alms,
prays day and night and night and day, and fears
lest, even praying, he should suddenly
undo his prayer and perish and be great
and rich and happy. Jesu, keep me Thine.

Father and mother, when ye hear of me,
(for I shall choose so sure a messenger
whom God will shew me), when ye hear these words,
and Claudia, whom I dead will dare count mine,
bidding her pray she be Christ's more than mine,
believe I loved you; know it; but, beloved,
you never will know how much till at length
God bids you know all things in the new life.
Alas, you have had little joy of me:
beloved, could I have given drops of blood
in place of your shed tears, the cruellest wounds
had been my perfect joys: but both my love
and your distress needs were my cross to bear.
Forgive me that you sorrowed. And be glad
because you sorrowed and your sorrow was
holy to God, a sacrifice to Him.

Know now, all men who read or hear my words,
that I, Alexius, lived in much delights
of a dear home where they who looked on me
looked with a smile, and where I did but smile
to earn sweet praises as for some good deed:
I was the sunlight to my mother's eyes,
that waked their deepest blueness and warm glow,
I was my father's joy, ambition, boast,
his hope and his fulfilment. It may be
I grew too strong a link betwixt their hearts
and this poor world whose best gifts seemed to them
destined for me, grew, when they looked on Heaven,
a blur upon their sight, too largely near,
as any trivial tiny shape held close
will make eclipse against the eye it fills:
and so, maybe. for their sake, not for mine,
God took me from them, me, their only son,
for whom they prayed, and trebled pious deeds,
and took thought in this life.

I grew by them,
learning all meet for my estate on earth,
but learning more, what they taught more, of God,
and loving most that learning. And at times,
even from childhood, would my heart grow still
and seem to feel Him, hear Him, and I knew,
but not with ears, a voice that spoke no words
yet called me. And, as ignorant children choose
"I will be emperor when I am big,"
my foolish wont was "I will be a saint:"
later, when riper sense brought humbleness,
I said "When I am grown a man, my lot
Shall be with those who vow their lives to Christ."

But, when my father thought my words took shape
of other than boy's prattle, he grew grave,
and answered me "Alexius, thou art young,
and canst not judge of duties; but know this
thine is to serve God, living in the world."

And still the days went on, and still I felt
the silent voice that called me: then I said
"My father, now I am no more a child,
and I can know my heart; give me to God:"
but he replied "God gives no son save thee
to keep our fathers' name alive, and thus
He shews thy place and duty:" and, with tears,
my mother said "God gives no child save thee;
make me not childless." And their words seemed God's
more than my heart's, theirs who had rule on me.

But still my longing grew, and still the voice:
and they both answered "Had God need of thee
to leave thy natural place none else can fill,
there would be signs which none could doubt, nor we
nor thou thyself." And I received that word;
knowing I doubted since they bade me doubt.

And still the days went on, and still the voice
and then my father said "The bride is chosen,
if thou wilt have her; if not, choose thyself."
And more and more I prayed "Give me to God:"
and more and more they urged "Whom gives He us
save thee to keep our name alive? whom else
to stay us from a desolate old age,
and give us children prattling at our knees?"
and more and more they answered "Shew to us
how He has called thee from thy certain path
where He has set thy feet?" Wherefore I said
"I will obey, and will so serve my God
as you have bidden me serve Him, honouring you:"
and they two blessed me, and we were agreed.

And afterwards Euphemianus laughed
"He asks not of the bride; but, boy, art pleased?
'tis thy fair playmate Claudia, fair and good."
I, who asked not because I nothing cared,
was glad in afterthinking: for the girl
lad been my playmate, and of later time
knew her beauty with familiar eyes
and no more feared it than I feared the grace
of useless goddesses perfect in stone,
lingering dishonoured in unholy nooks
where comes no worship more; so that I mused
"The damsel brings no perilous wedding gift
of amorous unknown fetters for my soul;
my soul shall still be spared me, consecrate,
virgin to God until the better days
when I may live the life alone with Him:"
so was I comforted.

But, in the hour
when all the rite was done and the new bride
come to her home, I sitting half apart,
my mother took her fondly by the hand
and drew her, lagging timidly, to me,
and spoke "Look up my daughter, look on him:
Alexius, shall I tell what I have guessed,
how this girl loves you?" Then she raised her head
a moment long, and looked: and I grew white,
and sank back sickly. For I suddenly
knew that I might know that which men call love.

And through the tedious feast my mind was torn
with reasonings and repentance. For I said
"But I may love her," and kept marshalling forth
such scriptures as should seem to grant it me:
then would an anguish hurl my fabric down,
while I discerned that he who has put hand
upon the plough must never turn again
to take the joyaunce granted easy lives.
And bye and bye I stole away and went,
half conscious, through the darkling garden groves,
amid the evening silence, till I came
to a small lonely chapel, little used,
left open by I know not what new chance,
where there was patterned out in polished stones
Peter denying Christ. I hastened in,
and threw me on the floor, and would have prayed;
but, in a rush of tears, I fell asleep.

And there I dreamed: meseemed the easy years
had slipped along, and I sat, pleased and proud,
among my ruddy children, and I held
my wife's smooth hand, who but so much had changed
as to grow fairer in her womanhood;
and, facing us, a carved and marble Christ
hung on a Cross and gazed with Its dumb eyes,
I looking on It: and I turned my head
to smile to Claudia, and then looked again;
behold Its right arm moved, and then was still,
And a low voice came forth "Alexius, come."

And I replied "Oh Lord I am content;
but lo my father."

Then my father stood,
meseemed, beside me, leading in his hand
a sturdy urchin, copy of himself,
and answered "Son, my ears do hear thee called;
and now I have this son of thine: go forth."

And once again the voice, "Alexius, come."

And I replied "My Lord, I am content;
but lo my mother."

Then my mother stood,
meseemed, beside me, and her arm was wound
round my wife's neck, and clinging to her skirt
a baby boy and girl that teased and played
and clamoured for her kisses: so she stood,
and answered "Son, my ears do hear thee called;
and now this daughter hast thou given me,
and now I have these babes of thine: go forth."

And louder then the voice, "Alexius, come."

And I replied "Dear Lord, I am content;
I come."

Then Claudia's hand grew tight in mine,
and I looked on her face and saw it so
as when my mother bade her look on me,
and I replied "Oh Lord I were content,
but lo my wife."

And still again the voice;
and still again her hand that drew mine back;
and I replied "My wife: I cannot come."

And still again the voice, "Alexius, come,"
loud and in wrath.

And I replied "My wife:
I will not come."

And with that word I woke.

I was in darkness, and the door was locked,
(doubtless while I, asleep or tranced, lay dumb
some one had sought me there and had not found,
and so had gone, unconscious, prisoning me);
I groped my way toward the altar steps,
and thanked my God, and prayed.

When morning broke
I heard without two voices, as it seemed
of holy pilgrims talking, and one said

"The youth Alexius surely has fled forth
to serve God safelier;" the other said
"Then doth he well; for now that better part
shall none take from him, he shall be all God's
and only God's, not father's, mother's, son's,
nor any fond fair woman's." Then they went.

But I was still there prisoned. Day moved on,
and brightened, and then waned, and darkness came,
broken by one white moonbeam, for an hour,
that seemed a promise, and, in that good hope,
I prayed, then slept.

But when morn grew again,
and no deliverance came, but frequent steps,
and voices passing, I grew scared with doubts
if, keeping silence, as from enemies,
and by my silence dying, I should be
self-murdered or God's martyr; and I thought
how, maybe, at the last my fainting voice
should vainly cry too late, and I should pass
with none to give God's comfort. But I thought
"If God wills even that, then let it be."

But when the noon sun glowed I heard a hand
touch at the door, and crouched me in a nook,
and scarce had crouched when Claudia passed by me
with slow steps to the altar: she prayed long;
praying, poor child, to have me given back,
claiming me back of Heaven, as if her right
could equal That right, crying out for me
by loving names, and weeping, that my heart
went out of me towards her, wondering,
and yearned for her. But God was pitiful,
so that I swerved not.

When I heard her vow
to pray there daily, I perceived through her
deliverance should come shortly: and I planned
to stand within the shadow the noon light
threw from a massive column by the door,
and, when she had passed in and hid her face,
get me forth softly.

But the flesh was weak,
and when I waked again the noon beams fell
full on the face of Peter where he wept
repenting; Claudia was already there.

I thought a moment should I not come forth,
and charge her let none know, and go my way;
but, did she give one startled sudden cry,
womanlike, I had been betrayed: and then
I feared her if she wept.

May God forgive
my weak heart then, my weak heart all my days,
which never has been so strong as not feel
always the fall at hand, but then so weak
that some few urgent tears and soft sad words
might, haply might, have bought me from my God.

So she went forth, unconscious: and I prayed
death should not come at night, with none at hand
to minister beside me, and in faith
I laid me down to wait what God should send.

And in a little while she came again,
and sought and found a gold and emerald pin,
(one of the gifts they made me give to her),
dropped from her loosened hair, then, kissing it,
passed out, and, for a moment long, forgot
to make the door fast, turned back to the task,
then, murmuring "Why? For it is better thus,
when whoso wills can enter in and pray,"
left it and went.

Then free, I made my vow
to live unknown, unhonoured, with no ties,
no certain home, no aims, no rights, no name,
an unregarded wanderer, whose steps,
by whichsoever road they passed, but passed
to travel nearer Heaven. And, for a sign,
I made a secret place and hid my ring
under the altar.

You will find it there:
at the right hand a cross upon an A
cut on the floor, so small you must look well,
and near it, at the altar-base, a crack
I found there in the chiselling, (just behind
a cherub's wing), is closed with dust and earth;
there lies the ring. Give it me mine again,
it and my name I take back for my grave,
as I take back my kinsfolk and my friends
to pray and mourn for me and give God thanks.

That done, I got me forth, and saw none nigh,
(the search near home being over, as it seemed),
and with my best poor speed I found a copse
whose green thick tangles hid me: there I lay
till the cool nightfall came and patient stars
watched Earth asleep, as if they prayed for her;
and other eyes saw not save theirs, and those
that look from Heaven, when I came sickly forth
and dragged my limp and failing limbs along.

I made my clothes in tatters; thus I went
and begged food at a convent for my life
that else were flickered out: so they gave food,
and they gave shelter: and at dawn I went,
while none who could have known had looked on me,
and, hastening on my journey, followed forth
my fellow-Roman Tiber's seaward strides,
and reached the port. There, as I since have learned,
Euphemianus had left men in wait
while he searched otherwhere: but God ruled all.

A little ship was just launched out to sea,
her heel still caught upon the grating beach,
the men were good and took the pilgrim in
who at the farewell moment called to them,
and, in what while I know not, but it seemed
as short as in a dream are days and years,
I saw my shores grown narrow purple clouds,
and then (for I write truth though shaming me)
I broke into such weeping that the men
felt whiteness in their cheeks, and, marvelling,
sent whispers to and fro, in doubt of me
lest witchcraft held me or my some deep crime
had set a curse demoniac; and they schemed
if they should put back to be rid of me,
but one said "Tush! the youth weeps for his home;
at his age, maybe, some of us could weep;
let him alone."

A rough and grizzled man,
who after, at the haven, came and clapped
a great hand on my shoulder, "Look, my boy,
you keep your secrets safer: for I heard
of a hot hunt after a great man's son,
and when I saw you weep ...... Well go your way,
my tongue shall earn no wages by its blab.
Maybe at your age I should have fled too,
if yoked against my will; but I am old
and preach go home again. Some say she's fair;
and a fair woman, love her or not love,
is a fair woman: but, or fair or foul,
be wise, young sir, be wise; never go starve
because your cake's not candied to your taste."
I said "Kind friend, I have no home to seek;
God gives me not a home till bye and bye,"
and left him. So my pilgrimage began.

But, oh vain heart of man! can this be true
which I remember, that I, plodding on,
whither I did not ask me, as God willed,
undoubting and ungrieving, yea, puffed up
to feel my heart was numb of all regret,
carrying upon my lips (as men will burr
a day long some persistent measured strain)
for refrain-catch "Now all and only God's,"
drew from my bosom, with my crucifix,
a withered crumpled weed, a clinging thing
that, green and dainty, new brushed from its root,
with one white flower-speck on it, trailed its sprays
athwart the purple hem of Claudia's veil
the last time in the chapel while she prayed;
it lay upon the floor when she was gone.
A worthless grass, what good was it to me?
and, lo, made fellow with my crucifix!
yet surely I had done it scarce aware,
for now I gazed on it so stupidly
as though a secret hand had placed it there
to set a riddle so, nor could recall
what thought I took it with. But see what snares
I fled from, flying Claudia; suddenly
the thing was at my lips, in such a kiss
as, maybe, lovers kiss on women's mouths,
in such a kiss howbeit as brought forth shame
almost in its own birth. I hurled the weed,
the viperous thing, into the battling surf
that dragged and sucked the booming shingles down,
lashing the beach before a coming storm;
I hurled it forth and went.

It seems to me,
looking back now, as if that made an end.
I think I had no temptings afterwards.

Natheless my grief was bitter many times
remembering home: but that I felt not sin,
because 'twas as a soul among the dead
might sorrow, never wishing to come back.
And Claudia was not of my memories:
scarcely at all: a stray bad dream at night
would bring her to me, make me dream I wept
because I might not love her, but not dream
that I did love; in daytime she came not.

Ten years I wandered: who cares know the whither?
a pilgrim and alone I trod my way,
no man regarding me. Alone with God:
whether in deserts or the throng of towns;
whether upon the mountain-tops, whence earth
shows sometimes so too exquisite for man
as though the devil had leave to fashion it
and cozen us with its beauty; or below,
where in the valleys one beholds the hills
grow nearer Heaven at sunset; or my ears
full of the hymn of waters, where the sea
breaks at one's feet among the rough brown rocks;
whether in pain, in weariness, in fear,
or, thankful, taking comfortable rest;
always alone with God.

So for ten years:
and in the later of them I had peace:
so for ten years, and then, by what degrees
I know not, (for the stupor crept like sleep,
slowly yet sudden on one at the last),
my peace became a blankness. And one day
I sought to rouse me, questioning "Where is God?"
and could not weep because I found him not,
yea, could not rouse me. And my prayers were words,
like trite goodmorrows when two gossips meet
and never look for answers; and my praise
was rounded like the song the poet makes
to one who never lived for him to love.
I was my Pharisee to cheat myself
and make myself believe me that God's friend
I had forgotten what it felt to be.

So, when I saw this plainly, I took thought,
pondering how it should be that when I pined
for thirst of human love I loved God more
and felt His love more near me than when now
my heart was swept and garnished, void for Him:
at last I saw my need of quickening pain
to stir the sluggish soul awake in me,
and knew I offered nothing to my Lord,
offering Him that it cost me nought to give;
what good to turn to Him, "Lord I leave all,"
if all be noway precious?

I arose
and set my face to Rome, making all haste.

On the forty-seventh day I saw the sun
droop to the hills behind my father's house,
and lo, while I toiled up the rude ascent,
our last slope of the Aventine, there came,
riding apart and grave, from the far side,
Euphemianus. When he reached the gate
he entered not, but seemed to point me out
to the servitors that followed with his hawks,
and watched me coming upwards painfully.
And when he saw me footsore and so spent
he had compassion: ere my prayer was done,
"Food, my good lord, and rest, for charity,"
he bade them take me in.

Six years ago:
and now I die here. No one bade depart;
they gave me daily scraps, and let me live
in the shed for harbouring squalid wanderers
that sleep a night, and take their alms, and go.

None knew me; who should know me? Gone away,
past ten years since, a comely petted boy,
and now a half decrepit sickly wretch,
a lean and shrivelled carcase, the ten years
writ twenty on my leathery wrinkled face,
how was I their Alexius? Nay, they looked
and saw the stranger in the beggar's shed
they called, for want of name, Old Lazarus.

In the beggar's shed with God: with God again!
Oh exquisite pain that brought so exquisite joy!
even by instant peril to be lost
lo I was saved. Oh blessed exquisite pain!
my heart awoke, for anguish, and felt God.

I saw my father pass out and pass in;
sometimes he noted me and spoke a word
or looked a careless greeting, oftenest not;
I saw him daily, and I learned his face
how stern long sorrow made it and how still,
and, when some days he could not make a smile,
I heard the servants whisper "Do you see?
this is his lost son's birthday," or "the day
his son fled forth," or else "his baptism,"
"confirming," "going to school," all such home dates
as parents count who watch their children grow:
and he was changed, they said, cared not to see
friends' faces greeting him, nor join in talk,
but would be solitary; changed, they said,
since that strange losing of his only child.
My mother I saw not in the first days,
for she came never forth, but sat and slept,
and wakened querulous, and slept again.
And Claudia tended her: I had not thought
to find her here; I looked she'd count me dead
and marry her, ('tis known what women are),
and was all startled when I saw her first:
but only for the strangeness, after that
she was no more to me than I to her,
she might have smiled to me, or in my sight,
that dangerous smile and I be no more moved
than if a babe had laughed as I passed by.

Then a day came, a still and sultry day
when one might take count of each leaf that stirred
and think the one shrill grasshopper too loud,
my mother waked and heard a hymn I sang,
and took a whim to have the singer brought:
only a whim, belike, for could my voice
bring back the stripling's voice she had thought sweet?
they fetched me, I stood by her: ah my mother!
and she so changed! nothing of her old self;
the goodliness, the sweetness, the delight,
gone, waned out from her, as the light of day
was waning from her eyes long dulled by tears.
Ah, could I but have clung about her feet,
crying out "Mother, take thy son again!"
But yet for her it would have been too late.

She talked to me, inconsequent grave talk
like children's, whispered after when I prayed,
and made me sing her hymns, so was content
longer than was her wont, then bade me go
and come again to-morrow: ever since
she calls me every day.

And every day
is Claudia there. More than two thousand days,
and every day I look on Claudia's face
grown wistful and more sweet, and every day
behold her patience, hear her wise grave words,
and better know her all she is.

What then?
Have I not striven? have I not prevailed?

And now death is at hand: some few days more
and I shall lay me down and be at rest.
There will be no farewell at last, I think;'
they will not know of me that I lie sick
and pass away; and, even if they knew,
why should they come to close my dying eyes?
the beggar Lazarus can die alone,
as he has lived alone. My mother, though,
will lack me, ask for me, Claudia will send
to bid me hasten, then the word will come
"He died this morning," and she will not weep
but say "Poor wretch: God rest the parted soul,"
and turn to soothe my mother with some wile
to make her never miss me: and may be
Euphemianus will not hear the news,
or will not note it if he ever hears.
So I shall lie in the grave and they not care,
but wait for lost Alexius to come home,
and mourn for him, half hating him for their grief.

Give me fruit, give me fruit, oh Christ give my earned fruit,
for all my sufferings: I have mine for me,
but I claim theirs, give fruit for them I smote.

Have I written wildly? I will cancel nought.
for I have written looking death in face,
thinking God bade me write: and words come so
must stand untouched. But surely this much grace
my Lord hath given me, that they shall know.

Behold, I make this paper, being forced
as by the Spirit, and it comes on me
that God doth choose his highest in the world
to be the beggar's messenger: he first,
and I the last, so thereto he is called;
servant of servants. This, which I have witten,
do I entrust to him, my testament:
some shall learn patience from it and to do
what God bids and not doubt; for all is good,
all happy, if it be to do His will,
the suffering ye may guess, but not the bliss
till ye have tasted it.

And I desire
that, having scanned the scroll, he shall, or then
or later, as seems to his wisdom wise,
deliver all its words to them and her,
my father and my mother and my wife,
(lo, this once in my life I call her so).
I pray Thee, Lord, give the poor words the power
to comfort them and strengthen; and, I pray,
give the words power to strengthen and stir souls
which hear Thee call and pause to count with Thee.

And now, oh Lord, let earth be dim to me,
and Heaven come near mine eyes: the time is short,
and I am fain for thee. Lord Jesus come.

Now, when Pope Innocent had read the scroll,
he bade one with him enter in the house
and call the lord Euphemianus thither,
and Claudia, and Aglaia. So they came,
Aglaia feebly leaning on the two,
and questioning them who knew not; so they came;
and the Pope pointed them to the dead man,
"Behold, for this is one whom you should know."
Euphemianus gazed and was perplexed:
and the poor purblind mother gazed and peered,
"Old Lazarus? no, yes, old Lazarus;
asleep or dead? Why is it? is he dead?"
but Claudia answered softly "Yes I know;
I knew it;" and then, suddenly, borne down
by one strong gust of passion, flung herself
beside the corpse, her head upon its breast,
her arms clasped straining round it, weeping out.
And Innocent answered the father's eyes,
"This was Alexius, thy long lost son."
But yet the father, stricken dumb, looked doubt:
Aglaia cried "My boy, where is he then?"
and fretfully "This is old Lazarus:
where is my boy? show me Alexius."

Then Innocent bade peace, and read the scroll:
Euphemianus, with his face hid down
between his hands, listened and never stirred;
and Claudia listened, weeping silently;
but Aglaia whispered always "Is it true?
is the tale of Lazarus or of my boy?
I cannot understand." And, when 'twas read,
Euphemianus gazed upon his son,
"Yet did he well?" he said "he was our son,
he was her husband: how could it be well?
for look upon his mother, what she is."
But Claudia rose up tearless, and replied
"Alexius did all well: he knew God called:"
and Innocent, not tearless, raised his hand
and spoke "She answers wisely: he obeyed;
he knew, being a very saint of God:
let us bless God for him." And they all knelt.
But still Aglaia could not understand.

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