I Feel The Thorns Of The Rose Making Inkwells Of My Eyes
I feel the thorns of the rose making inkwells of my eyes.
It's me that hurts. But without meaning to,
I'm bleeding for everyone. A watershed of blood and tears.
A reservoir of pain. Not all my own, I drink
before anyone like a hummingbird, or a canary in the mine,
to make sure it isn't toxic. No goat skull in a well
of rotten water. No blood on the horns of the moon.
What a disgrace it is to be a human sometimes.
What a sorrow when your heart wobbles like a drunk bell
and there are perturbations and precessions in your orbit
it's hard to explain except as the flawed configuration of a dream
with your waking life, though they're both just two waves
of the same sea of awareness, feathers and scales.
Oxymoronic maple keys vertiginous as Sufis
at the crossroads of everywhere and here. My heart
is a bone-box full of elegies for Arctic swans
shrinking like ice-bergs from global warming.
And I'm not as mindless in love as I should be,
though a muse is still pure oxygen distilled
from a thousand undiscovered plants in the Amazon
as beguiling as the ghosts of the fragrances
along the Perfume Trail. And sometimes, I swear,
I can smell the weeping of wild blackberries
eclipsed by the shadows of voracious crows
pecking out their eyes like dark jewels
in a crown of thorns. And there's a feeling
with too low a frequency for words like the afterbirth
of an orphaned universe that resonates within me
like the poignancy of the embrace of one
of the saddest graces of compassion limning its tears
with a star's worth of beauty glowing through the clouds.
And goodness arises within me like a loaf of bread
left out to cool on an August windowsill, and I'd
break it into as many pieces as my heart to share it
if only for one instant, with the hungry and the suffering
as I've heard several people did inconceivably even in Auschwitz,
just to make things better a little bit, if I could,
though I feel like fog trying to put out a forest fire,
knowing among the selfish and indifferent,
a gift is a kind of minority protest
that you have to keep an eye on before it gets out of hand.
Reality's just a truce people make with the way things seem
and what they don't understand, a consensus
of poll-watching dilettantes who average out the crucials
in advance of random happenstance. Perhaps.
Reality can be any kind of copulative verb it wants,
The chimerical fire is whatever you imagine it to be,
but what it does, whether you agree or disagree,
is what moves me to underground rivers of tears
that flare up like the pale fountains and grails of the morning glory
to want to put it out, snuff it like a black candle,
or smother it in a pillow of its own smoke.
To die, yes, the wildflowers can do that better than us,
and the animals enter death as if they were observing
the protocol of an instinctive nobility greater than ours
but to die, to suffer and die inexplicably, to see
the labour of billions of light years of stars, enduring
extinction after extinction to express their shining in us
as if we were the content of the message
they sent on ahead of themselves and we can read
so much so intimately like the ancestry of the universe into it
like a child's eyes, or the luster of a lover's hair
in a moonrise, or the second innocence of an old man
who smiled upon us because he knew he was younger
than we were, and the return journey
was better than the first because from cradle to grave,
he knew the beginning walks with us all the way
like a star through the leafless trees
that's following us home at night down
one long, shapeshifting road of shadows and dreams
to one particular gateless gate that unlocks us from our chains.
To die in ignorance of why, though we guess convincingly.
To love deeply and see what we've cared for,
unspared and squandered as if time had no more use for it
and there was nothing rare or precious that wasn't rendered
more fatally vulnerable than a bubble in a world of thorns
for the cherishing of it. In the brevity of our becoming
who could ever claim they were who
they were supposed to be in the eyes of the mystery
of what we're doing here in the first place
trying to wake up in time to find out why we doubt
our own presence sufficiently to labour a lifetime
to love the unknown well enough like a stranger in passing
we've never met, to enlighten our disappearance?
What doorways of farewell must linger in us yet
for all the graves we've already filled
with everything we've ever loved, autumn after autumn,
like wild grapes or a waterclock of hearts,
each trying to fill another's bucket of emptiness
with the rush of their own blood
like the emergency exit out of a burning theater
featuring a seasonal re-run of the lies
we tell ourselves in the dark to make it through another night?
Yet here we are, like it or not. Unborn. Unperishing.
Delivered and flawed. Mortality longing for eternity
like a darkness it's already the ore of waiting to be refined
like stars emerging in the night, flowers
from the starmud of the earth and though
we have unbelievable conceptions of ourselves
that are capable of breathing in the light
of mystic atmospheres one planet isn't enough to cling to,
most of us still candle back to the earth we arose from
like weather balloons with the tail of a comet between our legs.
As a playwright looking back in anger once said.
Poor bears. Poor squirrels. Compassion kisses the burn.
We get lost in ourselves looking for the grails of better days.
The secret's out in the open which is the best place to hide,
if you had a mind to, in this spiritual lost and found.
Now you see it. Now you don't. It sees you.
And you draw the blind. But the sunflowers
turn with the sun, and the waterbirds wait for the moonrise
and in the autumn of our lives, the flowers are extinguished
like the blue fires of the wild irises along the Tay River,
and there's a scent of smoke in the air
that makes your soul weep for the evanescence of life
and how there's even a palpable beauty in the passage
of the fallen leaves among our gravestones
that's always a prelude to the great unknowns ahead
that can't shake the habit of haunting us like a ghost
from the future, summoned to this seance of now
by a mind reader channelling the wavelengths of the stars
light years before either they or we will even know we're dead.
- quotes about writers
- quotes about seasons
- quotes about autumn
- quotes about sadness
- quotes about peace
- quotes about genealogy
- quotes about squirrels
- quotes about death
- quotes about comets
Eyes In The Shadows, In Blood, In Space
Eyes in the shadows, in blood, in space, incubating the light
that has yet to be born, wild asters in the deflowered fields of death,
and the return of the living out of the eyeless abyss, delinquent,
and a redness in the air of this September night,
saturating it like a deep wound it holds under its breath,
a black rose, a fossilized thorn that no longer grows old,
memories fixed like crucified bats to the sticky brown stars
of the fanatical burdock trying to wear me like a starmap
as if every day of my life has felt like the approach of autumn
watching the constellations turn like the pages of a calendar,
a waterclock of new moons flowing like dark matter,
sundials at midnight encircling me like shark fins
slashing the water like sabres with surgical precision
and their eyes, oblivion, a focus of shadows, perennial night
after a supernova of dismemberment, dehumanizing horrors
in a hydrodynamic abattoir. Spirits of old root fires
smelling of pine and cedar at large in the dark like hunting magic.
And the clouds a wolf pack of shapeshifters among the stars,
the exhilaration of spiritual wariness out in the woods alone at night
where it's unwise to trust anything too beautiful at first sight,
and a sudden flash of inspired self-destructive courage
to do just that in protest of the abuse of beauty as a Venus fly trap.
But it's not hard to tell a real muse from a false one
because a real muse never wastes her passion on the sane,
and if there isn't an occult side to a poet who works his madness
like a medium in the dark he had to sacrifice his eyes to see
beyond the visuals of the retinas and the cameras
with lizard eyelids that blink like guillotines, into
these visionary realms where galaxies are shed
like the feathers of migrating swans, gravity's gone,
and if you want to go up, you've got to go up without a parachute on.
Mystic physics. The illogic of the heart delighting
in the absurdity of itself just because it can and you can hear
a sword master of black Zen singing his heart out in a brothel:
A good heretic never disciplines his disobedience.
The brutal moon offers me the cup of my own skull
and says drink, and I know it's death to hesitate
because you lose control of everything in the moment
if you do, so I drink it like an elixir of dark tears
from the eye of the shark in eclipse, and I peer
into the black mirror of a midnight lake to see
if I'm still alive or dead, and the mirror breaks
like the unleavened bread of a gnostic gospel in my hands,
wholly enraptured by a spell I wasn't ready to wake up from,
and I can feel the lustrous radiance of a light
so inconceivably darker than the one I go by
like a shadow of that, the ferocity of the clarity
immolates my heart with a terrible joy
in a prophetic furnace of hot diamonds
that howl like the insights of a firestorm of dragons in extasis
breaking out of their cosmic shells like stars out of the void
shining out of the dark heart of things within
like eyes seasoned by compassion
for the low hanging bells and fruits of the earth
trying to express the infinite solitude between birth and death
where we walk alone together forever with everyone
and everything, like pilgrims sleepwalking
in the unattainable dream that animates us all
to keep on divining the inspired limitations of the impossible.
- quotes about migrants
- quotes about divine
- quotes about red
- quotes about heresy
- quotes about parachuting
- quotes about cameras
- quotes about Moon
- quotes about physics
Even When Life Sometimes Seems Like A Black Hole
for Rebekah Genevieve-Dolorese Garland
Even when life sometimes seems like a black hole,
a dark furnace full of the ashes of burnt roses,
it shapes the galaxies into sunflowers and starfish
and it's whirling with stars like a Sufi in rapture.
All my life I've tried so hard not to be afraid of my joy
and at home with my grief like a comfortable chair
that was beginning to take on the same airs as my body.
A holy war of one, carrying the true cross of the sixties
I thought was worth fighting for even long after
I realized I was doomed to dancing to the music
for the rest of the duration. And it's been as true
as Jim Morrison living the afterlife of Arthur Rimbaud
in deserts so desolate even the stars were shy of the darkness.
And I have wept bitterly as the moon went down
like a toxic goat skull into the only wishing well
for light years around, and it seemed, and it's
still dangerous to remember because time doesn't blunt all knives,
I was witnessing an ideological madness, that had
mineralized all the best ideals into fossils, froth
like rabies at its own hydrophobic reflection.
Biting at its own wounds in vengeance upon itself
for the way the water tasted polluted and there was acid rain
in the wavelengths of its tears more venomous than a recluse spider.
I saw how people brought armfuls of poppies and wheat
to lay down on the stairs of the temple in tribute and love
like a sacrifice from the heart they gentled down
upon the grave of a loved one that had died too young
and hoped would return the blood they were missing
as a sign that the roses were mending their severed petals
like eyelids being stitched back by the very thorn
that had made them bleed in the first place.
In a schizzy world, whatever you sacrifice like a lapwing
sooner or later, because everything tends toward its opposite
like twins that weren't anymore separated at birth
than the first and last crescents of the moon,
engenders in the nest of cosmic eggs it's dying to protect
farce and desecration that tar and feather it like an eclipse.
But every once in awhile that comes as often as now,
you meet someone inconceivably shining
in her solitude like light through a mysterious jewel
into one of the sacred weeping pools of the mindstream
and the moon silvers your heart like a sword
you were about to fall upon to save your face the trouble
and you take the hilt and the blade in both your hands
like an autumn equinox that's just bumped into spring
wandering off the beaten path to tend her lunar garden
and you lay it on the waters because choice isn't an option
like the flightfeather of the other wing of the bird
that can't take the measure of the immeasurable wingspan
of these event horizons, transits, zeniths and thresholds
I'm crossing with you like Leo and Virgo
across a heartscape of enlightened taboos
that have been singing to me all these years from a dark wood
like a lucid wavelength hidden in the ore of a particle
that only seemed so when you looked at it from afar,
that drew the sword out of the stone, the star
out of the darkness, the waterlily out of the marsh,
the heart of someone like you out of the nightsky
like a meteor with a panspermic rosary of life at its core
falling on the Fertile Crescent of a habitable planet,
or a whole new universe, with a punk version
of the Garden of Eden where the birds are all listening
to the Ramones, and Eve is raving with Adam in a mosh pit
teeming with infinite permutations and combinations
of love and life, of colour, poetry, light, energy, joy and devotion,
as if we'd both disembarked from these empty lifeboats of the heart
on the shores of this thriving island of stars
where the Milky Way meets the ocean
and all the constellations that travelled this Road of Ghosts
like the long, dark, strange radiant trip it's been
wash the deathmasks off their faces like old myths of origin
from the starcharts of our comets and scars
that have me smiling at you in wonder like this
as if my third eye had just shed its last telescope like a cataract
and I were the mesmerized gaping witness
to the first moonrise of an avatar of dark bliss
studded with the eyes of Isis raising new pyramids
in a desert of stars, as light as feathers, as light
as the crucibles, chrysales and cocoons of the nebulae giving birth
to these poems that break into butterflies of light,
fireflies and dragons that roar like supernovas
across the firmament, waking the valley up
to the morning of a whole new creation
as I firewalk along these oceanic shores with you
like two constellations when their myriad plinths and petals open
and one flower blooms like a bird with two wings
and sings because this universe isn't the shape of an hourglass
with dry oases and creekbeds dreaming
of solar flares behind the mystic veils
of flashfloods of the heart long over overdue,
but in every illuminated detail of the form you've taken
to enter my life, my love, my art, is a perfect likeness of you
that I am created again and again in the image of,
standing in the doorway of this stargate to love
without your metaphors on, so that after all these light years
of looking for you like a star through the eye of a needle
that felt it had seen enough to know when to turn around and go
a firefly like you out of the midnight blue
suddenly comes into view and ignites the air around me like the aura
of a inflammable passion without a fire extinquisher
to put it out because, at long last, as it is above so it is below.
And whether you drink it long and slow, or deep and fast,
or sip like a humming bird from your own skull
there's an oasis at the bottom of the hourglass
that's greening the sands like the grail of a woman
passing it to you like the love potion
of a water sylph of practising astronomical witchcraft,
standing by her well like Circe on her island on the moon
turning a man like a vapour of longing in a desiccated wasteland
into the full-blooded ocean of the black rose she holds
like the sidereal high tide of my life and my love in her hand
as the birds are singing in the roots of dark matter
like the loveletters of a punk band to the psychedelic sixties
and all the trippy, heavy metal flying fish
are swimming like cults of urgent stars
through the thorns and the crowns of the blossoming locust trees.
Midnight Radio (feat. The Minus 5)
Rain falls hard
Or a song
That hits you so hard
Filling you up
And suddenly gone
Breath Feel Love
Know in you soul
Like your blood knows the way
From you heart to your brain
Know that you're whole
And you're shining
Like the brightest star
On the midnight radio
And you're spinning
Like a 45
Dancing to your rock and roll
Here's to Patti
And all the strange rock and rollers
You know you're doing all right
So hold on to each other
You gotta hold on tonight
And you're shining
Like the brightest stars
On the midnight radio
And you're spinning
Your new 45's
All the misfits and the losers
Yeah, you know you're rock and rollers
Spinning to your rock and roll
Hold Onto Your Dream
You always felt you had a destiny (yeah)
You wouldnt bow down to the gods
Of money and power, baby
You burned bright to shed your light all over the world
You had a plan and it was just a matter of time now
Here today, what happened to that dream
Dont tell me its over
I still smell the fire
Stand up and hold on to your dream
Maybe this is your moment
Stand up and hold on to your dream
You know no one can take it
There is a path its always been yours
And you have the right of passage
Signed in blood and sealed in tears
Sending you a message
Across the miles and thru the years
Stand up (and be there) and hold on to your dream
With some faith and conviction (some faith and conviction)
Take a good look, you dont like what you see, (no)
You just dont come this far and never get scarred, baby
It all seemed like fate
The big dreams werent hard to make way back then
Something pure about that suffer for art, passion and pain
What happened to those dreams
Dont tell me theyre over
While your heart is still beating
Stand up and hold on to your dream
Maybe this is your moment
Stand up and hold on to your dream
You know no one can take it
There is a path its always been yours
And you have the right of passage
Signed in blood and sealed in tears
Sending you a message
Across the miles and thru the years
Stand up (and be there) and hold on to your dream
With some faith and conviction (some faith and conviction)
Something Said Softly
Something said softly in the night
like a tendril on a windowsill
tasting the moon, a whisper, a word
that walked in the light without
abandoning its shadow,
a phrase with wet wings
dreaming itself out of its chrysalis
not knowing whether it's a leaf or a dragonfly
until the whole tree wakes up beside it,
something sought but rarely said
saturated with the meaningless life of meaning
that could touch space like flesh
and make it feel the thrill of new eyes
running down its arm like tears.
And it's not that I want
to unsay the night or God
to define myself as a human,
and it's of little moment to me,
seed on the wind,
what worlds are born of my words,
what ends, what begins,
what comes of what I cannot say,
but I want to say something
with the savour of time in it
that's worth living for a little more each day
like a small tree rooted like a thought
in a crevasse of eternity,
greening the moon.
Late at night, in the darkness,
while the silence is off preserving something,
and all I can hear is your breath
off in the distance like an ocean,
I want to unpack my vagrant heart
like a patched guitar-case,
a grave-robber in a pyramid,
and attune my afterlife
to the key of this one
in such a way
I can play like a new star in Orion
to all the sad, beautiful fireflies of the moment
that hover over us like living constellations of our own
not bound to any paradigm of light
that can only be touched by a mountain of stone.
I want to paint something
that feels like the flower
that just brushed against your hand,
I want to be inspired by the mystic blue of midnight
like window glass fired in the kiln of a star
that has looked upon the suffering of humans for so long,
their atrocities and deprivations,
their terrors and wrecked joys,
compassion has turned it into an eye so clear
you can sip water from it like tears
that taste of the history of blood and wine
that danced alone like a vine at its own wedding
with a bride of rain that unveiled herself
like falling chandeliers.
Unfailingly, absurdly, obsessively human
in the shadow of thundering magnitudes
that feel like the extinctions of gods
that time has wheeled out
to the enormity of the gravepit
that limes every abyss of the heart
with the stars of a new universe,
I want to add one candle to the shining
in a folly of insight so illuminating
even the earliest galaxies
forever entering the darkness
on the threshold of their first shedding
could see it, something
so profoundly vernal and intimate
even I can believe in it.
Perpetual Dream Of Life
How few shall ever know
dreams as dreamed
by inspired Edgar Alan Poe.
Edgar Allan Poe dreamed
great poetic dreams
and spun them
into poems which may
intrigue or sadden us,
some of these poems
attain haunting resonance
within the mind,
his poems are dreams
perpetual dream of life.
Dream Of Life
C. mcrea / l. henderson
My life was empty when you went away
Even the blue skies above had turned gray
E3ut now that youve come back
My dream of life is here to stay
Those little quarrels that tore us apart
Oh, gee, I can see
They were wrong from the start
But now that youve come back
My dream of life is here to stay
Written by c. jackson & marvin yancy
I get a thrill, I get a chill when you touch me
A thrill I cant ignore, keeps me coming back for more
Every time you touch me
You know my body is weak for you
Oh yes it is (oh yes it is)
And right now, right now if you touch me, baby
Itll do tricks for you, so come on, baby
(touch me one more time) oh, ooh
(way you did, when you did it last night) oh, baby
Sweet daddy, sweet sugar daddy
(touch me one more time)
Oh, yeah (way you did, when you did it last night)
Oh, oh, yeah (touch me one more time) well
(way you did, when you did it last night)
Thats all I want you to do for me, uhm
cause I know everythings gonna be alright
cause it always is when you
(touch me, touch me, touch me)
Ooh, uhm, I can feel the sun in my eyes
And I dont ever come alive until you
(touch me, touch me, touch me)
No, no, no, hoo, oh--
You know my heart is forever yours, baby
Oh, yes it is (ooh, yes it is)
It means now, and it will be tomorrow and forevermore, oh
(touch me one more time) oh
(the way you did, when you did it last night)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Oh, oh (touch me one more time)
I dare, I dare you to touch me, baby
(way you did, when you did it last night)
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
(touch me one more time)
Yeah, ooh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
(way you did, when you did it last night)
Ah, ooh, oh -- you know my heart is forever yours, baby,
And it always is (oh) and it means now
Itll be tomorrow and forevermore
(touch me one more time) oh (way you did) oh, oh
(when you did it last night)
Touch me, touch me, baby, wont you
(touch me one more time) yeah
(way you did) yeah (when you did it last night)
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh (touch me one more time)
In the morning (way you did, way you did it last
Night) oh, in the evening time too, yeah
(touch me one more time) oh, ha, oh, ha (way you did)
Ha, ha, oh, oh (way you did it last night)
Keep touching me, baby, baby, yeah
(touch me one more time) oh, oh, oh, oh (way you did)
Sing it sweet daddy (when you did it last night)
Oh, sweet, sweet, daddy, my, my
Hoo, hoo, ah--
Hoo, hoo--, hoo, ah
(get your love in mind) ooh, ooh, ooh
(get your love in mind, sweet baby)
Cant you feel the need in me, baby
(get your love in mind) oh (get your love in mind, sweet baby)
Cant you feel the need (sweet baby)
Cant you feel the need in me, oh, oh, oh
(get your love in mind) feel the need
(get your love in mind, sweet baby)
Oh, baby, baby, yeah (get your love in mind)
Feel the need (get your love in mind, sweet baby)
Oh, in me
This The Closed Chapter Of Their Premature Ended Lives
Yonder petite Lady Curvaceous Curves
Is the best thing to have dangled the dry
Hips in the gray colored streets of the less
Remembered condom strewn parts of this town
Your eyes light up immediately and your spirit
Is filled with the nightmares of hope when you
Hear the jazzy rattle of the trombone of her bones
Her very presence lights up the dormant fires
Of impassioned desire in the loins of the rat
Toothed men who must be paid even if they have
Gone on strike and left the cement in the
Wheelbarrow next to the savaged corpse of Ben
life is the oldest eternity of gloom
Follow me to the mountains
The fish eagle is feasting in tears
The vulture has not run out of meat since the
Beginning of this season of lust and death that
Is why the air you breath smells like burnt pork
Close the door.The putrid smell of death is too
Much dear.This is why the Zen doctor says we must
Laugh earnestly and often for the sake of our souls
Every birth is a mistake that must not happen
After the slow flowing water has been drunk dry the
Unquenchable dry boned ghosts of the parched desert
And the bones of those who died of the man made thirst
Over the hills where the grannies cannibalize their
Grand children you can observe with your over sized
Eye the picturesque lazy downward spiraling meandering
Torrent of my blood where it waters the land of the dead
For the prise of every breath you waste life
Becomes harder and harder
Your heart must be baptized in the gray ashes of
The lime stones and for a fee the ghost of thy father
Will not hesitate to tell you the date of your death and
When the worm is bloated with the puss of the corpses and
Thus blessed you must raise your hands heavenward and
With the tears streaming from your fuming nostrils you
Must bow graciously and thank the dealers in human
Sorrow for their blood waters the heart's battle fields
Do not enter the holy of holies of this mansion
The dead must be treated with disdainful disrespect
After the explosion the flames engulfed the bandits
Who fleece the orphans of the scourge of AIDS
You can say with the grudging congratulations that they
Met death with fire and death returned fire with fire
life is so meaningless Josephina
With religious fervor I count the number of the dead
They stare at me through the lenses of their dead eye lashes
I must not feel sorry for them as they died by the hand
Of their own careless desires and overt miscalculations
The spirit of total detachment fuels my love for my friends
I adore the young girls who die in the flour of their youth
I am the ordained mourner here's my card to prove it
And the rigors of my faith demands that I abstain from
Touching the flesh of their sons that have many gun shot
Wounds and gaping knife wounds and the burden of my calling
And the threat of the with holding of my salary demands
That I sacrifice a gallon of my blood
Life is not worth living Josephina
If von Trotha massacres the whole nation of Hereros
And starves the rest of the dying survivors in the Namib
That is no holocaust because the blacks are semi humans
If the well financed media spreads the suffering of
The persecutors of the Palestinians theirs is a holocaust
To be made into the block buster movies
To be forced down the throats of every child
Life is the eternity of lies
The lie you believe is your history
Sonnet: I Muse Over
At whiles (yea oftentimes) I muse over
The quality of anguish that is mine
Through Love: then pity makes my voice to pine
Saying, 'Is any else thus, anywhere?'
Love smileth me, whose strength is ill to bear;
So that of all my life is left no sigh
Except one thought; and that, because 'tis thine,
Leaves not the body but abideth there.
And then if I, whom other aid forsook,
Would aid myself, and innocent of art
Would fain have sight of thee as a last hope,
No sooner do I lift mine eyes to look
Than the blood seems as shaken from my heart,
And all my pulses beat at once and stop.
Maurice white, al mckay & philip bailey
Heavenly sunshine, only you can stop the rain
Pouring in my heart, causing tears of pain.
All of your feelin, seems to make me glow
Like beautiful sunshine, that makes the flowers grow.
Youre my sunshine, loving you is my dream
When Im with you, I hear bluebells ring
And the beauty, only you can bring
Keep me smiling, my hearts filing away
Memories of a life with you
Take me with you, Im the one whos
Gonna lift you, to your shining star.
You are my light, when dark days do appear
Bringing me sunshine
My heart has no more fear,
Birds in the air, they even sing your name
Spreading loves rainbow--an everlasting flame.
Place Where Light Is
In these cold rainy nights,
In these streets, in these dreams
I'll walk in my solitude
To a place where light is.
Do not ask who I am,
Do not ask where I go-
I've lost all direction,
Yet I always knew this-
I'll find my way back
To a place where light is.
No, it can't be that far-
I've walked many miles,
I've seen it in a smile
Of a girl like a breeze-
I'll find my way back
To a place where light is.
I've been walking in darkness
Of frozen minds,
I saw hearts that were numb
And eyes that were blind,
I saw tears and pain,
War and disease,
But I just kept on walking
To a place where light is.
Yes, I know it's near,
By those mulberry trees
And those valleys of daffodils,
Where the hummingbirds sing,
Where my love rests in waiting
With a smile like a breeze-
Yes, I'll find my way back
To a place where light is.
Water From The Moon
I've looked everywhere I can
Just to find a clue
Oh to get to you
And make you want me
And I've run circles around the sun
Chasin' after you
Oh but it's no use
Can't you see that I'm going out of my mind
Trying to find a way to get through to you
Oh you don't know how hard I try
And I try and I try
What do I gotta do
Do I gotta get water from the moon
What do I gotta do
To make you love me
Do I gotta turn the sand into the sea
Is that what you want from me
I've done everything that I can do
But get water from the moon
I've reached high up in the sky
Tryin' to steal the stars
Oh to win your heart
But even that's not enough
And I've searched every book I know
Just to find the words
Oh to touch your world and get some love out of you
I've already given all I can give
And I don't know what's left to try
And I try and I try
What do I gotta do
Do I gotta get water from the moon
Though I cannot see the sun, I know that it’s still there.
The circumstances of this life, sometimes they are not fair.
People love and people hurt, and I have done the same.
The sadness of this paradox, there is always another to blame.
Another has shortcomings, no different than my own.
I can pinpoint exactly where another’s are, while mine remain unknown.
I hold a mirror to myself, the only thing I see.
The strengths that I bring to this world, my weaknesses cannot be.
My cycle continues, faster it spins, no longer in control.
My mind, my body, take my lead, they bury deep my soul.
I feel it in there, and it wants out, but it causes so much pain.
I ignore the part that will set me free, for I’m a slave to heart and brain.
My life gets worse, I can’t go on, and I live in my own hell.
And there I know I will remain, ‘til my soul can break its shell.
The shell with layers so deep and thick my body and mind have built.
In order to break this shell of mine, I must embrace my guilt.
The guilt of all my failures and the people I let down.
The character defects I embraced, when no one was around.
My reputation was my concern, my character I’d forsake.
But I’d have to switch this right around if my shell I was going to break.
So then began my journey, my journey deep within.
My guide became my savior; he freed me from my sin.
He told me I wasn’t who I became, but who our father made me to be.
This path of pain He led me down, it truly set me free.
I found this path not easy, but knew this path was right.
For the blind fool that I had become, became a wise man with great sight.
I know the one I’m grateful to, His love for me is great.
He turned me to the path of love, from the path of pain and hate.
I thank you Jesus, for your gift, for my spirit I did find.
You waited for me ‘til I was ready. You did not leave me behind.
For I was broken. I broke others too, but by my side you stayed.
For every debt that I incurred, you had already paid.
You made me understand it all. I now have sight to see.
I’m no longer a slave to body and mind. My soul is truly free!
Your intensities dissipating in the silence
that follows your urgent avowals,
it hurts to be subjected to oblivion
like a burnt out streetlamp in a city of light,
to stare into the invisible blaze of the vastness
like craters on the moon aghast with shadows
scabbing the nightshift of a crown factory,
love's labour locked out,
a footprint on the neck of a flower,
trampled like a protest sign by the crowd
of platitudinous slogans that defame it,
and the pain growing wider than the bridge
that can cross it
and my heart trying to pretend
it's still a scratched poppy
when everybody knows
it's a haemorrhaging rose.
And the stars have hardened into diamond thorns
that score the eyes like rocks
striated by arctic runes
in the path of advancing glaciers,
and there's a hawk in my chest
excavating the message of the dove
I sent to look for land,
and every moment is the era
of a lingering why
that hauls me out to sea like a death barge
to dump my severed body parts
like scrapings off a plate
and no matter how eloquently
I rehearse for a role
in a farce of infinite agonies,
I've played the part too many times before
not to know
it's all just birdseed in a cemetery
that's tired of hearing itself moan for the dawn.
The wind blows through me
like the ghost of a curtain
long after the window it hung from has thawed,
blows through me like the slash
of a long, fluid incision
as if a knife were learning how to master
the serpentine penmanship
of a sacred crescent of the moon,
and there's blood all over the page.
And even as the schoolhouse
of a famous arsonist's childhood,
even as a sacrifice bunt at home plate
I feel neglected and trivial,
a butterfly, a blossom, a rag of blood
torn on the razor-wire of vehement absolutes.
Blood. Passion. Muse. Love;
the submerged foundation stones
of an Atlantean temple
kissing the feet of starfish
or the live walking of aspiring mountains
rising like stairwells up to the doorways
of unnamed constellations,
someone with the courage at last
to step into the open
without their shadows on,
disrobed of all eclipses,
all the inkwells of their spiritual indelibles
ready to taste the wine
that would make a drunkard of a desert for life
and wakes the dragons
in the throat of the well
to dispell their dreams like rain.
Lime in the grave of a used resurrection,
detonating leaking explosives
in the quarry of a black hole,
pouring igneous iodine over the fang marks
of the delirium of toxins and elixirs
that follows the colon of your silence
like the sloughed skin of the moon,
bleached, isolated, more apprehensive
than a field of harvest wheat
watching a scarecrow play with matches,
the clouds of an overhead storm
arcing blue lightning over the grain,
I break black bread with myself in a private hell
where the only way to smuggle in a firefly
is in a fireproof pocket of ashes
and the moon passes secret mirrors through the bars
and the only visitor to log in
is the death mask
of an old vacancy from the past
that has stood by me all these years like a key.
Is it circumstance, inclination, mood, a sloppy heart
that dips this noose of vinegar in the wine
to blow bubbles
in the eye of a hurricane,
or are you just amusing capricious reflections
in the mindflow of a wishbone river
that cracks like a bough
under the weight of its mute bells of ice?
And if it's death you toy with
like toe-nail clippers,
I had thought to die more originally
than a paring of the moon on the floor,
the mediocre cremation of a shabby fire
I could swallow like a swab of cotton candy
laced with lighter fluid
to smoke the bats out of the attic
and amuse the dazzled bumpkins on the midway.
I have roared with the ghosts of glass lions
and wept like time with ashen wizards
and danced with prophetic shadows
in the lairs of demonic clarities
that could melt thought
in the creative heat of their ferocities
and I wear the scars of ancient claws
worthy of the sword that wept
like wounded ore on the moon
to plunge through their hearts
like a meteor without a warning.
And I have been torn like a page
out of the mauled journal of the rose
like a heretical orchard of blackthorn
and stayed up all night
like an unfinished poem
drinking down to the lees
of the seabeds of oblivion
until I emptied the cellars of my own darkness
down to the last good year of stars
and I could hear the whisper of a palace
in the hovel of a bottle
raise my skull to a throne.
My death is not a stranger
to the pillars of my own domains,
and there are skies that wait
with the dignity of mystic robes
every time I wash the stain of the world off
in my own grave,
and silver oils distilled from attendant ravens
that supple the agony of the worst sunspots
with the tender fountain-mouths
of the unsayable encounters that inspire
the bruised grail maidens
that bloom like nocturnal wildflowers
in a far field
to come looking for me
like the cure for their own eyes
in the labyrinthine courts of the hidden king
that rules the afterlife of the night
at the visionary discretion of a living man.
Behind the door of every affirmation,
the assassin of a denial,
as every flower engenders the frost
that will snuff it
and every candle is a pilgrim
on the road to its own extinction.
And I know it's hard to live beyond the obvious
without a map back to your face
or breadcrumbs in the wilderness,
a voice beyond the clamour of worldly echoes,
the first feather of an abyss
that's never known wings,
and your heart the rumour of an avalanche
that's buried you alive
in the valley of its own debris before,
but I thought you had died enough already,
not to be looking up
at the blue bones of heaven like a shovel,
or weeping like shattered glass
at the graveside of a sparrow
that mistook the burning kites
of your midnight love-letters
for fire lilies blooming like reversed torches
on the extraordinary translucency
of a sky as yielding as silk spun from the cocoons
of the rarest stars to ever burn on water.
And it's not that I'm not grateful
for the little eras of life that go by
like urns and rosebuds,
or the undulations of flesh and gold
that silt the hungry deltas with siloes of sacred grain,
I have been empowered by many deaths
that have slain me deeper into life
than the roots of the veils and delusions
to squander my blood like an ocean
at the feet of their busy altars,
knowing even space
must fall like a petal at last,
and the silence
of these eternities that pass
through the eye of the moment
like little red threads of blood
must give up their dead
like stories the wind tells around a fire
to make the stars tremble
with the secret lives of water
that unravel like embroidery
on the soiled pillowcase of a dream
that woke up without a tongue
in the shadows of a floodgate
that gapes like the mouth of the moon.
To See The Glee In Your Eyes At Eighty
To see the glee in your eyes at eighty
as if you were about to achieve something as big
as you did at three.
And you, there, shy one, freaky adolescent
day after day in the same corner of the restaurant
like a bruised mermaid
riding the clock out like a sea turtle
until it’s time to go home again and face the music;
you who drive your pen so deeply
into the fleshy paper
of your black arts journal
as if you were carving up a body
or intensely wedging the tiny bird tracks
of your hieroglyphic footnotes
like some bitter aside
into the shin of that Ramsean gigantism
you’re standing in the shadow of
waiting for it to get dark enough
the fireflies might come out.
To see you light up like a rainbow at a black mass
when I ask if I can look
and you turn your book over like a leaf
and show me a breakthrough masterpiece
that’s good enough to start a school of crocuses
with no instruction from anyone.
To see you afraid to believe in your own excellence
the juno of your aristos
yet risking the possibility it might be a fact
you’re the mysterious matrix
of a genuinely creative act;
that you might feel
like you’ve got a lump of coal for a heart
and a La Brea tar pit for a mind
but when the mascara comes off
like a Gothic eclipse
you’re a new moon
and you’re starting to shine like a diamond.
To see the black dove in your eyes
liberated from the cages of disapproval
imposed on you by white crows in disguise
is to know
what human beings are doing on earth.
To see what softens the angry blue eyes
of the next generation
of gram masters of Gore Street
with their heads shaved like Auschwitz
or the Stalinesque inmates of the Thief’s World
with its rock pile laws
trying to stay true to the Rosetta Stone
of their prison tattoos
like the sacred syllables
of the mother tongue of darkness.
To see in the glee in their eyes
when their girlfriends take them back
that their hearts are not hard enough yet
to be immune to alienation
and for all the rocks that blister in spoons
the occasional angel still keeps its place
as Francis Thompson knew better than these
under the stones that love turns over
like eclipses of the moon
that weren’t indelible enough to last.
To see the glee in the eyes of a child
when it looks at an animal
and sees the same instinctive innocence
that’s just as wild as it is
and watch their minds go crazy
trying to give their tongues
a jump up on their amazement
at meeting a senient life form
that speaks the same language they do
and shares in the original parity
of the undifferentiated freedom
they still enraptures them in Dilmun
and the Garden of Eden.
To see such ecstasy in their eyes
is to know how much wonder is lost
how much joy in just being here with everything else
is driven out of us
as we age our way into separation
deluded by the truth
that perfects our isolation
from the small and big furry things with startling eyes
and the Bolshoi Ballet of fins and veils
that makes my gold fish Toke a dancer
or an underwater comet
high above Atlantis
like a good omen on the eve
of some catastrophic decision
to rise again with more imagination to live
than the dead have reason not to.
To see the glee in the eyes of a friend in winter
like the bouquet of good brandy
beside a warm fire mythologizing
the first drafts of the stories
that are being told and retold
by the blind poets of an oral tradition
sipping red gold
from the snifters of inspiration
they swirl like the whirlpools of the muses
warming to their palms like the head of a glass rose
with its stem between their fingers.
To see in their eyes how good it is
to recognize we’re all linked like tree rings
to the same heartwood
through all four seasons of our lives
is to make a friend of your own human nature
by remembering even in the midst
of this blitz of blazing that blinds the world
on the frantic midways of its cheap thrills
like a heart under a roof heavy with snow
the best things in life
like fires and friends
and goblets of auburn Courvoisier
still glow without diminishment.
To see the glee in the eyes of the rain
that they can behold the whole of the sky again
and all its stars
in the single dropp of a tear
though the rain doesn’t know who it’s crying for
is to understand in a flash of insight
even though you fall
like the small flower at the tip of a blade of stargrass
like a grain of sand down the slopes
of the oxymoronic mountains in an hourglass
you contain it all within yourself
and you can’t pour the universe out of the universe
anymore than you can be driven out of paradise
or be obliterated out of existence
whether humanity immolates itself
or dark energy accelerates us
into an entropy of starless ice.
To perceive the stars and the fireflies in the eyes of the rain
is to comprehend that your mystic specificity
is so unique and broad-shouldered
that down to the slightest detail
what makes you so crucially you
is that it upholds the whole of the rest of the world
in every cell and grain of gold and dirt
like a mountain of a cornerstone
that’s as boundless and high
as its bottomless valley is deep.
To look into the eyes of the stranger
the child the friend the lover the corpse
the eye of the hurricane the enemy the Medusa
the wounded white tail buck in the barbed wire fence
the black-eyed Susans the English ox-eyed daisies
or the yellow suns in the hydrogen clouds
of the New England asters
or the white eclipse of the black holes
in the eyes of the shark as it rolls to kill
or to attune the expression
to the sensibilities of the moment
as a fourteenth century German mystic once wrote
the same eye by which I see the multiverse
are all the eyes by which the multiverse sees me.
What you see
When you understand
Lost causes flaws and imperfections.
The lamp the road the night the light the journey.
You can ask the fireflies.
You can ask the galaxies.
But when you’ve exhausted all your cul de sacs
it’s going to be your own seeing
that gives you the right directions
like true north on the inside
and then reminds you in a gentle aside
that it’s impossible to be off the path
because it’s as wide as your field of vision.
When you see for yourself
who’s watching you in this dream of life
even the blind are enlightened
and as many as the ways
and as myriad as the eyes there are
to see in and through your mind
like a jewel turning in the light
it reveals like infinite insight
from the dark source of its own radiance
we rejoice in the genius
of compassion and courage
who took a Pax gene and a moonbeam
and in a moment of omnidirectional inspiration
that included all points of view at once
made it the muse of our eyes.
When you realize
that sight is a kind of love
as I once read on a poster in the sixties
when you open your eyes
like an expanding universe
even our imperfections shine
in the available dimensions of the darkness before us
and born from the very beginning of everything else
to see and be happy
eye to eye with your own vision of things
as they appear and disappear
like thorns and roses from your heart
like leptons axions and quarks
like the stem cells of your own creative potential
to enter the dark spaces of your own imageless realms
and revel like a child in the art
of making worlds within worlds
like an opening night that everyone’s invited to.
Comets bombarded the earth
and the waters of life
broke from their fire wombs
and for the children of that union
there’s never been a way
to look into the eyes of their opposite
without seeing themselves.
Whether in sorrow or joy
whether in love despair ignorance or wisdom
out of our minds
or biding our time within them
like a flower that knows when to bloom
our shadows cast on a winter night
by the approaching light of Venus
or exalted by the crazy wisdom of life
in the thriving tides of the moon
eyes in the sky
like spy satellites extraterrestrials
and Hubble telescopes
eyes in the water
eyes in the blood
eyes in the wine
eyes in the wheat the apple the pomegranate
eyes in the forbidden fruits
that make all things believable
two eyes and a third
in the word for imagination
to conceive of the inconceivable.
When you see this
through your own eyes
even the mirages the delusions the lies
confess to themselves creatively.
Don’t judge the immensity of the world within
by the grain of sand it comes in
or the density of the pyramid
by what the thieves left of its grave goods.
Imagination is a dragon fly
that can take the fallen and broken
the duff and decay
the twig the leaf the petal
and glue it into a small house of transformation
so the worm comes out breathing fire
like a burnt matchstick with wings.
Don’t waste the creative potential
of your own imperfections.
You can find holy water in a tainted well
if you know how to look for it.
The moon dips her cup
in the waters of life
because she has none
and as she raises it to her lips
what looked like a skull
turns into a long-stemmed goblet.
Doorways of light.
Doorways of night.
We open them both alike.
We part the veils of space
to see who’s wearing our face
like a mask in the guise of a universe.
When you understand
We weep rivers of stars
into our own hands
to drink from our own reflections
just to taste the light and the life
of the mysterious insight
that burns within us
when the sun shines at midnight.
City rose, you don't bloom like the other flowers
the sun coaxes into unclenching their fists, you unfold
like an ocean at night lingering in your dark depths
behind a veil of fish hooks swaying
with the bullwhips of the kelp to the pulse of your tides.
How suburbanly garish you look all trashed out
like the black farce of a substitute for love.
A poet and a prostitute. Doesn't get much more skinless
than that. We're both walking through the world naked
in a blizzard of thorns blunting themselves
against our ice-age hearts in an interglacial warming period.
Dying on the instalment plan to make a living,
there's a glint in your eyes like moonlight on a knife,
and you're armed to the teeth with fingertips and lips
and hourglass hips and here you can have my sword
even before I surrender as you know you can
when you walk into my life like an eclipse of the moon
with mascara running down your cheeks
and ask me if I still love you as I ever did
and I say, lady, you're an innate releasing mechanism for me.
I sublimate you into poetry like dry ice.
I may be the bullet. But you're the trigger.
And what's a voice without a tongue but a gutted gun?
How could I ever use you on myself when the day comes
if you weren't here with me in this wilderness
dancing for my head like a mirage in the skull
of a vast abyss that's gone on dreaming all this
like a boy with a book under the covers way past lights out?
You give me that funny look like I'm half mad
or I might be making light of you, but your spinal cord
resonates like a guitar strung with powerlines
on the same wavelength as the crystal in your dreamcatcher
and I know your listening for disturbances in your web.
And I remember when two roads diverged in a yellow wood
like a wishbone the separated the song from the bird
and that night you came pleading to me out of the rain
to let you into my homelessness, and I took you in
like a wet kitten with claws and needle sharp teeth
that never knew when to let go of my heart
like a piece of raw meat you were always snarling over.
And you weren't exactly the noble enemy
I always hoped would eat it, more a foodbank as I recall,
but you can't always choose the heroic sacrifice
you give yourself up to, and I gave it up to you,
saying to myself you don't always need to believe
in the witchdoctor to take advantage of the medicine,
and I'm always moved when your sunflower
turns toward me like a full-faced friend into the shining
and I'm the one who feels I've been following you
like a starmap to the dark matter shaping the universe.
But tonight the rose is bruised. You're crying
like a broken window pane over the death of the wind.
Your eyes are funeral bells and your body language
is indecipherable, and I don't know what's hurt you so deeply,
and it's only worse when I guess, but there's
a dragon in the heart of the firefly I'm trying to be
that's got a scorched earth policy toward anyone
who tries to lay their hands on you for any reason
other than lust. And though I'm an intimate of the oracle,
I never ask. You franchise your body like a fast food business
with crooked books, but I'm not your spiritual accountant
just because I died before you did and I don't
think of the unknown as something impenetrably mysterious.
You, for example, whenever you discover
the young woman in you that isn't looking
for vengeance upon herself for lying about
the things she wanted to be to her dolls.
Voodoo dolls or not. With marbles or buttons for eyes.
And you abuse her like a country mouse for reminding you
how you used to live off the crumbs of everybody else's dreams
but now you're a cultivated rose of bling and tinfoil
that wins all the garden shows they weed in Eden
like the bad girls from the good, but, off-stage
when there are no lights shining on you, and the rose
wipes her lipstick off like blood on her sleeve,
I've seen you mesmerized like a stone bird on a fountain
staring into the eyes of a snake pit of venomous regrets
for the way you abuse your innocence as if
it were subject to experience and time, all used up,
too much scar tissue over the wound that kept its mouth shut
like dawn over the ashes of a dollhouse you burned to the ground.
Did you ever go back in for your dolls?
It's not too late, you know. It's never too late
to stop treating yourself like a straw dog at a black mass.
It's not a religious ritual. It's just a bad habit of misperception.
And however much sulphur dioxide there is in the acid rain
of your tears, the rain still doesn't fall in pentangles
and the stars and the wildflowers in the abandoned fields
still don't attend opening night rehearsals
to improve their appearance on the catwalk of the zodiac.
They're still walking the same old fence they always were
like gold medallists on a balance beam at the Olympics.
And I can see that the moon, as it does in you,
still dies inside them like a swan at a ballet except
you come to the climax of the dance dressed in Satanic black.
And that's just the scarlet letter of a dead alphabet
you've carved into your forehead with a fingernail,
not the Rosetta stone that's going to open you up to yourself
like Egypt with the eyes of a mood ring. O yes,
I know how many thresholds you've crossed,
how many taboos and cracks in the desolate sidewalks
you've stepped on to break your mother's back,
but she wrote her alibi on a gravestone a long time ago
and she's well beyond anything you can do to disappoint her now.
Born into sin, isn't death a drastic enough measure to take
to clean the slate with the tears that should have been shed
while we were alive? The roots that should have been
watered with stars, the hands that should have been revered
like gnostic gospels even in a time of persecution and exile.
Maybe the blossom was betrayed by the roots
and the fruits were ruined. Who can say for sure
whether the tree's a strong rafter or a coffin door,
or you're just punching holes in your own lifeboat
to be spiteful, but I suspect you're tired of sinking by now.
Three bells and all's not well. And you remember
how you wanted to fly with the effortless beauty
of an arrow straight through the heart of a falcon prince
who came when you called out like a night bird
for someone to hold you against the dark like a door
love leaves ajar like the place in the book
where you left off reading and started dreaming again.
You're taking a bath in the squalor of your own grave to renew
the ambiguity of your innocence as if you were
holding your breath underwater until you turn blue,
but there's an expiry date that doesn't matter if you're late
and you don't need a passport to walk through the gate unchecked.
The mindstream doesn't cling to what it reflects.
It clarifies itself like flowing diamonds in its own running,
like crystal skulls thawing like honey in a blast furnace.
You can project yourself imaginatively like clean water
on the moon, and still feel the rain is a message
to someone else more like a watercolour than you are an oil
but before you begin painting in pain again,
look in the mirror. Isn't that mascara running down your face
like a black willow rendered in sumi ink by a sad geisha
or is that just you washing off another eclipse
like a dirty window you've got to break to look through?
The light will find you all on its own if you stop
using the night to cover your eyes with shadows
when there's something you don't want to look at
that shines like a waterstar in the face of a sewer
blindfolded to the beauty and grace of its own imperative to change.
Be that as it may. Just because the exit's false
doesn't make the entrance unreal, and I can see how
you're looking out the window for something
to fix your gaze upon like a reflection from a bridge
you let go of like the hand of someone you loved
to wear this blossom of a painted life mask
like a screening myth for the reason you let her drown.
Hurt, and lovely, and sad, battered down
like an orchid in the aftermath of an unexpected storm,
you make me want to cry for everything in existence
all at the same time, for what happens to us here.
I feel my vulnerability in yours. Half-insane for a moment
looking out the same window you are I become the pain.
I embody the sorrows of the trivial and sublime alike
and there's no one to scream out to who isn't wounded themselves
and I've died repeatedly not to make a philosophy out of love
just to satisfy death with a verifiable alibi for what
I was doing while I was alive, and none of it
lessens the sum of our suffering by a single tear.
We can put cushions around it and bank it up with dolls
and throw a warm blanket over it and kiss it
goodnight on the forehead as somebody else should have done
when childhood was wholly the timing of the content,
and go to bed with a will like a broken arrow
and a heart bruised like the blue rose of a starless sky
waiting for some small light, even a firefly of insight,
even a black hole on the negative of a starmap back to our eyes
to emerge from all this like Venus sinking down
over the darkening hills of her eyelids as if to dream
in the solitude of her beauty of rescuing her voodoo dolls
from the fire she threw them into, casting spells
like the shadows of moonless nights on earth
when pain had no value, and love was of little worth.
But in the face of it. Staring it in the eye
like a star or a reptile, trying not to lie like a placebo
to the spiritually hysterical about to give birth to the new world
out of their apocalyptic expansionism, not minting
cosmic keys to things that are not necessarily locks,
mustering my dusky yellow blood into the fire sage of a dragon,
and foregoing my penchant for self-destructive optimism,
the deepening of the terrible silence of our suffering
is the only reason I can come up with that our burning doves
don't come back like loveletters we write like waterbirds on the wind.
There's a silence within that is slowly ripening into the new moon
of the black pearl we're making of the dirt in our hearts.
It's not a third eye, or a rosary you can say the names of God on,
not even a sacred syllable of a secret that keeps to itself,
but something distinctly human that sacrifices its suffering
on the dark altar of the absurdity there's no metaphor
to cling to like the lifeboat of a shipwrecked paradigm.
That everything's been left relentlessly unexplained
as if only the silence were pure enough to receive our sorrow
the way our roots can't conceive of the fruits of their labour,
or the sea receives the rain like a mirror of eyeless tears.
Sweet one, sleep without redressal. in the quietude
of what appears to include you in its innocence
like sugar in apricots when the locks fall away like ripe fruit.
The rained out peonies weeping their eyelids away
like phases of the moon by the open gate always
look ravished by the wind's indifference to bliss.
The nightwatchman's in the next room playing
solitaire with the scars of a wound as old as the stars.
IX. Juris Doctor Johannes-Baptista Bottinius, Fisci et Rev. Cam. Apostol. Advocatus
Had I God's leave, how I would alter things!
If I might read instead of print my speech,—
Ay, and enliven speech with many a flower
Refuses obstinate to blow in print,
As wildings planted in a prim parterre,—
This scurvy room were turned an immense hall;
Opposite, fifty judges in a row;
This side and that of me, for audience—Rome:
And, where yon window is, the Pope should hide—
Watch, curtained, but peep visibly enough.
A buzz of expectation! Through the crowd,
Jingling his chain and stumping with his staff,
Up comes an usher, louts him low, "The Court
"Requires the allocution of the Fisc!"
I rise, I bend, I look about me, pause
O'er the hushed multitude: I count—One, two—
Have ye seen, Judges, have ye, lights of law,—
When it may hap some painter, much in vogue
Throughout our city nutritive of arts,
Ye summon to a task shall test his worth,
And manufacture, as he knows and can,
A work may decorate a palace-wall,
Afford my lords their Holy Family,—
Hath it escaped the acumen of the Court
How such a painter sets himself to paint?
Suppose that Joseph, Mary and her Babe
A-journeying to Egypt, prove the piece:
Why, first he sedulously practiseth,
This painter,—girding loin and lighting lamp,—
On what may nourish eye, make facile hand;
Getteth him studies (styled by draughtsmen so)
From some assistant corpse of Jew or Turk
Or, haply, Molinist, he cuts and carves,—
This Luca or this Carlo or the like.
To him the bones their inmost secret yield,
Each notch and nodule signify their use:
On him the muscles turn, in triple tier,
And pleasantly entreat the entrusted man
"Familiarize thee with our play that lifts
"Thus, and thus lowers again, leg, arm and foot!"
—Ensuring due correctness in the nude.
Which done, is all done? Not a whit, ye know!
He,—to art's surface rising from her depth,—
If some flax-polled soft-bearded sire be found,
May simulate a Joseph, (happy chance!)—
Limneth exact each wrinkle of the brow,
Loseth no involution, cheek or chap,
Till lo, in black and white, the senior lives!
Is it a young and comely peasant-nurse
That poseth? (be the phrase accorded me!)
Each feminine delight of florid lip,
Eyes brimming o'er and brow bowed down with love,
Marmoreal neck and bosom uberous,—
Glad on the paper in a trice they go
To help his notion of the Mother-maid:
Methinks I see it, chalk a little stumped!
Yea and her babe—that flexure of soft limbs,
That budding face imbued with dewy sleep,
Contribute each an excellence to Christ.
Nay, since he humbly lent companionship,
Even the poor ass, unpanniered and elate
Stands, perks an ear up, he a model too;
While clouted shoon, staff, scrip and water-groud,—
Aught may betoken travel, heat and haste,—
No jot nor tittle of these but in its turn
Ministers to perfection of the piece:
Till now, such piece before him, part by part,—
Such prelude ended,—pause our painter may,
Submit his fifty studies one by one,
And in some sort boast "I have served my lords."
But what? And hath he painted once this while?
Or when ye cry "Produce the thing required,
"Show us our picture shall rejoice its niche,
"Thy Journey through the Desert done in oils!"—
What, doth he fall to shuffling 'mid his sheets,
Fumbling for first this, then the other fact
Consigned to paper,—"studies," bear the term!—
And stretch a canvas, mix a pot of paste,
And fasten here a head and there a tail,
(The ass hath one, my Judges!) so dove-tail
Or, rather, ass-tail in, piece sorrily out—
By bits of reproduction of the life—
The picture, the expected Family?
I trow not! do I miss with my conceit
The mark, my lords?—not so my lords were served!
Rather your artist turns abrupt from these,
And preferably buries him and broods
(Quite away from aught vulgar and extern)
On the inner spectrum, filtered through the eye,
His brain-deposit, bred of many a drop,
E pluribus unum: and the wiser he!
For in that brain,—their fancy sees at work,
Could my lords peep indulged,—results alone,
Not processes which nourish such results,
Would they discover and appreciate,—life
Fed by digestion, not raw food itself,
No gobbets but smooth comfortable chyme
Secreted from each snapped-up crudity,—
Less distinct, part by part, but in the whole
Truer to the subject,—the main central truth
And soul o' the picture, would my Judges spy,—
Not those mere fragmentary studied facts
Which answer to the outward frame and flesh—
Not this nose, not that eyebrow, the other fact
Of man's staff, woman's stole or infant's clout,
But lo, a spirit-birth conceived of flesh,
Truth rare and real, not transcripts, fact and false.
The studies—for his pupils and himself!
The picture be for our eximious Rome
And—who knows?—satisfy its Governor,
Whose new wing to the villa he hath bought
(God give him joy of it) by Capena, soon
('T is bruited) shall be glowing with the brush
Of who hath long surpassed the Florentine,
The Urbinate and … what if I dared add,
Even his master, yea the Cortonese,—
I mean the accomplished Ciro Ferri, Sirs!
(—Did not he die? I'll see before I print.)
End we exordium, Phoebus plucks my ear!
Thus then, just so and no whit otherwise,
Have I,—engaged as I were Ciro's self,
To paint a parallel, a Family,
The patriarch Pietro with his wise old wife
To boot (as if one introduced Saint Anne
By bold conjecture to complete the group)
And juvenile Pompilia with her babe,
Who, seeking safety in the wilderness,
Were all surprised by Herod, while outstretched
In sleep beneath a palm-tree by a spring,
And killed—the very circumstance I paint,
Moving the pity and terror of my lords—
Exactly so have I, a month at least,
Your Fiscal, made me cognizant of facts,
Searched out, pried into, pressed the meaning forth
Of every piece of evidence in point,
How bloody Herod slew these innocents,—
Until the glad result is gained, the group
Demonstrably presented in detail,
Their slumber and his onslaught,—like as life.
Yea and, availing me of help allowed
By law, discreet provision lest my lords
Be too much troubled by effrontery,—
The rack, law plies suspected crime withal—
(Law that hath listened while the lyrist sang
"Lene tormentum ingenio admoves,"
Gently thou joggest by a twinge the wit,
"Plerumque duro," else were slow to blab!)
Through this concession my full cup runs o'er:
The guilty owns his guilt without reserve.
Therefore by part and part I clutch my case
Which, in entirety now,—momentous task,—
My lords demand, so render them I must,
Since, one poor pleading more and I have done.
But shall I ply my papers, play my proofs,
Parade my studies, fifty in a row,
As though the Court were yet in pupilage,
Claimed not the artist's ultimate appeal?
Much rather let me soar the height prescribed
And, bowing low, proffer my picture's self!
No more of proof, disproof,—such virtue was,
Such vice was never in Pompilia, now!
Far better say "Behold Pompilia!"—(for
I leave the family as unmanageable,
And stick to just one portrait, but life-size.)
Hath calumny imputed to the fair
A blemish, mole on cheek or wart on chin,
Much more, blind hidden horrors best unnamed?
Shall I descend to prove you, point by point,
Never was knock-knee known nor splay-foot found
In Phryne? (I must let the portrait go,
Content me with the model, I believe)—
—I prove this? An indignant sweep of hand,
Dash at and doing away with drapery,
And,—use your eyes, Athenians, smooth she smiles!
Or,—since my client can no longer smile,
And more appropriate instances abound,—
What is this Tale of Tarquin, how the slave
Was caught by him, preferred to Collatine?
Thou, even from thy corpse-clothes virginal,
Look'st the lie dead, Lucretia!
Thus at least
I, by the guidance of antiquity,
(Our one infallible guide) now operate,
Sure that the innocence thus shown is safe;
Sure, too, that, while I plead, the echoes cry
(Lend my weak voice thy trump, sonorous Fame!)
"Monstrosity the Phrynean shape shall mar,
"Lucretia's soul comport with Tarquin's lie,
"When thistles grow on vines or thorns yield figs,
"Or oblique sentence leave this judgment-seat!"
A great theme: may my strength be adequate!
For—paint Pompilia, dares my feebleness?
How did I unaware engage so much
—Find myself undertaking to produce
A faultless nature in a flawless form?
What's here? Oh, turn aside nor dare the blaze
Of such a crown, such constellation, say,
As jewels here thy front, Humanity!
First, infancy, pellucid as a pearl;
Then childhood—stone which, dew-drop at the first,
(An old conjecture) sucks, by dint of gaze,
Blue from the sky and turns to sapphire so:
Yet both these gems eclipsed by, last and best,
Womanliness and wifehood opaline,
Its milk-white pallor,—chastity,—suffused
With here and there a tint and hint of flame,—
Desire,—the lapidary loves to find.
Such jewels bind conspicuously thy brow,
Pompilia, infant, child, maid, woman, wife—
Crown the ideal in our earth at last!
What should a faculty like mine do here?
Close eyes, or else, the rashlier hurry hand!
Which is to say,—lose no time but begin!
Sermocinando ne declamem, Sirs,
Ultra clepsydram, as our preachers smile,
Lest I exceed my hour-glass. Whereupon,
As Flaccus prompts, I dare the epic plunge—
Begin at once with marriage, up till when
Little or nothing would arrest your love,
In the easeful life o' the lady; lamb and lamb,
How do they differ? Know one, you know all
Manners of maidenhood: mere maiden she.
And since all lambs are like in more than fleece,
Prepare to find that, lamb-like, she too frisks—
O' the weaker sex, my lords, the weaker sex!
To whom, the Teian teaches us, for gift,
Not strength,—man's dower,—but beauty, nature gave,
"Beauty in lieu of spears, in lieu of shields!"
And what is beauty's sure concomitant,
Nay, intimate essential character,
But melting wiles, deliciousest deceits,
The whole redoubted armoury of love?
Therefore of vernal pranks, dishevellings
O' the hair of youth that dances April in,
And easily-imagined Hebe-slips
O'er sward which May makes over-smooth for foot—
These shall we pry into?—or wiselier wink,
Though numerous and dear they may have been?
For lo, advancing Hymen and his pomp!
Discedunt nunc amores, loves, farewell!
Maneat amor, let love, the sole, remain!
Farewell to dewiness and prime of life!
Remains the rough determined day: dance done,
To work, with plough and harrow! What comes next?
'T is Guido henceforth guides Pompilia's step,
Cries "No more friskings o'er the foodful glebe,
"Else, 'ware the whip!" Accordingly,—first crack
O' the thong,—we hear that his young wife was barred,
Cohibita fuit, from the old free life,
Vitam liberiorem ducere.
Demur we? Nowise: heifer brave the hind?
We seek not there should lapse the natural law,
The proper piety to lord and king
And husband: let the heifer bear the yoke!
Only, I crave he cast not patience off,
This hind; for deem you she endures the whip,
Nor winces at the goad, nay, restive, kicks?
What if the adversary's charge be just,
And all untowardly she pursue her way
With groan and grunt, though hind strike ne'er so hard?
If petulant remonstrance made appeal,
Importunate challenge taxed the public ear
When silence more decorously had served
For protestation,—if Pompilian plaint
Wrought but to aggravate Guidonian ire,—
Why, such mishaps, ungainly though they be,
Ever companion change, are incident
To altered modes and novelty of life:
The philosophic mind expects no less,
Smilingly knows and names the crisis, sits
Waiting till old things go and new arrive.
Therefore, I hold a husband but inept
Who turns impatient at such transit-time,
As if this running from the rod would last!
Since, even while I speak, the end is reached:
Success awaits the soon-disheartened man.
The parents turn their backs and leave the house,
The wife may wail but none shall intervene:
He hath attained his object, groom and bride
Partake the nuptial bower no soul can see,
Old things are passed and all again is new,
Over and gone the obstacles to peace,
Novorum—tenderly the Mantuan turns
The expression, some such purpose in his eye—
Nascitur ordo! Every storm is laid,
And forth from plain each pleasant herb may peep,
Each bloom of wifehood in abeyance late:
(Confer a passage in the Canticles.)
But what if, as 't is wont with plant and wife,
Flowers,—after a suppression to good end,
Still, when they do spring forth,—sprout here, spread there,
Anywhere likelier than beneath the foot
O' the lawful good-man gardener of the ground?
He dug and dibbled, sowed and watered,—still
'T is a chance wayfarer shall pluck the increase.
Just so, respecting persons not too much,
The lady, foes allege, put forth each charm
And proper floweret of feminity
To whosoever had a nose to smell
Or breast to deck: what if the charge be true?
The fault were graver had she looked with choice,
Fastidiously appointed who should grasp,
Who, in the whole town, go without the prize!
To nobody she destined donative,
But, first come was first served, the accuser saith.
Put case her sort of … in this kind … escapes
Were many and oft and indiscriminate—
Impute ye as the action were prepense,
The gift particular, arguing malice so?
Which butterfly of the wide air shall brag
"I was preferred to Guido"—when 't is clear
The cup, he quaffs at, lay with olent breast
Open to gnat, midge, bee and moth as well?
One chalice entertained the company;
And if its peevish lord object the more,
Mistake, misname such bounty in a wife,
Haste we to advertise him—charm of cheek,
Lustre of eye, allowance of the lip,
All womanly components in a spouse,
These are no household-bread each stranger's bite
Leaves by so much diminished for the mouth
O' the master of the house at supper-time:
But rather like a lump of spice they lie,
Morsel of myrrh, which scents the neighbourhood
Yet greets its lord no lighter by a grain.
Nay, even so, he shall be satisfied!
Concede we there was reason in his wrong,
Grant we his grievance and content the man!
For lo, Pompilia, she submits herself;
Ere three revolving years have crowned their course,
Off and away she puts this same reproach
Of lavish bounty, inconsiderate gift
O' the sweets of wifehood stored to other ends:
No longer shall he blame "She none excludes,"
But substitute "She laudably sees all,
"Searches the best out and selects the same."
For who is here, long sought and latest found,
Waiting his turn unmoved amid the whirl,
"Constans in levitate,"—Ha, my lords?
Calm in his levity,—indulge the quip!—
Since 't is a levite bears the bell away,
Parades him henceforth as Pompilia's choice.
'T is no ignoble object, husband! Doubt'st?
When here comes tripping Flaccus with his phrase
"Trust me, no miscreant singled from the mob,
"Crede non illum tibi de scelesta
"Plebe delectum," but a man of mark,
A priest, dost hear? Why then, submit thyself!
Priest, ay and very phoenix of such fowl,
Well-born, of culture, young and vigorous,
Comely too, since precise the precept points—
On the selected levite be there found
Nor mole nor scar nor blemish, lest the mind
Come all uncandid through the thwarting flesh!
Was not the son of Jesse ruddy, sleek,
Pleasant to look on, pleasant every way?
Since well he smote the harp and sweetly sang,
And danced till Abigail came out to see,
And seeing smiled and smiling ministered
The raisin-cluster and the cake of figs,
With ready meal refreshed the gifted youth,
Till Nabal, who was absent shearing sheep,
Felt heart sink, took to bed (discreetly done—
They might have been beforehand with him else)
And died—woudl Guido have behaved as well!
But ah, the faith of early days is gone,
Heu prisca fides! Nothing died in him
Save courtesy, good sense and proper trust,
Which, when they ebb from souls they should o'erflow,
Discover stub, weed, sludge and ugliness.
(The Pope, we know, is Neapolitan
And relishes a sea-side simile.)
Deserted by each charitable wave,
Guido, left high and dry, shows jealous now!
Jealous avouched, paraded: tax the fool
With any peccadillo, he responds
"Truly I beat my wife through jealousy,
"Imprisoned her and punished otherwise,
"Being jealous: now would threaten, sword in hand,
"Now manage to mix poison in her sight,
"And so forth: jealously I dealt, in fine."
Concede thus much, and what remains to prove?
Have I to teach my masters what effect
Hath jealousy, and how, befooling men,
It makes false true, abuses eye and ear,
Turns mere mist adamantine, loads with sound
Silence, and into void and vacancy
Crowds a whole phalanx of conspiring foes?
Therefore who owns "I watched with jealousy
"My wife," adds "for no reason in the world!"
What need that, thus proved madman, he remark
"The thing I thought a serpent proved an eel"?—
Perchance the right Comacchian, six foot length,
And not an inch too long for that rare pie
(Master Arcangeli has heard of such)
Whose succulence makes fasting bearable;
Meant to regale some moody splenetic
Who, pleasing to mistake the donor's gift,
Spying I know not what Lernæan snake
I' the luscious Lenten creature, stamps forsooth
The dainty in the dust.
Such lunes announced, for downright lunacy!
Insanit homo, threat succeeds to threat,
And blow redoubles blow,—his wife, the block.
But, if a block, shall not she jar the hand
That buffets her? The injurious idle stone
Rebounds and hits the head of him who flung.
Causeless rage breeds, i' the wife now, rageful cause,
Tyranny wakes rebellion from its sleep.
Rebellion, say I?—rather, self-defence,
Laudable wish to live and see good days,
Pricks our Pompilia now to fly the fool
By any means, at any price,—nay, more,
Nay, most of all, i' the very interest
O' the fool that, baffled of his blind desire
At any price, were truliest victor so.
Shall he effect his crime and lose his soul?
No, dictates duty to a loving wife!
Far better that the unconsummate blow,
Adroitly baulked by her, should back again,
Correctively admonish his own pate!
Crime then,—the Court is with me?—she must crush:
How crush it? By all efficacious means;
And these,—why, what in woman should they be?
"With horns the bull, with teeth the lion fights;
"To woman," quoth the lyrist quoted late,
"Nor teeth, nor horns, but beauty, Nature gave.
Pretty i' the Pagan! Who dares blame the use
Of armoury thus allowed for natural,—
Exclaim against a seeming-dubious play
O' the sole permitted weapon, spear and shield
Alike, resorted to i' the circumstance
By poor Pompilia? Grant she somewhat piled
Arts that allure, the magic nod and wink,
The witchery of gesture, spell of word,
Whereby the likelier to enlist this friend,
Yea stranger, as a champion on her side?
Such man, being but mere man, ('t was all she knew),
Must be made sure by beauty's silken bond,
The weakness that subdues the strong, and bows
Wisdom alike and folly. Grant the tale
O' the husband, which is false, were proved and true
To the letter—or the letters, I should say,
Abominations he professed to find
And fix upon Pompilia and the priest,—
Allow them hers—for though she could not write,
In early days of Eve-like innocence
That plucked no apple from the knowledge-tree,
Yet, at the Serpent's word, Eve plucks and eats
And knows—especially how to read and write:
And so Pompilia,—as the move o' the maw,
Quoth Persius, makes a parrot bid "Good day!"
A crow salute the concave, and a pie
Endeavour at proficiency in speech,—
So she, through hunger after fellowship,
May well have learned, though late, to play the scribe:
As indeed, there's one letter on the list
Explicitly declares did happen here.
"You thought my letters could be none of mine,"
She tells her parents—"mine, who wanted skill;
"But now I have the skill, and write, you see!"
She needed write love-letters, so she learned,
"Negatas artifex sequi voces"—though
This letter nowise 'scapes the common lot,
But lies i' the condemnation of the rest,
Found by the husband's self who forged them all.
Yet, for the sacredness of argument,
For this once an exemption shall it plead—
Anything, anything to let the wheels
Of argument run glibly to their goal!
Concede she wrote (which were preposterous)
This and the other epistle,—what of it?
Where does the figment touch her candid fame?
Being in peril of her life—"my life,
"Not an hour's purchase," as the letter runs,—
And having but one stay in this extreme,
Out of the wide world but a single friend—
What could she other than resort to him,
And how with any hope resort but thus?
Shall modesty dare bid a stranger brave
Danger, disgrace, nay death in her behalf—
Think to entice the sternness of the steel
Yet spare love's loadstone moving manly mind?
—Most of all, when such mind is hampered so
By growth of circumstance athwart the life
O' the natural man, that decency forbids
He stoop and take the common privilege,
Say frank "I love," as all the vulgar do.
A man is wedded to philosophy,
Married to statesmanship; a man is old;
A man is fettered by the foolishness
He took for wisdom and talked ten years since;
A man is, like our friend the Canon here,
A priest, and wicked if he break his vow:
Shall he dare love, who may be Pope one day?
Despite the coil of such encumbrance here,
Suppose this man could love, unhappily,
And would love, dared he only let love show!
In case the woman of his love, speaks first,
From what embarrassment she sets him free!
"'T is I who break reserve, begin appeal,
"Confess that, whether you love me or no,
"I love you!" What an ease to dignity,
What help of pride from the hard high-backed chair
Down to the carpet where the kittens bask,
All under the pretence of gratitude!
From all which, I deduce—the lady here
Was bound to proffer nothing short of love
To the priest whose service was to save her. What?
Shall she propose him lucre, dust o' the mine,
Rubbish o' the rock, some diamond, muckworms prize,
Some pearl secreted by a sickly fish?
Scarcely! She caters for a generous taste.
'T is love shall beckon, beauty bid to breast,
Till all the Samson sink into the snare!
Because, permit the end—permit therewith
Means to the end!
How say you, good my lords?
I hope you heard my adversary ring
The changes on this precept: now, let me
Reverse the peal! Quia dato licito fine,
Ad illum assequendum ordinata
Non sunt damnanda media,—licit end
Enough was found in mere escape from death,
To legalize our means illicit else
Of feigned love, false allurement, fancied fact.
Thus Venus losing Cupid on a day,
(See that Idyllium Moschi) seeking help,
In the anxiety of motherhood,
Allowably promised "Who shall bring report
"Where he is wandered to, my winged babe,
"I give him for reward a nectared kiss;
"But who brings safely back the truant's self,
"His be a super-sweet makes kiss seem cold!"
Are not these things writ for example-sake?
To such permitted motive, then, refer
All those professions, else were hard explain,
Of hope, fear, jealousy, and the rest of love!
He is Myrtillus, Amaryllis she,
She burns, he freezes,—all a mere device
To catch and keep the man, may save her life,
Whom otherwise nor catches she nor keeps!
Worst, once, turns best now: in all faith, she feigns:
Feigning,—the liker innocence to guilt,
The truer to the life in what she feigns!
How if Ulysses,—when, for public good
He sunk particular qualms and played the spy,
Entered Troy's hostile gate in beggar's garb—
How if he first had boggled at this clout,
Grown dainty o'er that clack-dish? Grime is grace
To whoso gropes amid the dung for gold.
Hence, beyond promises, we praise each proof
That promise was not simply made to break,
Mere moonshine-structure meant to fade at dawn:
We praise, as consequent and requisite,
What, enemies allege, were more than words,
Deeds—meetings at the window, twilight-trysts,
Nocturnal entertainments in the dim
Old labyrinthine palace; lies, we know—
Inventions we, long since, turned inside out.
Must such external semblance of intrigue
Demonstrate that intrigue there lurks perdue?
Does every hazel-sheath disclose a nut?
He were a Molinist who dared maintain
That midnight meetings in a screened alcove
Must argue folly in a matron—since
So would he bring a slur on Judith's self,
Commended beyond women, that she lured
The lustful to destruction through his lust.
Pompilia took not Judith's liberty,
No faulchion find you in her hand to smite,
No damsel to convey in dish the head
Of Holophernes,—style the Canon so—
Or is it the Count? If I entangle me
With my similitudes,—if wax wings melt,
And earthward down I drop, not mine the fault:
Blame your beneficence, O Court, O sun,
Whereof the beamy smile affects my flight!
What matter, so Pompilia's fame revive
I' the warmth that proves the bane of Icarus?
Yea, we have shown it lawful, necessary
Pompilia leave her husband, seek the house
O' the parents: and because 'twixt home and home
Lies a long road with many a danger rife,
Lions by the way and serpents in the path,
To rob and ravish,—much behoves she keep
Each shadow of suspicion from fair fame,
For her own sake much, but for his sake more,
The ingrate husband's. Evidence shall be,
Plain witness to the world how white she walks
I' the mire she wanders through ere Rome she reach.
And who so proper witness as a priest?
Gainsay ye? Let me hear who dares gainsay!
I hope we still can punish heretics!
"Give me the man" I say with him of Gath,
"That we may fight together!" None, I think:
The priest is granted me.
Then, if a priest,
One juvenile and potent: else, mayhap,
That dragon, our Saint George would slay, slays him.
And should fair face accompany strong hand,
The more complete equipment: nothing mars
Work, else praiseworthy, like a bodily flaw
I' the worker: as 't is said Saint Paul himself
Deplored the check o' the puny presence, still
Cheating his fulmination of its flash,
Albeit the bolt therein went true to oak.
Therefore the agent, as prescribed, she takes,—
Both juvenile and potent, handsome too,—
In all obedience: "good," you grant again.
Do you? I would you were the husband, lords!
How prompt and facile might departure be!
How boldly would Pompilia and the priest
March out of door, spread flag at beat of drum,
But that inapprehensive Guido grants
Neither premiss nor yet conclusion here,
And, purblind, dreads a bear in every bush!
For his own quietude and comfort, then,
Means must be found for flight in masquerade
At hour when all things sleep.—"Save jealousy!"
Right, Judges! Therefore shall the lady's wit
Supply the boon thwart nature baulks him of,
And do him service with the potent drug
(Helen's nepenthe, as my lords opine)
Which respites blessedly each fretted nerve
O' the much-enduring man: accordingly,
There lies he, duly dosed and sound asleep,
Relieved of woes or real or raved about.
While soft she leaves his side, he shall not wake;
Nor stop who steals away to join her friend,
Nor do him mischief should he catch that friend
Intent on more than friendly office,—nay,
Nor get himself raw head and bones laid bare
In payment of his apparition!
Would I defend the step,—were the thing true
Which is a fable,—see my former speech,—
That Guido slept (who never slept a wink)
Through treachery, an opiate from his wife,
Who not so much as knew what opiates mean.
Now she may start: or hist,—a stoppage still!
A journey is an enterprise of cost!
As in campaigns, we fight but others pay,
Suis expensis, nemo militat.
'T is Guido's self we guard from accident,
Ensuring safety to Pompilia, versed
Nowise in misadventures by the way,
Hard riding and rough quarters, the rude fare,
The unready host, What magic mitigates
Each plague of travel to the unpractised wife?
Money, sweet Sirs! And were the fiction fact
She helped herself thereto with liberal hand
From out her husband's store,—what fitter use
Was ever husband's money destined to?
With bag and baggage thus did Dido once
Decamp,—for more authority, a queen!
So is she fairly on her route at last,
Prepared for either fortune: nay and if
The priest, now all a-glow with enterprise,
Cool somewhat presently when fades the flush
O' the first adventure, clouded o'er belike
By doubts, misgivings how the day may die,
Though born with such auroral brilliance,—if
The brow seem over pensive and the lip
'Gin lag and lose the prattle lightsome late,—
Vanquished by tedium of a prolonged jaunt
In a close carriage o'er a jolting road,
With only one young female substitute
For seventeen other Canons of ripe age
Were wont to keep him company in church,—
Shall not Pompilia haste to dissipate
The silent cloud that, gathering, bodes her bale?—
Prop the irresoluteness may portend
Suspension of the project, check the flight,
Bring ruin on them both? Use every means,
Since means to the end are lawful! What i' the way
Of wile should have allowance like a kiss
Sagely and sisterly administered,
Sororia saltem oscula? We find
Such was the remedy her wit applied
To each incipient scruple of the priest,
If we believe,—as, while my wit is mine
I cannot,—what the driver testifies,
Borsi, called Venerino, the mere tool
Of Guido and his friend the Governor,—
Avowal I proved wrung from out the wretch,
After long rotting in imprisonment,
As price of liberty and favour: long
They tempted, he at last succumbed, and lo
Counted them out full tale each kiss and more,
"The journey being one long embrace," quoth he.
Still, though we should believe the driver's lie,
Nor even admit as probable excuse,
Right reading of the riddle,—as I urged
In my first argument, with fruit perhaps—
That what the owl-like eyes (at back of head!)
O' the driver, drowsed by driving night and day,
Supposed a vulgar interchange of lips,
This was but innocent jog of head 'gainst head,
Cheek meeting jowl as apple may touch pear
From branch and branch contiguous in the wind,
When Autumn blusters and the orchard rocks:—
That rapid run and the rough road were cause
O' the casual ambiguity, no harm
I' the world to eyes awake and penetrative.
Say,—not to grasp a truth I can release
And safely fight without, yet conquer still,—
Say, she kissed him, say, he kissed her again!
Such osculation was a potent means,
A very efficacious help, no doubt:
Such with a third part of her nectar did
Venus imbue: why should Pompilia fling
The poet's declaration in his teeth?—
Pause to employ what,—since it had success,
And kept the priest her servant to the end,—
We must presume of energy enough,
No whit superfluous, so permissible?
The goal is gained: day, night and yet a day
Have run their round: a long and devious road
Is traversed,—many manners, various men
Passed in view, what cities did they see,
What hamlets mark, what profitable food
For after-meditation cull and store!
Till Rome, that Rome whereof—this voice
Would it might make our Molinists observe,
That she is built upon a rock nor shall
Their powers prevail against her!—Rome, I say,
Is all but reached; one stage more and they stop
Saved: pluck up heart, ye pair, and forward, then!
Ah, Nature—baffled she recurs, alas!
Nature imperiously exacts her due,
Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak:
Pompilia needs must acquiesce and swoon,
Give hopes alike and fears a breathing-while.
The innocent sleep soundly: sound she sleeps,
So let her slumber, then, unguarded save
By her own chastity, a triple mail,
And his good hand whose stalwart arms have borne
The sweet and senseless burthen like a babe
From coach to coach,—the serviceable strength!
Nay, what and if he gazed rewardedly
On the pale beauty prisoned in embrace,
Stooped over, stole a balmy breath perhaps
For more assurance sleep was not decease—
"Ut vidi," "how I saw!" succeeded by
"Ut perii," "how I sudden lost my brains!"
—What harm ensued to her unconscious quite?
For, curiosity—how natural!
Importunateness—what a privilege
In the ardent sex! And why curb ardour here?
How can the priest but pity whom he saved?
And pity is so near to love, and love
So neighbourly to all unreasonableness!
As to love's object, whether love were sage
Or foolish, could Pompilia know or care,
Being still sound asleep, as I premised?
Thus the philosopher absorbed by thought,
Even Archimedes, busy o'er a book
The while besiegers sacked his Syracuse,
Was ignorant of the imminence o' the point
O' the sword till it surprised him: let it stab,
And never knew himself was dead at all.
So sleep thou on, secure whate'er betide!
For thou, too, hast thy problem hard to solve-
How so much beauty is compatible
With so much innocence!
Fit place, methinks,
While in this task she rosily is lost,
To treat of and repel objection here
Which,—frivolous, I grant,—my mind misgives,
May somehow still have flitted, gadfly-like,
And teased the Court at times—as if, all said
And done, there seemed, the Court might nearly say,
In a certain acceptation, somewhat more
Of what may pass for insincerity,
Falsehood, throughout the course Pompilia took,
Than befits Christian. Pagans held, we know,
Man always ought to aim at good and truth,
Not always put one thing in the same words:
Non idem semper dicere sed spectare
Debemus. But the Pagan yoke was light;
"Lie not at all," the exacter precept bids:
Each least lie breaks the law,—is sin, we hold.
I humble me, but venture to submit—
What prevents sin, itself is sinless, sure:
And sin, which hinders sin of deeper dye,
Softens itself away by contrast so.
Conceive me! Little sin, by none at all,
Were properly condemned for great: but great,
By greater, dwindles into small again.
Now, what is greatest sin of womanhood?
That which unwomans it, abolishes
The nature of the woman,—impudence.
Who contradicts me here? Concede me, then,
Whatever friendly fault may interpose
To save the sex from self-abolishment
Is three-parts on the way to virtue's rank!
And, what is taxed here as duplicity,
Feint, wile and trick,—admitted for the nonce,—
What worse do one and all than interpose,
Hold, as it were, a deprecating hand,
Statuesquely, in the Medicean mode,
Before some shame which modesty would veil?
Who blames the gesture prettily perverse?
Thus,—lest ye miss a point illustrative,—
Admit the husband's calumny—allow
That the wife, having penned the epistle fraught
With horrors, charge on charge of crime she heaped
O' the head of Pietro and Violante—(still
Presumed her parents)—having despatched the same
To their arch-enemy Paolo, through free choice
And no sort of compulsion in the world—
Put case she next discards simplicity
For craft, denies the voluntary act,
Declares herself a passive instrument
I' the husband's hands; that, duped by knavery,
She traced the characters she could not write,
And took on trust the unread sense which, read,
And recognized were to be spurned at once:
Allow this calumny, I reiterate!
Who is so dull as wonder at the pose
Of our Pompilia in the circumstance?
Who sees not that the too-ingenuous soul,
Repugnant even at a duty done
Which brought beneath too scrutinizing glare
The misdemeanours,—buried in the dark,—
Of the authors of her being, as believed,—
Stung to the quick at her impulsive deed,
And willing to repair what harm it worked,
She—wise in this beyond what Nero proved,
Who when folk urged the candid juvenile
To sign the warrant, doom the guilty dead,
"Would I had never learned to write," quoth he!
—Pompilia rose above the Roman, cried
"To read or write I never learned at all!"
O splendidly mendacious!
But time fleets:
Let us not linger: hurry to the end,
Since flight does end and that, disastrously.
Beware ye blame desert for unsuccess,
Disparage each expedient else to praise,
Call failure folly! Man's best effort fails.
After ten years' resistance Troy succumbed:
Could valour save a town, Troy still had stood.
Pompilia came off halting in no point
Of courage, conduct, her long journey through:
But nature sank exhausted at the close,
And as I said, she swooned and slept all night.
Morn breaks and brings the husband: we assist
At the spectacle. Discovery succeeds.
Ha, how is this? What moonstruck rage is here?
Though we confess to partial frailty now,
To error in a woman and a wife,
Is 't by the rough way she shall be reclaimed?
Who bursts upon her chambered privacy?
What crowd profanes the chaste cubiculum?
What outcries and lewd laughter, scurril gibe
And ribald jest to scare the ministrant
Good angels that commerce with souls in sleep?
Why, had the worst crowned Guido to his wish,
Confirmed his most irrational surmise,
Yet there be bounds to man's emotion, checks
To an immoderate astonishment.
'T is decent horror, regulated wrath,
Befit our dispensation: have we back
The old Pagan license? Shall a Vulcan clap
His net o' the sudden and expose the pair
To the unquenchable universal mirth?
A feat, antiquity saw scandal in
So clearly, that the nauseous tale thereof—
Demodocus his nugatory song—
Hath ever been concluded modern stuff
Impossible to the mouth of the grave Muse,
So, foisted into that Eighth Odyssey
By some impertinent pickthank. O thou fool,
Count Guido Franceschini, what didst gain
By publishing thy secret to the world?
Were all the precepts of the wise a waste—
Bred in thee not one touch of reverence?
Admit thy wife—admonish we the fool,—
Were falseness' self, why chronicle thy shame?
Much rather should thy teeth bite out thy tongue,
Dumb lip consort with desecrated brow,
Silence become historiographer,
And thou—thine own Cornelius Tacitus!
But virtue, barred, still leaps the barrier, lords!
—Still, moon-like, penetrates the encroaching mist
And bursts, all broad and bare, on night, ye know!
Surprised, then, in the garb of truth, perhaps,
Pompilia, thus opposed, breaks obstacle,
Springs to her feet, and stands Thalassian-pure,
Confronts the foe,—nay, catches at his sword
And tries to kill the intruder, he complains.
Why, so she gave her lord his lesson back,
Crowned him, this time, the virtuous woman's way,
With an exact obedience; he brought sword,
She drew the same, since swords are meant to draw.
Tell not me 't is sharp play with tools on edge!
It was the husband chose the weapon here.
Why did not he inaugurate the game
With some gentility of apophthegm
Still pregnant on the philosophic page,
Some captivating cadence still a-lisp
O' the poet's lyre? Such spells subdue the surge,
Make tame the tempest, much more mitigate
The passions of the mind, and probably
Had moved Pompilia to a smiling blush.
No, he must needs prefer the argument
O' the blow: and she obeyed, in duty bound,
Returned him buffet ratiocinative—
Ay, in the reasoner's own interest,
For wife must follow whither husband leads,
Vindicate honour as himself prescribes,
Save him the very way himself bids save!
No question but who jumps into a quag
Should stretch forth hand and pray us "Pull me out
"By the hand!" such were the customary cry:
But Guido pleased to bid "Leave hand alone!
"Join both feet, rather, jump upon my head:
"I extricate myself by the rebound!"
And dutifully as enjoined she jumped—
Drew his own sword and menaced his own life,
Anything to content a wilful spouse.
And so he was contented—one must do
Justice to the expedient which succeeds,
Strange as it seem: at flourish of the blade,
The crowd drew back, stood breathless and abashed,
Then murmured "This should be no wanton wife,
"No conscience-stricken sinner, caught i' the act,
"And patiently awaiting our first stone:
"But a poor hard-pressed all-bewildered thing,
"Has rushed so far, misguidedly perhaps,
"Meaning no more harm than a frightened sheep.
"She sought for aid; and if she made mistake
"I' the man could aid most, why—so mortals do:
"Even the blessed Magdalen mistook
"Far less forgiveably: consult the place—
"Supposing him to be the gardener,
"'Sir,' said she, and so following." Why more words?
Forthwith the wife is pronounced innocent:
What would the husband more than gain his cause,
And find that honour flash in the world's eye,
His apprehension was lest soil had smirched?
So, happily the adventure comes to close
Whereon my fat opponent grounds his charge
Preposterous: at mid-day he groans "How dark!"
Listen to me, thou Archangelic swine!
Where is the ambiguity to blame,
The flaw to find in our Pompilia? Safe
She stands, see! Does thy comment follow quick
"Safe, inasmuch as at the end proposed;
"But thither she picked way by devious path—
"Stands dirtied, no dubiety at all!
"I recognize success, yet, all the same,
"Importunately will suggestion prompt—
"Better Pompilia gained the right to boast
"'No devious path, no doubtful patch was mine,
"'I saved my head nor sacrificed my foot:'
"Why, being in a peril, show mistrust
"Of the angels set to guard the innocent?
"Why rather hold by obvious vulgar help
"Of stratagem and subterfuge, excused
"Somewhat, but still no less a foil, a fault,
"Since low with high, and good with bad is linked?
"Methinks I view some ancient bas-relief.
"There stands Hesione thrust out by Troy,
"Her father's hand has chained her to a crag,
"Her mother's from the virgin plucked the vest,
"At a safe distance both distressful watch,
"While near and nearer comes the snorting orc.
"I look that, white and perfect to the end,
"She wait till Jove despatch some demigod;
"Not that,—impatient of celestial club
"Alcmena's son should brandish at the beast,—
'She daub, disguise her dainty limbs with pitch,
"And so elude the purblind monster! Ay,
"The trick succeeds, but 't is an ugly trick,
"Where needs have been no trick!"
My answer? Faugh;
Nimis incongrue! Too absurdly put!
Sententiam ego teneo contrariam,
Trick, I maintain, had no alternative.
The heavens were bound with brass,—Jove far at feast
(No feast like that thou didst not ask me to,
Arcangeli,—I heard of thy regale!)
With the unblamed Æthiop,—Hercules spun wool
I' the lap of Omphale, while Virtue shrieked—
The brute came paddling all the faster. You
Of Troy, who stood at distance, where's the aid
You offered in the extremity? Most and least,
Gentle and simple, here the Governor,
There the Archbishop, everywhere the friends,
Shook heads and waited for a miracle,
Or went their way, left Virtue to her fate.
Just this one rough and ready man leapt forth!
—Was found, sole anti-Fabius (dare I say)
Who restored things, with no delay at all,
Qui haud cunctando rem restituit! He,
He only, Caponsacchi 'mid a crowd,
Caught Virtue up, carried Pompilia off
Through gaping impotence of sympathy
In ranged Arezzo: what you take for pitch,
Is nothing worse, belike, than black and blue,
Mere evanescent proof that hardy hands
Did yeoman's service, cared not where the gripe
Was more than duly energetic: bruised,
She smarts a little, but her bones are saved
A fracture, and her skin will soon show sleek.
How it disgusts when weakness, false-refined,
Censures the honest rude effective strength,—
When sickly dreamers of the impossible
Decry plain sturdiness which does the feat
With eyes wide open!
Did occasion serve,
I could illustrate, if my lords allow;
Quid vetat, what forbids I aptly ask
With Horace, that I give my anger vent,
While I let breathe, no less, and recreate,
The gravity of my Judges, by a tale?
A case in point—what though an apologue
Graced by tradition?—possibly a fact:
Tradition must precede all scripture, words
Serve as our warrant ere our books can be:
So, to tradition back we needs must go
For any fact's authority: and this
Hath lived so far (like jewel hid in muck)
On page of that old lying vanity
Called "Sepher Toldoth Yeschu:" God be praised,
I read no Hebrew,—take the thing on trust:
But I believe the writer meant no good
(Blind as he was to truth in some respects)
To our pestiferous and schismatic … well,
My lords' conjecture be the touchstone, show
The thing for what it is! The author lacks
Discretion, and his zeal exceeds: but zeal,—
How rare in our degenerate day! Enough!
Here is the story: fear not, I shall chop
And change a little, else my Jew would press
All too unmannerly before the Court.
It happened once,—begins this foolish Jew,
Pretending to write Christian history,—
That three, held greatest, best and worst of men,
Peter and John and Judas, spent a day
In toil and travel through the country-side
On some sufficient business—I suspect,
Suppression of some Molinism i' the bud.
Foot-sore and hungry, dropping with fatigue,
They reached by nightfall a poor lonely grange,
Hostel or inn: so, knocked and entered there.
"Your pleasure, great ones?"—"Shelter, rest and food!"
For shelter, there was one bare room above;
For rest therein, three beds of bundled straw:
For food, one wretched starveling fowl, no more—
Meat for one mouth, but mockery for three.
"You have my utmost." How should supper serve?
Peter broke silence: "To the spit with fowl!
"And while 't is cooking, sleep!—since beds there be,
"And, so far, satisfaction of a want.
"Sleep we an hour, awake at supper-time,
"Then each of us narrate the dream he had,
"And he whose dream shall prove the happiest, point
"The clearliest out the dreamer as ordained
"Beyond his fellows to receive the fowl,
"Him let our shares be cheerful tribute to,
"His the entire meal, may it do him good!"
Who could dispute so plain a consequence?
So said, so done: each hurried to his straw,
Slept his hour's sleep and dreamed his dream, and woke.
"I," commenced John, "dreamed that I gained the prize
"We all aspire to: the proud place was mine,
"Throughout the earth and to the end of time
"I was the Loved Disciple: mine the meal!"
"But I," proceeded Peter, "dreamed, a word
"Gave me the headship of our company,
"Made me the Vicar and Vice-gerent, gave
"The keys of heaven and hell into my hand,
"And o'er the earth, dominion: mine the meal!"
"While I," submitted in soft under-tone
The Iscariot—sense of his unworthiness
Turning each eye up to the inmost white—
With long-drawn sigh, yet letting both lips smack,
"I have had just the pitifullest dream
"That ever proved man meanest of his mates,
"And born foot-washer and foot-wiper, nay
"Foot-kisser to each comrade of you all!
"I dreamed I dreamed; and in that mimic dream
"(Impalpable to dream as dream to fact)
"Methought I meanly chose to sleep no wink
"But wait until I heard my brethren snore;
"Then stole from couch, slipped noiseless o'er the planks,
"Slid downstairs, furtively approached the hearth,
"Found the fowl duly brown, both back and breast,
"Hissing in harmony with the cricket's chirp,
"Grilled to a point; said no grace but fell to,
"Nor finished till the skeleton lay bare.
"In penitence for which ignoble dream,
"Lo, I renounce my portion cheerfully!
"Fie on the flesh—be mine the ethereal gust,
"And yours the sublunary sustenance!
"See that whate'er be left ye give the poor!"
Down the two scuttled, one on other's heel,
Stung by a fell surmise; and found, alack,
A goodly savour, both the drumstick bones,
And that which henceforth took the appropriate name
O' the Merry-thought, in memory of the fact
That to keep wide awake is man's best dream.
So,—as was said once of Thucydides
And his sole joke, "The lion, lo, hath laughed!"—
Just so, the Governor and all that's great
I' the city, never meant that Innocence
Should quite starve while Authority sat at meat;
They meant to fling a bone at banquet's end:
Wished well to our Pompilia—in their dreams,
Nor bore the secular sword in vain—asleep.
Just so the Archbishop and all good like him
Went to bed meaning to pour oil and wine
I' the wounds of her, next day,—but long ere day,
They had burned the one and drunk the other, while
Just so, again, contrariwise, the priest
Sustained poor Nature in extremity
By stuffing barley-bread into her mouth,
Saving Pompilia (grant the parallel)
By the plain homely and straightforward way
Taught him by common sense. Let others shriek
"Oh what refined expedients did we dream
"Proved us the only fit to help the fair!"
He cried "A carriage waits, jump in with me!"
And now, this application pardoned, lords,—
This recreative pause and breathing-while,—
Back to beseemingness and gravity!
For Law steps in: Guido appeals to Law,
Demands she arbitrate,—does well for once.
O Law, of thee how neatly was it said
By that old Sophocles, thou hast thy seat
I' the very breast of Jove, no meanlier throned!
Here is a piece of work now, hitherto
Begun and carried on, concluded near,
Without an eye-glance cast thy sceptre's way;
And, lo the stumbling and discomfiture!
Well may you call them "lawless" means, men take
To extricate themselves through mother-wit
When tangled haply in the toils of life!
Guido would try conclusions with his foe,
Whoe'er the foe was and whate'er the offence;
He would recover certain dowry-dues:
Instead of asking Law to lend a hand,
What pother of sword drawn and pistol cocked,
What peddling with forged letters and paid spies,
Politic circumvention!—all to end
As it began—by loss of the fool's head,
First in a figure, presently in a fact.
It is a lesson to mankind at large.
How other were the end, would men be sage
And bear confidingly each quarrel straight,
O Law, to thy recipient mother-knees!
How would the children light come and prompt go,
This with a red-cheeked apple for reward,
The other, peradventure red-cheeked too
I' the rear, by taste of birch for punishment.
No foolish brawling murder any more!
Peace for the household, practise for the Fisc,
And plenty for the exchequer of my lords!
Too much to hope, in this world: in the next,
Who knows? Since, why should sit the Twelve enthroned
To judge the tribes, unless the tribes be judged?
And 't is impossible but offences come:
So, all's one lawsuit, all one long leet-day!
Forgive me this digression—that I stand
Entranced awhile at Law's first beam, outbreak
O' the business, when the Count's good angel bade
"Put up thy sword, born enemy to the ear,
"And let Law listen to thy difference!"
And Law does listen and compose the strife,
Settle the suit, how wisely and how well!
On our Pompilia, faultless to a fault,
Law bends a brow maternally severe,
Implies the worth of perfect chastity,
By fancying the flaw she cannot find.
Superfluous sifting snow, nor helps nor harms:
'T is safe to censure levity in youth,
Tax womanhood with indiscretion, sure!
Since toys, permissible to-day, become
Follies to-morrow: prattle shocks in church:
And that curt skirt which lets a maiden skip,
The matron changes for a trailing robe.
Mothers may aim a blow with half-shut eyes
Nodding above their spindles by the fire,
And chance to hit some hidden fault, else safe.
Just so, Law hazarded a punishment—
If applicable to the circumstance,
Why, well! if not so apposite, well too.
"Quit the gay range o' the world," I hear her cry,
"Enter, in lieu, the penitential pound:
"Exchange the gauds of pomp for ashes, dust!
"Leave each mollitious haunt of luxury!
"The golden-garnished silken-couched alcove,
"The many-columned terrace that so tempts
"Feminine soul put foot forth, extend ear
"To fluttering joy of lover's serenade,—
"Leave these for cellular seclusion! mask
"And dance no more, but fast and pray! avaunt—
"Be burned, thy wicked townsman's sonnet-book!
"Welcome, mild hymnal by … some better scribe!
"For the warm arms were wont enfold thy flesh,
"Let wire-shirt plough and whipcord discipline!"
If such an exhortation proved, perchance,
Inapplicable, words bestowed in waste,
What harm, since Law has store, can spend nor miss?
And so, our paragon submits herself,
Goes at command into the holy house,
And, also at command, comes out again:
For, could the effect of such obedience prove
Too certain, too immediate? Being healed,
Go blaze abroad the matter, blessed one!
Art thou sound forthwith? Speedily vacate
The step by pool-side, leave Bethesda free
To patients plentifully posted round,
Since the whole need not the physician! Brief,
She may betake her to her parents' place.
Welcome her, father, with wide arms once more,
Motion her, mother, to thy breast again!
For why? Since Law relinquishes the charge,
Grants to your dwelling-place a prison's style,
Rejoice you with Pompilia! golden days,
Redeunt Saturnia regna. Six weeks slip,
And she is domiciled in house and home
As though she thence had never budged at all.
And thither let the husband,—joyous, ay,
But contrite also—quick betake himself,
Proud that his dove which lay among the pots
Hath mued those dingy feathers,—moulted now,
Shows silver bosom clothed with yellow gold!
So shall he tempt her to the perch she fled,
Bid to domestic bliss the truant back.
But let him not delay! Time fleets how fast,
And opportunity, the irrevocable,
Once flown will flout him! Is the furrow traced?
If field with corn ye fail preoccupy,
Darnel for wheat and thistle-beards for grain,
Infelix lolium, carduus horridus,
Will grow apace in combination prompt,
Defraud the husbandman of his desire.
Already—hist—what murmurs 'monish now
The laggard?—doubtful, nay, fantastic bruit
Of such an apparition, such return
Interdum, to anticipate the spouse,
Of Caponsacchi's very self! 'T is said,
When nights are lone and company is rare,
His visitations brighten winter up.
If so they did—which nowise I believe—
(How can I?—proof abounding that the priest,
Once fairly at his relegation-place,
Never once left it) still, admit he stole
A midnight march, would fain see friend again,
Find matter for instruction in the past,
Renew the old adventure in such chat
As cheers a fireside! He was lonely too,
He, too, must need his recreative hour.
Shall it amaze the philosophic mind
If he, long wont the empurpled cup to quaff,
Have feminine society at will,
Being debarred abruptly from all drink
Save at the spring which Adam used for wine,
Dreads harm to just the health he hoped to guard,
And, trying abstinence, gains malady?
Ask Tozzi, now physician to the Pope!
"Little by little break"—(I hear he bids
Master Arcangeli my antagonist,
Who loves good cheer, and may indulge too much:
So I explain the logic of the plea
Wherewith he opened our proceedings late)—
"Little by little break a habit, Don,
"Become necessity to feeble flesh!"
And thus, nocturnal taste of intercourse
(Which never happened,—but, suppose it did)
May have been used to dishabituate
By sip and sip this drainer to the dregs
O' the draught of conversation,—heady stuff,
Brewage which, broached, it took two days and nights
To properly discuss i' the journey, Sirs!
Such power has second-nature, men call use,
That undelightful objects get to charm
Instead of chafe: the daily colocynth
Tickles the palate by repeated dose,
Old sores scratch kindly, the ass makes a push
Although the mill-yoke-wound be smarting yet,
For mill-door bolted on a holiday:
Nor must we marvel here if impulse urge
To talk the old story over now and then,
The hopes and fears, the stoppage and the haste,—
Subjects of colloquy to surfeit once.
"Here did you bid me twine a rosy wreath!"
"And there you paid my lips a compliment!"
"Here you admired the tower could be so tall!"
"And there you likened that of Lebanon
"To the nose of the beloved!" Trifles! still,
"Forsan et hæc olim,"—such trifles serve
To make the minutes pass in winter-time.
Husband, return then, I re-counsel thee!
For, finally, of all glad circumstance
Should make a prompt return imperative,
What in the world awaits thee, dost suppose?
O' the sudden, as good gifts are wont befall,
What is the hap of our unconscious Count?
That which lights bonfire and sets cask a-tilt,
Dissolves the stubborn'st heart in jollity.
O admirable, there is born a babe,
A son, an heir, a Franceschini last
And best o' the stock! Pompilia, thine the palm!
Repaying incredulity with faith,
Ungenerous thrift of each marital debt
With bounty in profuse expenditure,
Pompilia scorns to have the old year end
Without a present shall ring in the new—
Bestows on her too-parsimonious lord
An infant for the apple of his eye,
Core of his heart, and crown completing life,
True summum bonum of the earthly lot!
"We," saith ingeniously the sage, "are born
"Solely that others may be born of us."
So, father, take thy child, for thine that child,
Oh nothing doubt! In wedlock born, law holds
Baseness impossible: since "filius est
"Quem nuptiæ demonstrant," twits the text
Whoever dares to doubt.
Yet doubt he dares!
O faith, where art thou flown from out the world?
Already on what an age of doubt we fall!
Instead of each disputing for the prize,
The babe is bandied here from that to this.
Whose the babe? "Cujum pecus?" Guido's lamb?
"An Meliboei?" Nay, but of the priest!
"Non sed Ægonis!" Someone must be sire:
And who shall say, in such a puzzling strait,
If there were not vouchsafed some miracle
To the wife who had been harassed and abused
More than enough by Guido's family
For non-production of the promised fruit
Of marriage? What if Nature, I demand,
Touched to the quick by taunts upon her sloth,
Had roused herself, put forth recondite power,
Bestowed this birth to vindicate her sway,
Like the strange favour, Maro memorized
As granted Aristæus when his hive
Lay empty of the swarm? not one more bee—
Not one more babe to Franceschini's house!
And lo, a new birth filled the air with joy,
Sprung from the bowels of the generous steer,
A novel son and heir rejoiced the Count!
Spontaneous generation, need I prove
Were facile feat to Nature at a pinch?
Let whoso doubts, steep horsehair certain weeks
In water, there will be produced a snake;
Spontaneous product of the horse, which horse
Happens to be the representative—
Now that I think on't—of Arezzo's self,
The very city our conception blessed:
Is not a prancing horse the City-arms?
What sane eye fails to see coincidence?
Cur ego, boast thou, my Pompilia, then,
Desperem fieri sine conjuge
Mater—how well the Ovidian distich suits!—
Et parere intacto dummodo
Casta viro? Such miracle was wrought!
Note, further, as to mark the prodigy,
The babe in question neither took the name
Of Guido, from the sire presumptive, nor
Giuseppe, from the sire potential, but
Gaetano—last saint of our hierarchy,
And newest namer for a thing so new!
What other motive could have prompted choice?
Therefore be peace again: exult, ye hills!
Ye vales rejoicingly break forth in song!
Incipe, parve puer, begin, small boy,
Risu cognoscere patrem, with a laugh
To recognize thy parent! Nor do thou
Boggle, oh parent, to return the grace!
Nec anceps hære, pater, puero
Cognoscendo—one may well eke out the prayer!
In vain! The perverse Guido doubts his eyes,
Distrusts assurance, lets the devil drive.
Because his house is swept and garnished now,
He, having summoned seven like himself,
Must hurry thither, knock and enter in,
And make the last worse than the first, indeed!
Is he content? We are. No further blame
O' the man and murder! They were stigmatized
Befittingly: the Court heard long ago
My mind o' the matter, which, outpouring full,
Has long since swept like surge, i' the simile
Of Homer, overborne both dyke and dam,
And whelmed alike client and advocate:
His fate is sealed, his life as good as gone,
On him I am not tempted to waste word.
Yet though my purpose holds,—which was and is
And solely shall be to the very end,
To draw the true effigies of a saint,
Do justice to perfection in the sex,—
Yet let not some gross pamperer of the flesh
And niggard in the spirit's nourishment,
Whose feeding hath offuscated his wit
Rather than law,—he never had, to lose—
Let not such advocate object to me
I leave my proper function of attack!
"What 's this to Bacchus?"—(in the classic phrase,
Well used, for once) he hiccups probably.
O Advocate o' the Poor, thou born to make
Their blessing void—beati pauperes!
By painting saintship I depicture sin:
Beside my pearl, I prove how black thy jet,
And, through Pompilia's virtue, Guido's crime.
Back to her, then,—with but one beauty more,
End we our argument,—one crowning grace
Pre-eminent 'mid agony and death.
For to the last Pompilia played her part,
Used the right means to the permissible end,
And, wily as an eel that stirs the mud
Thick overhead, so baffling spearman's thrust,
She, while he stabbed her, simulated death,
Delayed, for his sake, the catastrophe,
Obtained herself a respite, four days' grace,
Whereby she told her story to the world,
Enabled me to make the present speech,
And, by a full confession, saved her soul.
Yet hold, even here would malice leer its last,
Gurgle its choked remonstrance: snake, hiss free!
Oh, that 's the objection? And to whom?—not her
But me, forsooth—as, in the very act
Of both confession and (what followed close)
Subsequent talk, chatter and gossipry,
Babble to sympathizing he and she
Whoever chose besiege her dying bed,—
As this were found at variance with my tale,
Falsified all I have adduced for truth,
Admitted not one peccadillo here,
Pretended to perfection, first and last,
O' the whole procedure—perfect in the end,
Perfect i' the means, perfect in everything,
Leaving a lawyer nothing to excuse,
Reason away and show his skill about!
—A flight, impossible to Adamic flesh,
Just to be fancied, scarcely to be wished,
And, anyhow, unpleadable in court!
"How reconcile," gasps Malice, "that with this?"
Your "this," friend, is extraneous to the law,
Comes of men's outside meddling, the unskilled
Interposition of such fools as press
Out of their province. Must I speak my mind?
Far better had Pompilia died o' the spot
Than found a tongue to wag and shame the law,
Shame most of all herself,—could friendship fail
And advocacy lie less on the alert:
But no, they shall protect her to the end!
Do I credit the alleged narration? No!
Lied our Pompilia then, to laud herself?
Still, no! Clear up what seems discrepancy?
The means abound: art 's long, though time is short;
So, keeping me in compass, all I urge
Is—since, confession at the point of death,
Nam in articulo mortis, with the Church
Passes for statement honest and sincere,
Nemo presumitur reus esse,—then,
If sure that all affirmed would be believed,
'T was charity, in her so circumstanced,
To spend the last breath in one effort more
For universal good of friend and foe:
And,—by pretending utter innocence,
Nay, freedom from each foible we forgive,—
Re-integrate—not solely her own fame,
But do the like kind office for the priest
Whom telling the crude truth about might vex,
Haply expose to peril, abbreviate
Indeed the long career of usefulness
Presumably before him: while her lord,
Whose fleeting life is forfeit to the law,—
What mercy to the culprit if, by just
The gift of such a full certificate
Of his immitigable guiltiness,
She stifled in him the absurd conceit
Of murder as it were a mere revenge
—Stopped confirmation of that jealousy
Which, did she but acknowledge the first flaw,
The faintest foible, had emboldened him
To battle with the charge, baulk penitence,
Bar preparation for impending fate!
Whereas, persuade him that he slew a saint
Who sinned not even where she may have sinned,
You urge him all the brisklier to repent
Of most and least and aught and everything!
Still, if this view of mine content you not,
Lords, nor excuse the genial falsehood here,
We come to our Triarii, last resource:
We fall back on the inexpugnable,
Submitting,—she confessed before she talked!
The sacrament obliterates the sin:
What is not,—was not, therefore, in a sense.
Let Molinists distinguish, "Souls washed white
"But red once, still show pinkish to the eye!"
We say, abolishment is nothingness,
And nothingness has neither head nor tail,
End nor beginning! Better estimate
Exorbitantly, than disparage aught
Of the efficacity of the act, I hope!
Solvuntur tabulæ? May we laugh and go?
Well,—not before (in filial gratitude
To Law, who, mighty mother, waves adieu)
We take on us to vindicate Law's self!
For,—yea, Sirs,—curb the start, curtail the stare!—
Remains that we apologize for haste
I' the Law, our lady who here bristles up
"Blame my procedure? Could the Court mistake?
"(Which were indeed a misery to think)
"Did not my sentence in the former stage
"O' the business bear a title plain enough?
"Decretum"—I translate it word for word—
"'Decreed: the priest, for his complicity
"'I' the flight and deviation of the dame,
"'As well as for unlawful intercourse,
"'Is banished three years: crime and penalty,
"Declared alike. If he be taxed with guilt,
"How can you call Pompilia innocent?
"If both be innocent, have I been just?"
Gently, O mother, judge men—whose mistake
Is in the mere misapprehensiveness!
The Titulus a-top of your decree
Was but to ticket there the kind of charge
You in good time would arbitrate upon.
Title is one thing,—arbitration's self,
Probatio, quite another possibly.
Subsistit, there holds good the old response,
Responsio tradita, we must not stick,
Quod non sit attendendus Titulus,
To the Title, sed Probatio, but the Proof,
Resultans ex processu, the result
O' the Trial, and the style of punishment,
Et poena per sententiam imposita.
All is tentative, till the sentence come:
An indication of what men expect,
But nowise an assurance they shall find.
Lords, what if we permissibly relax
The tense bow, as the law-god Phoebus bids,
Relieve our gravity at labour's close?
I traverse Rome, feel thirsty, need a draught,
Look for a wine-shop, find it by the bough
Projecting as to say "Here wine is sold!"
So much I know,—"sold:" but what sort of wine?
Strong, weak, sweet, sour, home-made or foreign drink?
That much must I discover by myself.
"Wine is sold," quoth the bough, "but good or bad,
"Find, and inform us when you smack your lips!"
Exactly so, Law hangs her title forth,
To show she entertains you with such case
About such crime. Come in! she pours, you quaff.
You find the Priest good liquor in the main,
But heady and provocative of brawls:
Remand the residue to flask once more,
Lay it low where it may deposit lees,
I' the cellar: thence produce it presently,
Three years the brighter and the better!
Law's son, have I bestowed my filial help,
And thus I end, tenax proposito;
Point to point as I purposed have I drawn
Pompilia, and implied as terribly
Guido: so, gazing, let the world crown Law—
Able once more, despite my impotence,
And helped by the acumen of the Court,
To eliminate, display, make triumph truth!
What other prize than truth were worth the pains?
There's my oration—much exceeds in length
That famed panegyric of Isocrates,
They say it took him fifteen years to pen.
But all those ancients could say anything!
He put in just what rushed into his head:
While I shall have to prune and pare and print.
This comes of being born in modern times
With priests for auditory. Still, it pays.
I Love The World The Way A Mother Loves A Dead Child
I love the world the way a mother loves a dead child
and sees its ghost everywhere.
I look at the stars and more and more
I see the disappointment in their eyes.
We waste each other like clear cut forests.
In the sacred groves where the priests
are the birds of death, you're either
a chainsaw or a nail protesting a passion play.
Ever since the last lyric died an agonizing death
poems have become gadgets
in the hands of inventors without fingerprints.
No growth rings in the heartwood of a dead tree.
Tone-deaf door-knockers who write poetry
as a kind of white noise to drown out
the shrieking of the innocent in their crawl spaces.
Chronic renewal of one-eyed overviews.
Most people's lives are just big enough lies
they've told themselves often enough
to believe there may be something to it.
Wounded earth, I weep for you like a slayer
weeps for the slain. You were not my mother.
You were my child. Nemetic humanity
raises its own assassin in paranoid despair.
Measure of the mighty in the power of a dam,
how easy it is to forget the omnipotence
of a dropp of rain. It's still possible to open
cosmic gates of the aviaries and let
all the winged horses fly free and riderless
like the silk paratroopers of the milk weed pods
or the albino umbrellas of smouldering dandelions.
But for the most part
beauty and truth lost heart long ago
and were turned out like fashionistas
on the celebrity catwalks of surrealistic irreverence
and now the peony is wearing the thorns of the rose.
I still go out at night far from town by myself
to amuse the stars with my humanity,
the dents in my shining, the legends of light
I turned into black farces of self-righteous fallibility
as if I had acquired the power to reverse
a diamond back into coal. The mourning dove
studies the occult magic of the crow
and the sacred clowns look for enlightenment
in their shame, in the irrelevant antics
of the painted tears that fall from their eyes
whenever they address themselves
like mirrors in a green room putting their make-up on.
Been in the tide of this night sea of awareness
so long now, I've developed a tendency
to round the sharp corners of the crucials
out into more spherically embrasive wavelengths,
kinder pieces of sand-blasted glass
to insulate myself exponentially from the details
as if a full moon were some kind of antidote
to its own fangs and the harvest wasn't toxic.
But I know I'm only trying to divine my way
by white lightning on the moon illuminating a road
as wide as everywhere. And my childhood rage
is stilling tearing down gates and fences
around open fields where the wildflowers bloom
without starmaps, and the bounty of the earth
isn't a menu that determines your place in the foodchain.
Poetry's been the longest good night I've ever experienced
and life the deepest, most gracious bow
to all the people, events, and things I've ever cherished.
Not too hard to see the lowest common denominator
of all values has become a quantum mechanical lottery
and physics is just a screening myth
for what gets murdered along the way to the promised land.
Enculturated to our own pollution like fish,
though we swim out as far as the spring equinox in Pisces
to pour the universe out of the universe,
worlds waterclocking into worlds, still
after washing ourselves off in stars like water and sand
seeping into our graves like the mirage of an oil spill,
we're still recognized immediately among the worlds
by the indelibility of our filth, having yet to learn
not to track our identity in after us into the house of life.
The ululation of the loons wailing like Arab widows
reverberating across the lake sounds more
like an angry plea, than a call to prayer,
but who could lament the immensity
of that kind of tragic absence in a single lifetime
without emptying their spirits out like dry wells in a desert
that navigates like a madman by the full moon?
When I was young, I opened up a night school
to explain what a human was to the stars,
but now my soul's a lot more illiterate than it was
and it's me that's asking them to teach me to read.
Even if you look at it like a leather boot
that's walked down one too many roads
not to feel the pebble of the world bruise its heel,
even though we've made a great mess of it,
it's still a great mystery, yes? Give your assent
without hesitation, or the moon will know you're lying.
The mysterium tremendum et fascinans of the Romans.
The bright vacancy in the dark abundance
of the ore of our unknowing. Even the hardest heart
bleeds like iron out of the sacred rock
transformed in the forges of the fireflies of mystic insight
into a sword of moonlight worthy of being
laid down upon the waters of life in tribute.
Even if you had to fall upon it more than once
to get the point before you returned it in gratitude.
I look Into People's Faces
I look into people's faces
and I see the same wound
under many different scars.
I look into their hearts
like a stranger at night
through a passing window
and I see how suffering through
the agonies of life
has ripened some
with sweetness and compassion
and others are already
rotten before they fall.
I look into people's eyes
and some are vast starlit skies
and some are the iota subscripts
of scholarly fireflies
that footnote the constellations
at the bottom of the page
with details off the beaten path
of their MLA mainstream cosmic thesis.
And some are like moons
with parenthetical crescents
with nothing in between
both sides of their smile
that isn't a cynical aside
about the lost innocence
of a phase they've already gone through.
And some stare back like eclipses
that have pulled the blinds down
over their eyes
like sunglasses disguised
by a witness protection program
but you just know
on the Sea of Shadows
as they were in the womb
and in the Gulf of Mexico
the black blood
of an incorporated miscarriage
that hemorrhaged like the pot of gold
at the end of the oleaginous rainbow.
I look into people's souls
and I see how afraid
they must be of life
to hide out in the open
like an ocean
that hasn't kept faith
with its own depths
and tries to pretend it's
as airy and light as the sky.
The birds are flying through the roots.
The fish are swimming in the treetops.
I see judas-goats chained
to the stakes of their ego-Is
like sacrificial tiger bait
devoted to their cunning.
I see the anti-muses
that shadow Mt. Helicon
like black holes
in the death valleys
of human imagination.
And I wonder how they ever got here.
What bend in space
led them to this twisted place
like a forsaken road
they keep taking
like a wormhole through time
into the womb
of a stillborn universe
where the moonlight
burns their embryos
on pyres of lime
beside the dry creekbeds
of nameless rivers going nowhere?
Along their flowerless banks
I see the rib-cages of dead snakes
that went witching for water
with tongues and tines
of Kundalini lightning
that ran up their spines
like time through a waterclock
and the hulls of empty lifeboats
that died in the desert
at the bottom of the mirage
they drowned in
hoping to find themselves
among those who survived
by learning to swim through sand
like fish in an hourglass aquarium.
I'd rather walk on stars
reflected in the shattered mirrors
of my last self-image
the generosity of my solitude
with mass ingratitude.
I listen to people's voices
and they all seem like the same echo
with many different mouths.
I've tried to respect
the mystic specificity
of the thousands of fierce individuals
I've met over the years
but the more I've learned
about myself and others
the more I see the same mind
in many different skulls.
The same genius of inspired water
that poured an ocean
of sentient awareness
into everyone of our cells.
I look into people's faces
however young or old they are
and I see infinite spaces
moonlighting as time
on the nightshift of the stars.
I see horror and compassion.
I see butterflies sipping
the nectar of diamonds
like honey in the promised land
and maggots born in excrement
thriving on offal
like the janitors of the dead
because everything grows best
in the soil it was born into
like karma in the fortune-cookies
of wombs and eggs and cocoons.
I look into people's eyes
like sad stars
through the generous end
of the telescope
that brings the far near
like impact craters
and I see how some people
cling to the memory of themselves
like underground seas
in frozen lockets
of water on the moon.
I look into people's secret shrines
they build like birds
in the eye of the storm
looking for salvation.
And I can hear
the echo of their prayers
bouncing back off hydrogen clouds
like a nineteen twenties radio show
thousands of lightyears away
as if they just said them yesterday
and the universe as usual
threw the words back in their face
like the cosmic background hiss
of snowflakes on a furnace
going out like stars.
I've seen the innocence of fireflies
and the blood-rose weaving thorns
around the massive blackholes of death
as if they were merely
a pinprick in a voodoo doll
that got into white magic by mistake.
I've looked into
the nuclear blaze of madness
like an A bomb with shades on
and seen the flash and shadow
of embryo silhouettes
spit out like cave paintings
on the firewalls of the fusion wombs
that give birth to the heavier elements
it takes to survive.
But the water's not mad
just because the moon's a lunatic.
The mirror might seem
just as angry as you are
but it doesn't feel a thing.
Learning wisdom is learning space.
It doesn't eat flowers
and the weeds don't sting.
It takes everything it embraces to heart
and nothing's left out
from the very beginning.
Like the whole of the moon and the sky
in every eye of water
that's ever looked into me
and seen that everyone
is the heart of a mystery
is their only true identity.
It's our seeing
that makes the flowers open
and the stars shine.
It's our hearing that gives
the wind something
meaningful to say
and the grass something
to whisper about.
Whatever you touch
walks in your skin from thereon.
Whatever you taste
be it roses and nettles
or sulphur and wine
or the sour-sweet radiance
of the stars on your tongue
you're the flavour of the day
It's your nose
that gives the burning leaves
in the urns of autumn
the spectral fragrance
that are barely holding on.
And it's your mind.
enlightened or deluded
whatever you think or feel
is abundantly missing
or dream you're waking up to
that makes the world real
in every mystically specific detail
of who you are.
I look into myself
as far as the stars
at the edge of my seeing
fourteen point five billion lightyears away
and I can see how much time and space
how many species of life
generation after generation
have been born to give birth and die.
All the roses swept
from the stairs
of our hopeless tomorrows
because they were a tribute to love
meant for someone else.
All the spontaneous joys
that cast their long random shadows
like occasional fireflies of insight
across the lunar mindscape
of this afterlife of sorrows
where every church is the gravestone
of an unsuspecting god.
I look into my own seeing
like light upon light
in the vast expanse
of an unknowable night
and I'm cosmically astonished
by how many worlds within worlds
eyes within eyes
minds within minds
lives within lives it takes
to make a single habitable human being
meaning everyone of us sacred fools
fit as a genius
for the crazy wisdom
of a creative life
in a self-inspired universe.