Excerpts from Memories For One Eye
Poetry has been part of my life as long as I can remember. Other children listened to fairy tales – I listened to poetry. Others read the Bobbsey Twins – I read Kipling and Yeats. Others wrote gossip notes in class – I wrote poems.
I began to take it seriously in high school and began what turned out to be the traditional seven years apprenticeship before I created my first real poem.
I was stunned. My first response was disbelief, but I was unable to deny the facts. I immediately dumped seven years of practice in the garbage and began my first volume of genuine poetry. I never looked back.
I cannot imagine a world without poetry. If I found myself in such a world, I would leave immediately.
One thing my training as a linguist taught me is that each language has concepts which it expresses better than other languages do. Languages have idioms and turns of phrase which speak volumes about the speaker’s culture, life, outlook and history. Yet even if we were fluent in every tongue ever spoken, there are some things that are inexpressible within the disciplines of a language.
Language arose to deal with the everyday world and only clumsily handles the extraordinary. The spiritual world needs a different vocabulary and syntax.
That’s why we have poetry. That’s why it’s sacred.
Oh sweet improbable of guess, and who was I to know
that words I spoke in faith would turn out true?
I looked into your eyes tonight and memories returned
of nights I saw your eyes and witnessed you.
And Memory was in the air, for when your hand touched mine,
it clung and, hesitating, dropped away
as if you sensed the love we had was even now not done
and in your laugh was what you dared not say.
Old dreams, lost dreams, mirrors and memory,
dark nights, dark eyes, kiss and leave us true.
Three birds came to announce the wind,
the soft blue wind,
three birds flying as one
over the hard green earth.
The garden was quiet, very
as if things
were buried there.
And one red rose
(so dark dark dark it seemed about to bleed)
fell red-bursting on the silver air
and shattered the hard green earth.
At the edge of a desert a coyote sits
watching the shadow black upon the sand,
the shadow of a bird that cannot be.
The ignorant beast unveils his fangs
and trots in sly pursuit.
Beneath scrub cedar he waits
and sees flat darkness hover by.
He leaps. The gray dust rises
dry and choking.
Silence seeps between triumphant gasps.
The shadow is gone. The coyote is content.
Bird out of nowhere, white bird flying,
let not your flight be questioned.
No perch upon this dark earth
but what the Earth contrives to steal your secret.
Let not your flight be questioned!
a grace on the still air
and answer with flight,
We bury the dead in convenient haste,
A legacy perhaps.
We were pioneers
and those who struggle have little time for Death.
The act is stark, a black-and-white thing to do.
The Puritan knife that was our Will
carved a narrow way of life,
for all that life’s variety.
By a dying fire, good hunters, cleaning our weapons,
we turn, curious, in our hands
bits of lives that met our blade
but did not turn it:
a summer bluejay;
a favorite mare;
the odd young Englishman to cut the hay one year;
the son who drowned – was it accidental? –
and a full table.
was a held
Like the Earth that yawns and flings aside
the sheets of night and, naked, meets the day,
out of darkness, out of sleep I come
to kneel at last, who never learned to pray.
Like a bird that fills its silver throat
with praise of all each new-dawned day will bring,
full of hope and filled with simple awe
I lift my voice, who never learned to sing.
Like the tumbleweed before the wind
which moves with grace for all it moves by chance,
I set myself adrift and seek the breeze
to leap for joy, who never learned to dance.
Because I love, the world is fresh and new.
I learn, I am, I say myself…for you.
When symbols finally overcome their source
and I feel more the host and less the guest
in Mankind’s pleasant house of fantasy
I shall return to where my heart can rest.
I shall wander on a Western shore
and build a place of quiet to abide
and watch the ebb and flow of endless skies
and muse upon the ways of man and tide.
By heather-perfumed sunlit gentle hills
that step so lightly down to greet the sea
beside white cliffs that guard the pebbled shore
where sea-birds carve their silent melody,
there will my mind be witness as it can
unto a world never made by Man.
There are some silences that are not dark,
just as there are shadows made of silver.
Only a fool could fail to believe
but more the fool who thinks such days will last.
For love is like an ocean, wild or calm,
whose beauty is its changeless rule of change.
Yet every ocean has its time-teased shores
and every wanderer comes home at last.
Now fast at harbor, wiser, weatherbeaten,
an echo rages in the sailor’s bones
and he remembers to his dying day
bright silences and shadows made of silver.
I do not seek remembrance in your mind
that labyrinth of immovable images
through which your restless sparroweyes will flash,
seeking the remnants of a singing dawn.
When I am gone and the starburned nightingale
of your dark blood investigates the years
let it find no trace of me in that soft night
but as a tear that falls into surprise
from some unguessed delight of yesterday.
For such of me as persists within your flesh
should be unknown, or it bring you to regret.
Then hold me blindly in your Autumn hand
and tell your children some careless phrase of mine
but forget the origin of the words your speak,
that only my love may claim immortality
as innocent wisdom, a heart within your heart.
When your blood moves
slower than parting lovers
and night’s own beast
grazes upon disaster
in the loneliness of dawn you’ll hear a horn
sweeter than an angel’s dreams of God.
Then look for me from your window
and me upon the meadows
along of the drowsy trees
waking the birds.
Then look for me from your dooryard
and myself down the street,
turning the corner
as if it were Ace of Trumps.
I will remember water and silver and wind
in a pale sky. I witnessed what I saw;
the hand that shapes experience from event,
smiles, tears and silences that spoke,
blood that sang and things unwordable,
the tune that mingles with a woman’s voice
when Love is noun and verb and adjective,
when you and I seem somehow quaintly past
in the unexpected present tense of We.
There is no end to this, for having been,
it will be, as long as memory.
After the storm and sadness of goodbye,
you I remember: water and silver and wind.
Pacific ocean, calmer of my heart
stretching your endless blue across the miles,
how confidently you ease me with your art
when in your breadth I see my lover’s smiles.
And how your breakers clatter on the shore
and seem to slice the tropic night in half
as waves in their self-echoing delight
match the music in my lover’s laugh.
Sea of Quiet, how your boundless deeps
give me but a hinting of the whole,
as – half impassioned, more than half asleep –
her sea-deep eyes reveal my lover’s soul.
I love you most, serene, pacific water
because you are her mother … or her daughter.
Even this shall pass
away, for it is in
Always in time for the first battle
bullrun bottle battle butt.
Notice we ask naught
Why, it is easy if you know how.
How! Paleface speak
with forked tongue
forked flocked fucked folked
tongue the larder of bees
and the sons of bees.
Go, delicately seize the seas
without touching the see-weed.
Part the salt from the water
and take your choice
your choice your choicest
morsels feed the dogs
dogging our footsteps
We go our separate ways.
I bid you grace and beauty.
You must pay
Keep today your silences. The world
screams everything a man might wish to say.
One need not speak of snowflakes in a blizzard
nor curse at war with Armageddon here.
The Elements – Earth, Fire, Water, Air –
are dying now despite your litanies,
and Man’s unconscious, precognized defeat
is agonized through trumpets made for joy.
Nothing that needs saying needs be said.
The meaning of a word ends with its speaker. The listener
hears a meaning of his own.
If you must speak, speak personally,
dark birds flew
across the sun.
I bless the touch of love that follows Love,
mellowing sorrow and polishing regret,
as a jeweller turns a stone, through craft and care
to something precious.
For one to deal in broken imagery,
the objects of another hand and will,
the fabricated births of restlessness,
Oh that is art more brewed with deep regrets
than half-a-hundred lovers’ memories.
Art is both the molding and the breaking,
the turning of corners when the dawn is breaking,
the re-unfragmentation of the soul,
the skill to catch the heart just when it’s breaking.
Preoccupied with images
I have been passed
upon a real street
upon a thousand woman-feet
whose steps were abstract
There are beauties I have seen
over the years and over the years
the beauties cling in memory
like cockleburs, persistent, tiny
and a little bit irritating.
What there was to take,
I gladly took.
What there was to give,
I gave with joy.