Two Sonnets in June

Volta
“I will make this,” thought God, “I will make that.
(One of the thats can name the thises then.)”
And all He had to do was say each thing
And it was done, and good, and all was right.
And then came man, and this one thing God named,
And then this Adam named this that, that this,
And then God gave him woman, Eve, by which
To breed and lead to us—beasts did the same.
There was a flood, of chemicals and such,
Which bounced around aboard a barren rock
Holding all beings’ potential, earth’s whole stock,
Till tongues of lightning (maybe) made it twitch.
All life came from this flood, and this is good—
We all are equal, and there is no god.

Turn
There are no gods or goddesses abroad,
And nobody is perfect, heaven knows
(And it knows nothing, for it just arose
From our old wish to turn the bad to good).
And you’re not perfect, love, how could you be,
Being a mix of your parents (both mad),
Your crazy country, and whatever odd
Odds and ends you brought yourself to being?
Perfection’s for our Christs and Christesses,
Those dream immortals after whom we lust
Down in this rubbish bin wherein the dust
Of our desires is dumped—God bless! What’s this?!
Dear Goddess, as your eyes gaze into mine
The water in my veins turns into wine!

Smoke and Honey

Like cloud-mad grass piercing the air’s warm gown
On sun-drunk days, our actions sometimes mow
Unknown into strange atmospheres—we halt mid-flow,
Stopped by surprise as pain’s now-empty form
Fills with forgetful pleasure, water-soft and marrow-
Deep. Was it some goddess from
Her mountains dropped this nectar down
On us poor bees, or did some dense atomic tryst throw
Off its sparks to kindle in our nerves? What follows
Is that fire leaves no reason
Nor gives reckoning for the leaf warm
Or the body burning, but only dances, beautiful as
When insight in its web of light has spun
The dust of earth against the Lethean sun.

Four Poems (Rhymes in April)

Captive Flux
Who named the days? Tell me who!
What god or beast?
Valhallan? Olympian? Jupiter’s priest?
What lion in what zoo?!

And why label the gloriousness
Of our sun-bound spins?
Our relation to the fire begins
And ends anew each day, nameless.

Haydn
Your music is inside me, Joseph—
The wind in Cretaceous fronds soothing my mammalian mothers,
The pressure forming strings of iron in the earth
Around my burrowing fathers,
The skin under my flesh,
Wind in my chest—
Your notes echo
In marrow,
Bones bored like flutes, mere oaten reeds
To sound your serenades.

To April
Chaucer, Eliot, Millay:
Poets have many things to say
To April. What would I say to it?
Nothing—it is a construct.
Yes, the moon turns,
The earth too (to dust),
The sun burns
Out days, but I distrust
All timeframes, the rigid
Collars of clock time
Dripping days digit by digit,
And the natural, cycling kind
Appearing to repeat, like April,
Like Friday, all coming alive,
But actually being new and making older, a mill
Grinding all things into grime,
Grimmer and gaunter grains
Of being—chains.
And after all
I guess that’s what I have to say to April.

Concerning CERN
Smash it, mash it, bake it in a pie—
White coats, clipboards, standing by;
Crash it, bash it, stand it on its head—
Smaller things are easier said;
Whack it, smack it, give it a thump—
Measure each mote of the insect’s jump.

Rose

I thought one of the pictures which inspired this poem might contribute something to its enjoyment. Can you see which girl is the Rose?
I thought one of the pictures which inspired this poem might contribute something to its enjoyment. Can you tell which girl is the Rose?

Fading into the photograph some of your classmates,
No less important, no less alive, but not you—you stand out,
A sullen rose, having a bad day in 1936, or that’s just how
You look. No less hopeful for it, a whole kaleidoscope of life
Spirals out from the black-and-white school picture,
The market streets alive with sensory richness, Galway alleyways
Leading each to different lives. Perhaps you became a nun,
The school selling it well, perhaps a nurse, living by the hospital,
Perhaps a corpse hours after this was taken, the sullenness sickness.

What became of you? And why is the became more than you are
This 1930s day? Just a rose, unpruned, a flame on film, ready to bloom
Like a camera’s flash or to fade like your friends
Into the drear background. Why? Because I cannot know,
Because the narrative act of lining you all up
And saving this second forever sets suspense—what happened next?
And next, and next, and after that, and then? What happened?

What is happening, forever now, frame-sized, is you standing,
And standing out—your cardigan maybe blue, your eyes as well,
Hair light and easy on your well-held head—and looking out,
Out at lives coming, possibilities, the schooling done, the ticket
To America, to India, to some escape from your life back then,
From discipline and rules and drudgery, from poverty and fools
And from, oh from, the stings and thorns that are coming,
As surely for you as for your fellows, the failures, the regrets,
That what ifs and the if onlys, the sullenness of a girl
Deepening into the well-worn despair of womanhood,
The children and the husband and the house, the parents
Sickening and needing care, the bills, the aches, the worries,
All the things that go along with any joys, joys of parenthood
And love, if such you knew, joys of shelter and of family,
All the joys that sit around a grief, expectant diners
Waiting for a feast, the servants lined around the board,
The silver shining and the linen laid, the wine all ready,
Just to be uncorked, the dishes coming in, set down with care,
The lids lifted, and the horror underneath. Ah, had they but been empty,
Then what care? But the rotted flesh, the shattered bone,
The food of monsters set out like a kill—
And all your ravenous fellows tucking in.

What pains you saw, what joys, what black-and-whites,
Will not be known. Only this lonesome rose will grow and die,
And only she will ever know the world she found,
And what she made of it, and what she left.

Pesnya

When you were seven you wrote your first poem,
A child given to word and image
By the necessity of your parents’ work, alone
In the world of nature from a young age,
But without the coldness of the abandoned,
For you felt yourself beloved of every creature,
Of the woods and of the snow, and your absent
Parents loved you too, and your poems procured
The services of the mountain and the river
As foster parents, the protective shadow
Of Urey as your father, and the gentle song of the Etto, giver-
Of-life, as your mother. The will to borrow
Such parents was a blessing, and you knew a bliss
In early years, although your poems could sing a common sadness:

“The snow falls ponderously in the valley
Around the fruitless evergreens
In the great shadowcoat of the Urey
Where the soft Etto is first seen
To rise magically out of rock,
Ages before the oar and dock;
It wonders “What can they mean,
These unfalling things that strive any way
But down?”, and drifts with snowslow wings
Upon their movements and their tracks,
Whitening the land, papering cracks,
And having no more knowledge than a day.”

You spent your youth in that wild neighbourhood,
Observing the tragedy of insect life
And the romance of snow falling on the woods
In the Etto Valley. The blunt knife
Of the sun above the Urey never showed
Itself a force of heat, only of light,
And it helped the frozen blank blanket of snow
To pervade your natural wanderings with the sight
Only of eternal waste and coldness.
But the Etto and its woodlands would break
The influence of the sky and brush the wilderness
With moving colour—“a water-snake
On ice will writhe and hiss
Until it melts the whiteness with its kiss.”

Deep Breath

Fearing winter like an old man now,
Fall’s chill settling in, the evenings dark,
I worry my mind’s furrows with the plow
Of thought, each pale idea dropping like a spark
Whose fire’s burned out. I brood like ashes
In an arctic hearth, clinging to my days
With cold-cracked hands, feeling no more the flashes
Which in youth promised the world—and then delivered this.
But what’s “this”? Just what I think it, nothing else;
All its brute nature’s but my frown or grin.
And now, so late as now, can’t I replace
All raw reactions with deep breath? Can’t I at last begin
To give no heed to prize or peril
And live like old Diogenes in his barrel?