What can the nationalist reply When reptile naturalists imply That even mighty Urland’s glory, Like a mite, is transitory? The nationalist may one day turn Quasi-geologist and spurn Volcanically each rival plate That preaches its own pompous fate. “Is it not just that Urmagnia, Upper crust of old Pangaea, Ought to rule the lithosphere?— It’s blessed by God! And Wegener!” But patriot, however exotic The limit of your own tectonic— Though it usurp the uniplace— Everything is just a phase!
Nothing is speaking to human consciousness:
not the gusts of Olympus blustering our brains;
not the gush of the Ganges bubbling our bodies;
not the snowflake stars dusting the black, or the silences between them, no—
we are just talking to ourselves—
Mother: What, Dan? Me: Nuthin, I was just talkin to meself. Mother: Well shur ya couldn’t talk to a nicer fella.
(Well, mothers are supposed to love their sons,
and I suppose most of them do.)
No—we are just talking to ourselves,
our brains rustling: crown of thoughts
a crown of leaves, branches spreading in our heads,
rooting down in the dumb limbs,
spine-trunk, root-nerve, sap-blood, leaves
greening and browning and new buds blooming,
fruits and seeds,
breezes the branches make themselves
by growing (a flung violin makes music too),
Ah the mouths we all are
Tongue-soft and tooth-hard
Spit-shined and enamelled
But red raw and rotten
Suckling and snapping
Laughing and grinding
Talking to ourselves
(Fill it and fill it— I’m teaching myself Latin!—
But there’s always a hole in the middle)
a swan skein breaks the water spanish arch cloudy corrib like the dog’s tail sweeping our legs paddle the air in idle arcs dangling from the edge above foam leaping foam spitting white at feathers’ dirty-white slipping like dream-thoughts back into the mass the cloudy corrib falling like the night toward the bay the ocean into gas gas rising sun-pulled into day and cloud cloud trembling gas into soft mists or hail once cloudy corrib whispering or loud speckling earth water feather leg and tail soaking and sinking in each upturned face restlessly resting in each passing place
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!
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.
[frame by frame] I have pieced you together from glimpses [the swollen black pools of your eyes] A doll sewn up by candlelight alive [tumbles of thready hair] A black-and-white stop-motion film [your chalk-white back] Gaps filled in by fancy [shadows of limbs] Holes resonating with the peal of ragged breath [your rising waist] And the chainlink clinking of a heavying heart [your fingers delicate on dimpled skin, the fruitful fullness of your lonesome chin, the round foundation of your lip-loved cheek, the turning of your shoulder from your neck]
Life is not possible of emptiness, Emptiness not of life— But all that I can give, I give, And lose that you might have. Two cannot become one, no more Than one can become two— And to be half, and meet your half, Might leave two halves, not one.