An Electronic Journal of Poetry & Poetics
Never in and never out of print...
ISSN 1081-3500 | Copyright © Mudlark 1997
Editor: William Slaughter | E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Mudlark No. 6 (1997)
by Henry Gould
DedicationES A SB R T I To-- C X WSM O D --YZ SK N PW EH B FG F ROM A Shak-Spire WS/Henry Church LUV Q ? LIM * *** BE E*S !! KAW
Island Road is an attempt to graft a few idiosyncratic fragments of late 20th-century experience onto what is basically a Renaissance form, the sonnet sequence. I have tried to follow the example of John Berryman and Ted Berrigan on a path which has led to a personal and semi-mythical encounter with the recurrent shadow of Shakespeare.
But this is only part of the story, and there are many side-trails and byways along this road, many of them unfortunately obscured by thickets and brambles which only the hardiest readers will penetrate. Here are two simple markers to aid in orientation:
1. "Costaguana" is the name of the fictional Caribbean island nation in Joseph Conrad's epic novel, Nostromo. Among the novel's central characters are "the Goulds"; I have introduced them as means of carrying forward my own story.
2. The "Henry Gould Institute", on the other hand, is a real place (see sonnet #74). Established in Florence, Italy, by an American philanthropist many years ago as a "refuge for young Protestants," the Institute now serves as a hostel for students and other visitors to the city.
I. The Road from Costaguana 1-36
II. A Midnight Masque (in Greenwich Time) 37-50
III. Don't Get Ready for Mardi Gras (blush) 51-60
IV. To the Green Constellation 61-89
V. Scattered Bells & Whistles 90-99
I. The Road from Costaguana
Maple seedlings twirl out of the reddening leaves
out of the blue cerulean onto ochre bricks
in the clear wonder of one autumn day
everything blushes toward the fall to come
But the road in my mind ends among some birches
somewhere in Siberia white on white
their limbs garnered into icebound sheaves
woodpiles a pear-shaped lake frozen like a drum
White too are the endless nights
among huddled words I am a bundle of sticks
frozen head down signalling "wrong way"
until a forgotten phantom heaves back the door of
the inclined pole and spring lurches free
bearing my whole body toward her delirious shore
Hooded you smoke down a street in Petersburg
Neva a mirror curving out of sight is
tied in viper ringlets knots of bridges
weightless beneath emigrant, phantom blue
A second Venice third Rome another dimension
of imitation in solitary, Ego
slips on that treacherous double ice-floe
loves you, loves you not, a-knotted suspension...
Ellen, Eleanor, Lenore... the mask
slips too easily down to the tickling scarf
down to the salt-laden local turf
there to garner is the task, gathering in
skycolored photos of a frozen face
Epiphany... or a mournful trace of silver.
The dogwood is ready to let go drop
her coral pendants red, red, red.
I am ready to disappear given the slip
my kiss betrayed. Gone bare
the dogwood's breathing out her heart
in leafrain muttering
they are her children seething
nation settling scattered far apart
The tree has weathered this before
militant stumps cheer her onward
drifting over the highway
over the sheer
Under twirling bivalve helicopters the winking lariat
of neon rhododendron I was happy & fickle
with lust & to join the other buried men
while leaves redden in the growing cold
bold as love here there is no lament
among persisting branches what is this revolving
around a bent pole somewhat ever-fixèd
and broken again (compost perennial?)
Tell me Berrigan Berryman headed
down smiling in the river of ashes, tell me
(frail wasp-punts in the bloodstream
pulse with hunger a pulverized poor bean-
scramble) o.k. they say maybe
she's your aerial laurel singing in the streambed
5 Homage to Falstaff
Summer so histrionic, marvelous dirty days
In the cold steel sheepdog winter of lust
a strange tact island of ability
to penetrate to the marrow maybe
tomorrow's rainbow aorta blood the sharp-
eyed carpenter lifting out of his mind's
orbit a couple a coupla a cupola
Ireland of squander roar
by jovial collider collage
& to lie be down near the Cranston line
with pennywhistle & brawny whore-
heart the sun, he says, and then he says all mine!
Wind from the last of Hurricane Lil knocks off
the dogwood leaves til there are few, or none.
Rain soaks my dreams: bears in the ruined choirs
Napoleon, poignant, besieges 40 days & nights
the bears in his dreams are wearing tights
and heavy armor over the 12 gates, candled fire
& the priestess phosphorous glow-worm of the black sun
keens a long E in glottal reverse a cyrillic raven
squares up the Mayday precinct with a (cough) sacral puff
Meanwhile sweet birds, Will sing late
untouchable & second-best, always in your last will and
testicles and the doomed lambs of heaven
are everywhere, on hillside and on streets, if you will: the
tenant's stray flocks, unmoved by the remover's joker's fate
In me you see the evening. Gold dust
a yellow level bled bubbled wavering toward
black night. Russian rug on the study floor
Mongolian-eyed knighted squared grandmastered
On a gray New England October day.
Slow gray streets spangled with coral &
curled toward Hibernian sleep. My
green Sears Constellation all that remains
& it was yours. Stars wheel overhead
no consolation only an alphabet of levers and pulleys
tackle of a speech machine. So much
revolves around the idle pinprick of a queen
so pale so small her sheepish finger strays &
stirs divided memories once left for dead.
A small tree (almond, dogwood) flowering in your eyes
leafs through my spine, speaks volumes (my needle betrays).
Maple leaf like a reef of sharp-eyed coral
or hand cut by a blue glass frisbee
(your hand shakes: it's constitutional in our society)
insinuating states of etats-unis
or "marriageable rose some truant lips annul"
That sheepdog would play in my summer's unruly realm
but then she's furred as well for wolfish winter
(one sheepshank: constellational insanity)
A stratagem of light nips & barks scotch banter &
morning roads are opening in her ample palm
& everywhere this Love comes home to me!
as every island road leads to the sea.
Hand me a red road bouquet for the journey,
my little sheepdog I will be true to the dead end.
smoky twin little rose iceberg escapade
only cold steel can match your flinty circumpolarity.
Through the brain fog I see a maze of canals
mirrored in the Northern Lights and over there
beyond the iron bandshell, an eggshell dome bears
icons of a green-eyed Magdalen lifting scales.
And I can pledge my shoulder to the bricks
with honor but you are only a collage yourself, a
puddingstone mosaic hefting interior triple domes and if
I want inside your fur you just want to play tricks...
And this is how we babble along together alone
down Land O'Lakes road (alone, together, it's all one).
Bells ring as the days move toward snow,
days governed by a different providence,
not this quivering burg of whims and nerves,
as shanty towns move through experience
sleep encircled hope here on the wharves
of Costaguana under a brooding mountain's brow.
The old sabre over the mantle who would have known
cold steel could cauterize each heart's high noon?
The word apportions beauty pride of place
& vanity while courage opens doors &
echoing compassions bless
(with mirrored cherubim) your pulsing search
(Bells droning onward into the azured arch
silvered toward a frosted yeast of snows)
O my snows of yesteryear! & as the Tide
in the affairs of men enters the rinse cycle,
I hear her washing the world
& dressing it in clean linen
from iris to sunflower, from Want
to Give (all in the twinkle
of a sigh). O my soul's Giantess!
We'll go more steeply into the dark,
& travel down under the moss & the dead
leaves & go under shadows of
daylight savings, as November comes on.
We'll go toward sleep, my thrush, my sleepyhead
& hear the mutter of an undertow
across pebbles, & mournful puddingstone;
we'll roll, black one, toward your lonely mark.
We'll follow the ghost dance through hedgerows,
& wear rotten pumpkins for crowns
on the last night. We'll light a little spark
& watch it fade over lead-gray fields.
We'll wait until our hearts are already heavy & full.
& then we'll lower the pail, slowly, into your well.
Yesterday the trees were passionate
an indiscriminate planet piling on sweet
plenitudes of leaves in the harvest light, while
august the firmament planted a blue & final kiss
Yesterday's kings trundled forth from castles
bumblebees were drunken sailors in the grass
& like honeyed wax bearing his father's seal
Hamlet wheeled around toward Elsinore.
Today soft rain flattens the brown plane leaves
Earthfilled mouths mutter to life once more
In the All Souls' light living & dead alas
are spun together just above their graves
& Hamlet yes comes home, & it is no dream
Ophelia is singing in the stream.
First the voices twitter from the graves like starlings
choirs of worms or harmonizing skulls
& then graves open & the dead walk home
& everywhere is home & light springs from dust
& the dust like a school of swallows suddenly swims
over gables of firmament, shaped like a wing
This is dusk the beginning of Rome, Byzantium:
a host of unkempt, furry voices swirling full throttle
(while golden elm leaves scatter against gray sky,
expiring sparks against lead-tempered walls,
a green-eyed goldfinch tucks away her beak
& hides within my weak, my white-haired heavens)
for Edwin Honig
Mysterious day of perpetual evening.
Old men are following the pendulum
& making out their wills. Unweary children
laugh in dusky light set leafboats floating
An old Horatian aristocrat
paces the dull docks in Costaguana,
his voice grown tremulous. A red bandanna
drifts in the harbor (relic of the coup d'état).
I hear you, old man measuring your steps
your will & testament are mine as well.
A phantom with a black silk parasol
crossed our two swords cancelled our debts
beneath a palm leaf made of whispering
that cuts to blood & sutures everything
The principle of the sword was benign & frozen
an ice-word or presiding ray gone into deep night
or frost mantle like wool over our eyes
at the inaugural horizontal curved like a mirror
a vertigo spiral the principle of the sword
cuts clean & swallows its tale of America
A palm leaf divided the sky &
lined the donkey road to the contested city.
But I shall always be faithful unto you, dogwood
though I was untrue like a bad American shepherd
weak & hysterical in a dead decade's light
it's just the principle of the sword that tries
like a royal finger
to blot out all those memoirs made of sighs
Silver will never disintegrate or fade
because it's dead. Charlie emerges from the mine
a washed-out half-life blue eyes blinkered
for the hole ahead (no parakeet, no sign
of life). It is a metalloid eternity
that slides life downward-forward into decay of
everything around the cave mouth crumbling
a furrowed hillside Charlie's mastery...
Under the steel sword over the mantle
a leaf of petrified coral smoulders fitfully
surrounded by black lakes of glinting coal
& what was mirrored there dark eyes could tell
no one, no one arose petal by petal
leaf by leaf, rose everlastingly
Very deep in his mine called "mine"
Charlie were consolidating him deposits.
Over a bullion pit he a-hoist an icon
of Aurora Borealis (his light departed).
& out of her eyes of tempera & petroleum
she overlooked his temper tantrums
tawdry bawled-out longings
& repulsive victories. She, she understand
when the Quest draw to a close finish,
smoothed over, evened out...finally
(& incommodiously) lost! Her wish
came true when he parlay his last penny
to the camp girls, gave his shoulder a bored pat
& help him into a cab. & that was that.
i.m. Henry Pussycat
The gals is angrier, it's all the rage,
& boys am angriest, & selfisher,
& sans that do-re-mi
you won't be bacon on no Sunshine Stage
besides hotels. --You done blanch ornerier,
Mr. Bones, that is fo sho!
& rust was spoken, up the wheels,
& baby birds, plebeian mighty low,
& golden bowls, be broken too,
til Slocum Henry tired of all them spiels.
He feed his sheepdog nag a whackeroo,
& sets off, awful slow,
& heftin his heavy northern pikebone stingray,
goes on, his merry all post-humorous way.
The true, not the calendar November
has arrived. I float beneath gray clouds
the color of brain, or imminent rain
& scrabble snoozing screed beside the river's
stolid girdle. Megaphones explain
(across bank troughs & boring crowds)
the blaring's sponsored (by somebody or other).
Only these vacant, granite spaces bother
to remember the cost of all that labor,
& it's shrinking Grandma under her arbor
hard by Grandpa in the ground
comprende better than any still around
how Adam plowing in the fado dust
taught them to fade, as each we must.
Deep in his mine, Charlie lay perched on a scaffold,
intent on his labor of love, his masterpiece, the Magdalen-
as-Fallen-Woman-Repentant Almost Gored by A Mastodon-
Blessedly-Cuffed-from-Behind by the Silver Shackles of
How devoted to his hobby Charlie ferociously was!
Many were the nights the gracious Mrs. Gould spent
fending for herself with the gimpy misanthropic Doctor,
their homogenized houseguest. The surly, withdrawn old
medical man adored Mrs. Gould, his hostess; he would say
(with that wry, habitual shrug so characteristic of him),
he confessed, he knew next to for nothing about art.
One day the winter cold snapped the aluminum
on that scaffold. Charlie was left hanging by a stalactite!
And a stalagmite (one in each hand)! Until he was
rescued by a blackened crowd of Costaguanian riffraff,
who had been observing him there, regularly, on their lunchbreak.
A strange justice prevailed in Costaguana
like the 4-way iron needle on the Courthouse clock
in Providence pointing forever to high noon
because it's broke
like the industrious neatness of the piranha
or proverbial goodness evinced by the monsoon
or divine palm oil (grouse or manna)
a strange justice prevailed in Costaguana.
He hung there anchored to a beam and shot
guy wrong place wrong time wheedling leather merchant
scum rot animal, to be blunt
Take him down & keep him he's your boob
like a toothpick in the lip of a gentle scribe
pursed with reddening petals 3, 2, 1... Atone.
Splash (the clock on the wharf strikes midnight)
no other sound but that anchor going down
in the lagoon (and the medusa ringlets, the
dark petals of water & salt soon vanish)
& mirrors vaguely rippled & dispersed
the granite on the promontory a hand blessing or
gathering at the prow, the poop of some vessel
a-tilt in the stiff wind of a fresh curse
harpoon Ahab captain follows
the snapped iron going down into the hold
of the sea
which swallows him
surrounded by fold on whispered fold of
blind fingers (& a reedy sigh)
What are you doing today... it's raining here.
Election day--it's over finally,
the money's paid. Time again to stare
angrily-complacently at your favorite program.
I get the feeling you don't give a damn
while they do whatever they want to (in your name).
Whoever's running what are on a spree,
a sponsored corporate bipartisan scam.
What are you doing today... from water's world
looms from below a cupola of faded voices
forms each petal of concentric breakers
the sceptre of the heart, mirrored centripetal
& rose out of dogwood splinters drifting coral
bronze veins plow the upturned air & the sea rejoices
Waiting to go to London on an airplane, &
wondering about the anagram of your name
& my hand mirrored in the threads of your palm,
O costly Brazilian singer from Lebanon
Husbanded by cedars heroin microphones
where are you now?
running after quarters after
a quarter of a century somewhere
surrounded by child labor,
among sheep you are a shepherd's quandary
building Jerusalem O
from hope and feeble-hearted stones,
ALMA my shady tree-lined
soul's in your palm again
Evening sky vast, endless, generous. If only
sheepish human measure could compare
with cloud strokes floating so euphoric there;
full stop holding their breath
in the abyss
of pastel blue. Verily
I say unto you. Unable to express.
What is this festive dusk, the Preacher saith.
To show you, ALMA (crown of darkness
aureole & balm)
where hunger swirls beneath your palm)
my disintegrated soul, one
turbulent ink-blind universe
It seems like London here today the air
is murk edges are gray as the Professor
smuggles a bomb beneath a threadbare macintosh,
sky tumbling around like dirty wash.
Wherever you are, you aren't here today.
Absent as a pendulum this way, that way
swings in an empty cage while
some folk keep faring forth on arduous pilgrimage--
before the heavy snows bury their sorrow
& burden of nightfall settles on the year
& the tattered tattooed body here below
recedes in white lime a phosphorous glare
& the star in the milk turns black yes right here
near Norwich, by the Thames
Trees merge with the darkness coral, camouflaged
above the river, quiet, smooth and ceaseless.
Hidden by nightfall, stars, arranged
in the heavens, drift reflected there.
You tugged your sweater close around your dress
& let me wrap an arm across your shoulder as
the last of summer pulled us both downstream,
so adamant, so casual, unvarying, and calm.
Those fingers lifted to my shivering lips
were hidden in the darkness too & now
my heartbeat mimics you
& stained with all this darkness, steps
toward some anonymous London afterlife,
incognito (the ache of universal grief).
29 An Icon
woke up this mornin' with my mind
set on freedom...
I wanted to make you happy with another poem,
& as the star of a nation droops low
in the great NW sky I wanted to flood you
with fishbaskets from Rome, Byzantium
& as the voice of Marian Anderson
ricochets off the Memorial (& over the
heads of the D.A.R.) I wanted the star
(with its consort of muffled organ)
to surface--and plumb the mansions of heaven
& these desires of mine
hung there pendulous like fireworks,
or all the other & Various Works of Man--
waiting, waiting (like sheepdogs--wandering barks)
for the miracle of your ink-black inspiration
i.m. Joseph Bernardin & Meridel Le Sueur
A strange fortitude hovers over the fort
this morning spangled pupils aim for the black
holes in bunkered irises: with a bark
a virtual Putnam keys a command: Foursquare alert!
I had a dream last night I was talking
to a poisonous spider like a little white ball
rolling toward me-- he was the King of Milk
in the murk of a cedar cellar & he swirled,
ALMA among his lambs amid a UNION
swathed in silver pennies & Chicago cardinals
From you, for you, with you shall not
perish though the sword rose in sorrow
& bitter to the taste-- each coin farmed out to the river
turned copper and rusted in your streambed heart
31 Henry's Muse
by the Providence River
The river drowses like a flickering sword,
on past infinite farmyards gone to seed, a lamp
in a prairie palm meadows & towns loud
wail of a long-gone train (Transcontinental Tramp).
Anoint me with the oil of your guttering candle,
London, for my mint is pennyroyal, &
my royal headache's eased now-- but I'm seeing double--
& blood will flush the curtained chamber of Jerusalem.
Shall I place it on my head? I'm cold
in this coin of a bowling broken realm.
I'd put an arm across your shoulder, gal--
in the sceptred greenhouse-- should I be so bold?
It's you, O green-eyed National Velvet at the helm--
Empress my soul now, for my mint is pennyroyal
If I were King, I'd put my alms across
your soul Let go the superflux!
No more hung-up long-drawn & hamleted
in quarters very-locked bombed-out
Is Kosmos then cut to the waistline of our gluttony?
(Yundt walks past the coffeeshop.) Can we
afford the theater in Dallas? Or was
the UNION all in vain, alas [etc.]?
Crowds of trenchcoats going by... the Father
of his Country, greenish-faced, on magic carpet
in the sky... & the sea like a mother rose
in my heart. Small ring in his palm, the courtier
boned the envelope with wax of paternity &
like ALMA rather than Mammon, chose eternity
Property was thus appall'd,
That the self was not the same
The trees are withered to the bare bones now
& in the shallows of regret & out of work
I walk the streets & make myself a mark
evading by a hair a roving garbage scow
The skies are lowering & shall these bones
live again? I'll go evangelize the Stones
in London & your green-eyed compass rose
must crown me not myself like some Napoleon
& our Thanksgivings, now shall be provisional
with the purity of a circus & the order
of a dark street's gypsy camp & in a tattered
Creole pilgrim flame we shall be gathered up,
snowed-in again, where streams run copper-colored:
my small estate, which is the smallest coin of all
Shakespeare was Bacon on a sunshine stage,
a secret agent, or unperfect actor
and if this is a crown
it's a fool's crown, or
crown of dogwood splinters, wreath'd
with your absent part & three parts rage
Is it megalomania or is it shame
that drove me from the Doctors into wilderness
& set me spinning toward your globe of fame?
& when those Aprils born of tenderness
hail down sweet kelsons of the cosmic frame-
up I'll be standing in my shepherd's weeds-- a wildness
tamed by what I know comes not from me:
adhesive happenstance--O Chair of Anonymity
The snow fell, finally on your birthday
ripe Thanksgiving earth all a sheep in sheep's clothing
but growing cold. Your old lovers walk by,
lonely & how did Lazarus inherit everything?
Marlow knows. Sternly over the stern
he views a murky star beneath the wake
wavering goodby all your white hair going down
to Sheol, stellular for Marlow's sake.
The air was dark above Gravesend.
He resembled a pilot. Promotion to the fleet
at Ravenna. & only later to apprehend.
Benign immensity. Unceasing service. Meet
the Dark Lady around Medusa Bend
& delicate snow shall be your wedding sheet.
Eternity, oh Eternity! That is our business.
With a mouthful of Narragansett conversation
& a scroll for London to charter a star
With a handful of snow (proverbial heaven's
scale of values, like a wheel
or buoyant garden of aerial cedar)
the friend of Canonicus & Miantonomi
set sail at Christmastide aye
to gather firewood splinters for the poor
& handshake freedom for the colony
Aye there was a kingly man
whose bare estate was commonweal
a breath of air unearthly, sure
like a flock of cardinals hovering home
high up in the cupola-- (afloat, again)
II. A Midnight Masque (in Greenwich Time)
High up in the cupola, afloat again
above my mangy cradle wooden cardinals
drift wavering mobile
in the mind's eye & stream's reflection
Those light motes flicker toward the shortest day
Lucía's solstice dying of the year;
in evening light these shadowy things appear
revolving, wheeling round in peripeteia toward the clay
& from black shining clay is born a star
November star gathering straw toward home
& shepherds' glinting wheat & draws it near
like dust the dusty origin of Rome,
Byzantium my cardinals share
beginning with the dark & wintry tomb
Beginning with the dark & wintry tomb
of black-holed heaven for a fixèd star
& only heaven knows I'm going home
at last as the year dies we are
upheld by hope alone, as the lights fade
& the year dies, & the Thames flows on
toward the minimum I shall put on
my cardboard crown take up my wooden sword
Lucía ALMA Black Madonna
& there beneath your shadowy umbrella,
whirling double M U-turn
of murky justice swirling NNW
you palm your nostos kosmos to the urn--
this clay-born sunburnt stage put to the test
This clay-born sunburnt stage put to the test
my broken love, nativity and grave
of nothingness: of this you'll make a masque
of merry Yule & deathly Mexico
earth mother jigsaw jaguar brooding husk
ascending darkness from your subway rest
you make a somber harmony slow
sunken ark: a turtle's phoenix nest
This lacerated miracle & long drawn-out
the buoyant coffin: serious Ishmael's womb--
the dogwood splinter green-eyed mote &
drifting flotsam: heaven's cataracts
poured out in tears to give the New Year room
Poured out in tears to give the New Year room
--thus Hamlet leaps into the grave again
Laertes in his mirror will resume
shaving portentously & lifts his heavy blade
of wood-- crisscross the boards
they make a brooding pistoll'd sign
& pass away into the Danish gloom
& over the frostbound earth now floats the rain
& sweeps away Ophelia's memory
her crown of pennyroyal soaked, unwoven,
soiled with her submerged anonymous clay
& on the evening of the shortest day
but one star gleams faint unproven
there in broken-hearted sailors' heaven
There in broken-hearted sailors' heaven
a green star glimmers out of death & life
arose, eros crossroad & sign of strife
uplifted toward eternity-- a stolen
eye looks out for me: my strictest
mistress: cedar pole, sweet cinch
sky-borne: clay heart's arrest
& now rich Lazarus before your bench
draws out the thorn--cannot resist
& flings it toward the deep Atlantic trench--
London awaits the prince will do his best
to steer his splinter coracle, & stitch
his broken sword into your burning nest
His broken sword into your burning nest
His ALMA fractured on the heavenly heights
his wheel set spinning in the slippery clay
his ark off-course & sputtering in circles
his star gone down his heaven out of sight
his name unknown--her name a roundelay
his reputation marked & scandalous
his frame disrobed: unwelcome guest
begone into the night that gave you birth
blend shadow now with shadow palm to palm:
all goes to hell & spirals upside down
& dances mawkish clown on frozen ground:
this frenzy of the stateless pilot calm
as death that spice of bitter mirth
As death that spice of bitter mirth
& treason of the summer's treasury
smirks like a poison through the veinèd cup
& tips the sword-point of your misery
& gaily tippling fever laps it up
into the maelstrom of a cardboard earth
Taste thy reward O vengeful minister:
the playful sword shall pierce your own heart too
& as the streambed carries off your star
the scent of pennyroyal, celandine & rue
hangs in the air a muted melody,
an afterthought. Belated knight
is over. --Ever born to set it right.
Is over--ever born to set it right--
revolves around again, a globe
scrolled with mummy maple leaves
& sealed now regal, mute this orb
& bishopric shall staff your wooden flight
O donnish martyr bringing in the sheaves
& mistress-master Nobody bereaves:
that admiral coming home, one-armed
with ink that Lazarus his barn
undone his sheepish camouflage out-farmed
his one-eyed giant rival (quite a blight)
puts out the sun & leaves the field all white
Puts out the sun & leaves the field all white
& spun away a milky web, unearthly
blind & melted into burning tongs,
hammers out the galaxies high-tested fire
sword-sharpened marked by mockery
& hidden bivalved moth of murky tongues
you blaze, Aurora tapestry of night
& turning shining constellated Sire
rustle a russet sigh
Rustle a russet sigh
spread risen pole to pole
& whispered black on high
Out of the shortest day a narrow berth,
a vessel pledged to covenant of grief
& lift your voice with voices leaf on leaf
out of the mournful festering of lying earth
Out of the mournful festering of lying earth
the noisy nonsense all my muttering
I am that cardinal goldfinch--apple of your eye
I am that cardinal goldfinch--apple of your eye
the shadowy ALMA of your soul I am
that blackened penny--widow's mite
that brought down satraps & their soldiery
I the hand that lifts your wooden sword
& renders peace unto divided night
I the mind that ponders sorrow--word
gave Dante voice & flowered Mandelstam
So she whispered--so I wrote it down.
& as her features faded into sky
she looked on me & said-- I am
the rood your bloodline bears--your palm's lifeline,
I am the Lion left out of your play
high up in the cupola afloat again
High up in the cupola, afloat again
beginning with the dark & wintry tomb
this clay-born sunburnt stage put to the test
poured out in tears to give the New Year room
there in broken-hearted sailors' heaven
his broken sword into your burning nest
As death that spice of bitter mirth
is over--ever born to set it right
puts out the sun & leaves the field all white
rustle a russet sigh
out of the mournful festering of lying earth
I am that cardinal goldfinch--apple of your eye
(I am the Lion left out of your play.)
Christmas is coming to the ancient town
now is that ruby Goldfinch lamp unsealed
that Cardinals proclaim (& also Wren)
lights every soul & overcomes the world.
Every soul is Kosmos then--a little world
that with a breath of nature comes into its own:
so these pinetree boughs declare. Be faithful then
& leave the wind to work: be patient--bold.
Here in the poor & wayfaring East End
a reconstructed Globe is almost done--
rotund profundity that proves no man's an
& here I am in England's green & pleasant
to square that circle--a prophetic one
that lights both my beginning & my end.
III. Don't Get Ready for Mardi Gras (blush)
The struggle of the mind to bring to bear
a pattern in the mystery the quiet
balance imaged in these wet
streams circling the old town everywhere.
Here once came the young barbarian,
who fell in love with this integrity of
land & gently curving waterway;
found kingdom come a petrine origin,
where dikes domesticate the ocean --
Atlantis, very human now & Dutch.
& here within this village radius
the labors of a Mondrian circuitous
uplifted principle serene would reach
a dreamy apogee-- & build a world to match.
In 1996 alone, between one million and three
million people died of malaria...someone dies
of it about every 15 seconds--mostly children
and pregnant women...A more fundamental
problem is that many people cannot afford even
ordinary mosquito nets, which cost $5 or $10.
--NY Times, 1.8.96
Think of your body growing cold again.
Think of what fades and what survives.
Think not of the dark wind, rain
a-sway over villages apples & leaves
Snow lies on the clay. Mosquitoes
& silver coinage. Malaria.
Mysterious unjust angel of woe,
hysteria... head down in the white.
And through the fetters of a flimsy lattice
or stage-struck curtain-- an extended paw
quilled with fabled disappearances--that
mole of metaphysical law--
Shakespeare vanished into pseudonyms
trimming his nails frozen sheer
53 Henry's Notebook
Everyone to be issued a gondola
and five dollars.
Proust stayed behind in Venice.
O sole mio. Bronze bells.
Silver mine in the crevices of your
self--where Mammon shines.
Non sine sole iris. Cold eyes,
Liza. Ears and mouth snatched
up in the velvet folds.
Longing for the dark spring wind.
Oscillating Milton sword.
Wave goodby now to the shadows passing clear
across the river in their coppery gondolas.
Charlie, Mrs. Gould, the Doctor, good
Nostromo, yes the Man uomo nostro
salt of bold tormented fortitude
will steer through
breakers of dusk over the bow,
Only in Hades may you understand
at last this iron-anchored tenderness,
a glinting curve in the mud & rust--
her flagrant disguise-- one hand
leading the way into a further darkness,
weighted with all earth (& loneliest).
Surely the earth is a kingly vessel buried
at Sutton Hoo treasure--cups, coin,
crowns, bells, lamps, swords of high-
domed doom, of lambs, of snow, almonds,
rivers of golden birds, eyes
of roses, apples, silver palms, & clay
all my turbulent & sinuous ways
are barrowed there already
Seasons revolve rolling warming & chill
my body is or was, still
now ever, this
Brownian seasonal motion, so angular-
insular, in muddy moats of dust
Measured now dark winding of the spring
beneath the cupola. (Fink walks by
the coffeeshop.) Amazed on Morris Avenue
(the gold-domed temple launched into the blue)
you lead me down this island road the ring
in my hand yours, O mere breath of air (sigh).
As the bent palm leaf leads the king
(Blind King, Venetian--Federal Hill) toward
a national crown o'thorns--green
chastening around the track--a Florentine
all-monde roadrace crusade--or
lolling MW princess--thinking
double you dark S in me--
M what you will (a-wheeling Zee).
57 Henry's Riddles
It is letter by letter,
line by line.
It's only the bark of a gypsy sheepdog, set adrift.
Fractal ripples in the land o'lakes, anonymous.
Present the like time--no time.
The wing-ding blows horns--Jericho Mardi Gras.
Airfuls of brightness from the Roman front.
Streaming by in her late shift.
Hello fella--Midnight here--what she want?
The ring, what else--ride on your mule.
Played me once & for all for a fool.
Cross road w/lime--you get rhyme.
Do time, again.
Jailbird flutters through the dark bullpen.
Ready to pitch, Black?
If not--bus those two to the back!
What is this festive dusk
Rosa parks her butt where it belongs at last &
we're gonna shake this town with hallelujahs,
skinny-dipping the tupperware til kingdom come.
Disguise the girl & the boy's a dish
panhandler's paradise (I wish)!
on Benefit Street
Unless you turn & put away these chilled
dish things--shore is delirious here, boats.
WARMING--FATE TUESDAY AHEAD
Children's books, yearning by rote
& the museum is usually closed on Monday!
Let's go for a walk around the block.
what's up with your--clock?
Pointing forever to high noon, just
because. She's waiting in the wings for him.
They only winged him. A one-armed
gamblin' hurricane ALMA got there first--
there here & there around the playground
where time stops the wind is re-wound
His birthday comes around just once a year,
dying and born anew, though, every day--&
if he weren't over yonder, he'd be here.
Meek baritone of the mighty Milky Way,
a tenor of the flock, he's where his words are--
Mark how blood shudders in the fixèd star!
Tin harmonica below--(a joe named Luther)--
King of sheepdogs--(doggèd sheep)--you are!
Papyrus--pink-palmed scrolls--about to flower,
my speckled maple stretches toward the feeble sun...
some early spirit of your ancestor
tenders black lamb's-wool & a ruddy crown:
rose orientation lent serene uplifted fire.
IV. To the Green Constellation
61 Henry's Dream
In my dream, Everywoman was an icon. We were at a conference on the malaria epidemic. Urban locale--refined, old European (Siberia?). We walked past the coffeeshop at 99 19th Street, around the block, past the museum at 145 10th Avenue, & entered the Birch Tree Grotto (126 Verde Triangle).
In the corner, under a pastel postcard of Costaguana, a retired silver bell manufacturer was babbling into his bowl of mead. My colleague pointed out a petite, lynx-eyed Asian woman at the next table. "Funny thing--when we're in the field, she swims without her shirt on. I tried, you know...but she laughed me off--said (in her awkward English) 'You think you pick out for every woman pleasure cave.'"
I saw her then, breast-stroking upstream underwater, as graceful as a yellowbacked red-ringed cormorant. Introducing myself in a mature & friendly manner, I asked whether perhaps she hailed from Thailand. "A native of Italy," she replied.
Later I was sleeping with someone else (from the bookstore). A young Asian lad had the 2nd-best bed there (on the floor of the cramped hotel room). I put my arm across her shoulder, & she milked me like a generous nurse (before my time had come). Suddenly there came an uncanny ringing of applause--& when we got out of bed, I saw she was glistening, slim, fit as a runner. (I thought--she'll get acquainted with the Asian fellow more thoroughly later.)
I spent the rest of my dream trying quite unsuccessfully to speak Italian with everybody, including the waiters.
my sweet shadow, quiet sister of dusk.
A January snow. What will the New Year bring?
I shiver-- someone walk across my grave--
in cedars London-bound the cardinals sing
apocalypso-- Jubilee arrive--
"When Norwich Thames do come to Amersfoort..."
this incarnation of a devious rose
is watered with my tears-- the bells start
ringing fair, kind, true into the night...
That flickering sword (so calm, so adamant)
would drown the body's spark, the mind's despair;
the ring enveloped in your palm, my cormorant
shows finer mettle-- saves the camel by a hair--
& only a merciful & midnight sun
from knotted multitudes will burnish one.
63 Henry's Siege of Moscow
At least 2 weeks have passed without a call, &
I'm ready to disappear into my dream,
set out on awful pilgrimage, carol
through a mannered wilderness (or some such scheme).
A soused Paul Bunyan lost at Mardi Gras
pursues your motionless & green-eyed mountain--
stomping so Superior in far-gone car
while black-ice brows re-hearse Napoleon.
My shoulders ache with so much borrowed bliss,
& rival horns & slanderous esteem
& seething Time would scatter all of this--til
beat-up silver swings the pendulum--
your glancing silence penetrates so far,
I'm roused from sleep wondering where we are
The evening sky's sapphire & tenderness
would teach the frail wasp to wait for honey;
this weedy waiting as the light grows less
is measured now (as every Jack can see).
My wooden rhododendronship would sing
your miracle of seeing fingers--branch
on branch alight (if such a backward thing--
& shy--could sing)-- a verdant avalanche
or undertaking of the universe...
but I will wait-- & waiting (drop by drop
as honey oozes from the broken comb)
I'll hear your heartbeat stem the flood of time,
as shadows of your chariot wheel stop &
stoop low to kiss my weak echo of your course
Lust burns, decays-- a glaring half-life
Time's false staff leads to oblivion.
Time staffs the dining hall with frothing strife
(brief-basking dogmatists define, refine)
& hurtles doomside-down my send-up heart.
Eyes & mouth breasts back & legs-- just so--
three find it delicious-- & a fourth
sinks, faithless, in a crate at Sutton Hoo...
Still in your palm (wide as the Black Sea)
these sheaves of tears ferment, compost to wine--
one shady gulf & odalisque Eternity
you enter ruby-scarved, O purple vine--
across tall buildings, seas a single band
will intercede for me--your tendriled hand.
66 Pussycat's Daydream
The sun turned black, & day was turned to night,
a hurricane sank all the gondolas,
it rained until it reached skyscraper height
& reeking wires crosstown blacked out, alas!
Three leopards-- Lust, & Jealousy, & Time--
were stalking down my allegorical streets
when suddenly, a windy coracle--lambs,
birds--climbed up, as if propelled with sweet
mouthfuls of air--& dangled like a tent
above spiracular ripples-- (one leaf, two
broke off) an island --shimmering, distant--
drifting in that haze... & it was you,
Atlantis, rose-- full sail, a-whirl--green Dipper!
--clinching New Time! (machinery began to purr)...
Titanic dreams remain where sunk--they lie,
a dogwood scar for all your jealousies--
Ahab's last glimpse in Moby's blank black eye,
Medusa-marriage tombed in frozen seas.
Blind mirror queen--you star of my bleak deeds!
Atlantis! mangered in lagoons' decay...cracked
silver frame, that weights me to the weeds...
your jewelled junk checkmates decoded day.
That lucid, tyrannous & cold iris
drags earth off-course, harpooned to nothingness--
& my short stake in everlasting Venice is
a pained & painted wail to Davy Jones--unless
those arrows in your palm are not in vain--
plain words come tumbling through your vine again.
68 Henry's Sleep Report
I saw a needle of strange fortitude
bolt through the vault, like a mosquito farming
the blue or unstable sable-yellow feathered
hornet's trumpet vine's metamaterial barnstorming--
an M an S whirled--miles over that tangled isle
like a bull's-eye of assassinated justice
in the court of angels, or long-lost medal
of stolen honor, or incarnadine boomerang of unbound bliss--
& this tiny cantilevered carriage pricked the skies
across a verdant constellation-- binding the said
sad impress, blessing with mourning eyes
& pity, spanning, spinning across with ruby thread--
& so your guileless disguise prevailed on high, as
you unwound your own 4th of July
Grapes, lilacs, olive-shoots-- like arrows
in a shower up my spine. What strange bouquet
inscribes your presence, phantom Rose!
We'll two by two now--travel in a ray.
& O how amiable it is-- your swallow's nest;
I'll be a doorkeeper by day, O threefold
arch-- your bosom's ward--& [skip the rest]--
bail milky cataracts from a footstool scaffold.
& at the nadir of midwinter sun
we'll stand in uniform beneath the Admiralty:
him, myself & thee. We'll form a union,
manifold with evening marble from the sea--
three musky tears tri-welded bands of steel--
true counterparts-- & all in all --is real!
and no one knows who killed the King
or the two princes by his side...
Ray fading, dying. With him dies
a nation's truth--tongue-tied by law
& lawlessness. Must we forfeit the prize
those granite spaces, stony swords foresaw?
If underlying all--conspiracy!
Low somber bells drone on-- a slow fado
for dissonant & dusty empires... O mercy
upon us all (the moon bleeds into snow).
Some sailor's heaven is not vanity.
Her Florentine chessboard shall be your bond,
Hamlet's plywood sword your surety.
In pentagonal & penetrating sound
the ring of truth will wring out tyranny-- &
plow the plowers back (so these bells prophesy).
71 Henry's Very Little Testament
"The morning sky was like a robin's egg,
& winter sun was burnished gold & jovial..."
--my many-colored kodak zigzags here to
abridge this dicey coda (sad confessional).
Your eyes that mourn for every buried man,
your arguments that peirce authority,
with palmseed rays begin what you began
in palmy days-- the sceptred lie's decay.
O dearest dogwood, sheepish sliver mine,
your subway token's trained for Jubilee--
one handmaid's handmade hobo trampoline
that [aggregated naughty admirals] will never see.
To them--my iced cremains at Sutton Hoo. &
all my unremaindered hands--post-humorously--to you.
Between the swamp gas of your ghostly Mardi Gras
& surly clowns attached to every crossroad bar
between a ghoul-dug knight & very bored Aurora
under cherubim above the electric chair
Above the undertow over the lead-gray sea
beneath the slippery clay below the frozen ground
between the royal mattress & his flattery
his beggared silver sword & her deflected wound
Between the old has-been & his all-wet twin bed
between the Queen of Beats [a nothing there Will comes]--
& to the blinkered soul a something sweet & red
a sky-burnt fire truck or handkerchief of plums
& in the savage dark one scandalized blue lamb
one jacknife dove unfolds & whispers float-- I am...
The wind blows through the tops of the pine trees.
Sound of things passing into the invisible.
Above their endless dark green constellation
the North Star turns eternally, invincible.
I was your slave, she said.
Where the obscure selves cross into the deep freeze.
On salvation road through the valley of slivers.
& her voice became silver on the point of a sword.
Ding - dong
the dark wind & the rain
(heart, petalled on a spine of steel, rose
into the dark green constellation, graven where
low broken lives might find your heaven)
The star shines in the barrel now outside your court,
Earth is harder now, incarnate truth
grows saltier, more real. I won't be Hamlet
going back to Elsinore, or naked writhe
with David by the ark outside Jerusalem--
but in Firenze, on my knees outside the Instituto
Henry Gould where you sought refuge once: a lamb
when I a wolf had left your island road
& when this rusty orb comes round,
they'll find me Henry numbered
marble begging for forgiveness there
from you & from the flagrant Lord
of Florentine pine-scented air
In a dream, we walked hand in hand through Petersburg.
You held a black silk parasol to shade the sun
a russet scarf around your neck the surge
of ocean checked & mated sweetly done
by stone & curving banks & tender light,
newborn. This dream (frail-woven, swaying
pattern) floats through dusk... lighthearted leafboat,
whispered through the channel of my costly clay.
I woke & saw the shadow of a goldfinch
disappearing overhead. & so I send you
cardinal this blue-green valentine, launched
in a bathtub ship called Sophie-- since I know
though parted by rose-fingered sea & sinuous time
we never step outside the portals of Jerusalem
How high we go who travel in a shadow!
Nor will I fear the arrows of the sun by day
nor terrors of the night-- my general best to show
(as one who sailed to London once) that inwound RI way.
Sometimes I think I'm more than halfway there
when swallows tear across the firmament
& pollen quivers in the pregnant air
& comely palms exude an anchored scent--
I think of one whose 52nd year
revolves around again a blooming almond staff
& orbic Jubilee-- out of the mournful sere
of autumn-lying earth a greenish leaf
is born... a festive lion laughs! He's
rolling on that floor where all his thorns are chaff!
I heard those bells' high sea-rose call--
five senses tingled-- my ten fingers danced
& through a sunken constellation--greenish metal--
came & planted in my house your calm expanse.
Low celandine is for the eyes & pennyroyal
soothes the roiled brow; Ophelia's rue
floats upon the tide, & Denmark's rotten apple
rules by her side at last in Hades now.
The earth instinct with vision steals away
our term of life (careless carouse or sensual feast,
unwound) yet still that muffled melody,
that sea-borne stem of chorded combers, vast
rolls back to me (like wind through anonymous
cedars, deep in northern woods) a woman's voice.
root pity in thy heart
I found a ruddy apple at the foot of the well
of galaxies like a slow heartbeat in the tomb--
a scarlet ornament in guttered hell or
pampered paradise, that droned I am.
& in disgrace-- disguise of every rude
awakening-- I saw that orb go shadowed
rolling ripening like some rotund
oration (car or ark?) around a node
or hedge of angles-- prism ship, or plane
icon of human inclination-- very
scored with wrinkles, moods & frowns,
--& yet miraculously ordinary!
--The finder of the gold I've stolen here
shall have my book & staff (I'll let you steer).
London awaits the latest buried man,
unlettered still, to have them all in stitches
lionize the iris of spotlight sunshine thrown down
ticker tape handkerchiefs & broken watches.
& so green stars are shining over every metropole
& you entranced with tidal roses & applause
play mother's part, & chase your favorite nightingale--
a golden globe, the apple of your eye [Ecclesiastes].
Remember then our intercepted breeze
went whispering through the broken silver mine;
casket of apple blooms, lilies fettered snowpeas
bathed us--O terrestrial, & Caroline--
for Charlie Gould was not yet 29
when he was finished --by his own icon!
Bells ring as the days move toward spring now,
& bear the canker & the rose in high noon's pentagon
of pulsing screed: of comfort & despair
O world world world flow on, flow on
flow on, flow on into the calendar--
sweet faded arbors & Ophelia's crown
have branched a branded, flickering undertow
toward Jubilee. O fearful provocation--
sundered veil! Poor pinioned corners
bare the harshest knife, & still your balm
exfolds --O silvered Silencer!
& in the concord of one star, one palm
your Kosmos mirrored now engulfed in rest
combs, in green isles, your Love's grave crest.
81 His Toy Takes Off
19... all systems hnefatafl go.
Square one. Fold up your golden RI game.
2 seconds now. Venice to Sutton Hoo.
Way over fatal Henry's phantom fame
[no sugar now] the stars concrete & ever-same
irrigate a mirror image, balanced
on an orange L-shaped gyroscheme.
& Leo halo = mass x horizon event [entranced].
Binary, buried men & buoyant coffins
make a comeback now on scaffold stage--
barbarians go Dutch in paper gondolas,
& somber subway harmonies ring for the page
whose queen translates my thorny hide & seek
& saved my life just for a new song's sake.
82 Henry's Footnotes
Everything is safe underground.
--James Pritchard, archaeologist
NY Times obituary page, 1.19.97
Obit. Essential outlines & whitewash.
Summa of your summer's wanton burden,
outward walls-- & pines within to ash.
Thy body's end by terms divine
High noon. Toothpick. Hung there
melted like wax a multitude of the isles
were glad thereof--buy clerical shares
in my main book--a constitutional disguise.
Philip Sperling, 85... Rare Books.
Mary Bancroft... Spy in World War II.
James Pritchard, Archaeologist... at 87.
Luba Rostova, 80... a Dancer.
You vault to safety, Luba like spring
on tightrope--or a pseudospy (without a string).
Yet seem'd it winter still, and you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.
The universe in teeming unison intones the
silken, skilled refigurement of slandered
scandal-- harps begotten victory above my bones'
corral o.k. she's deep vermilion-fevered
now... prescriptions lays sweet smells & figures
of delight [& trumpets also] let the sea
make noise floods clap their hands O marvelous
April! your groinèd alphabet engraves my clay:
Hibernian sheep checkmate the rugged ground,
high cupolas pinprick dogwoods, lagoons,
your constellate goodwill--flowering almond--
scents the New Year's air: runes, vessels, premonitions. . .
& like a cardinal in a cured ribcage
my carol springs from winter's branches--age to age.
84 Henry's 13th Forward Violet Recital
...from age to age.
I will be sing-song sowing one thing now's
though cunning winds don'ts augur very well
for corporate gondolas or rust-fed plows
in a waiter's world... & yet one rose from hell
climbs up the podium--one pied-palm scrawl
centers yourn yon maple syruppity Milky Way:
aye there was a kindly man, whose whole
wheat handshakes put us in the black today.
It's raining Newport stars... a couple--Big Bear
& Little Bear-- & one to navigate &
circle up stray astral flocks--that yet prepare
height's thronging dogwood crown-- inaugurate
one sober nostos unison of splintered strife
fled sea-grave prisms grant transhuman life.
O go your way into his gates
My bones yes my bones were in the coral
under winter water's scandal sheet--
my herbs were stoned, prescriptions oral--a
textbook exhibit A, mispoisoned, & completely.
Diz aster. O kingly vassal! Borrowed
almonds rootless apples blood-tombed Eric
in the clay. A brown emotion. All undertowed.
Palm fleeced in shade. A gnarled mold.
O feeble-hearted... --April--scent-benign-intensity!
Your anagram... --the sun--the sun!
Light like... a crooked knife is--blinding me!
& who is she? Dark outline--in the gateway--graven
shade-- palm-leaf trowel in her hand-- a pilot?
Gardener? Who steals--delirious-- me from my plot?
86 His Veteran Hardtack
I was headstoned--unnoticed bit o'mortuary.
Some summer's bored Morton, gloomed in the den--
unfired. Unlocked the safety--vault--it was scary!
Unperfect sage launched by bent bluesmen
into a dishrag black abyss. Barely,
I say, W. Uneven S. Sideways,
sidewinded lolling April cot untimely
wild unkelsoned, intecinerated... haze
princess! Dark winding of your spring-
fed compost revolved a stuffed fella
my way--a secret truant, or sting-
adhesive band-aid chorister whose A
preceded the sea--with insufficiency! My
heart to sway--say--quick--link onto the lee!
87 His Pen Pal's Alias
Well I was roamin like a soldier through upside town
with my poignard compagnard just give her the slip
rollin bombed under my part-nobler macintosh right on
Professor I dont mean nothin officer (your garbage-ship)
Anyways I felt kinda nappy lowering the boom yon gypsy
crawlers good enough for a snow drudge I seize her
by her cop-colored copycat hair do I see
I dont mean no harm you get my drift Marie Grays
my loverstrangler no weekend-steamin jailbird time for me
To go on puke-mulin please I says to her--what your name?
Suspect she was pullin my knife says --Alienavel (whee!)
Nostrowoman or somethin-- Yeah! what kinda clam?
Claim she serve a years line-up time less one a thief man
I tell you mistaken i.d. No! believe me! I just ran!
88-89 Doing Double-Time + 1
As small trees emerge from the darkness so
I wanted to anchor your hope with a mother poem
& as the voice of one of the daughters of J2 goes
steering across a never-never mirror home
beneath the memories I wanted that star at last
where it belongs in UNION with my shivering heart.
I'm cold iced eyes are eyeing us the mast
is burning 3 springs back I cannot write no more
& yet your calm queen-star-spangled fingers fly,
& satisfy my mouth (that is but dust & grass)
with eagles' fare, token of your vast pacific sky--
have wrung deep oaths your kingdom come to pass
into the hands of children this long gift
may come to mean what it was meant to be
& from the sceptered greenhouse there might drift
a glory glory hallelujah victory
go ricochet-- new-minted pennyroyal frisbee -- swift
cardinal draft afloat upon flushed chambers now:
high ceiling lofted with the midnight sun
Lenore on carpet ride & Poe in tow
a winged clay fireboat museum-- hurricane--
& Hamlet's maiden voyage waxed for snow
will hang there, pensively, & mimic you (turning
ample apple pear-shaped seedling choir,
& ringing curving out of sight)-- the river far below
where, garnering the dust (so evident, so visual)
the summer mansions pulled us both upstairs,
& fire-trees storked us free at last, & all
sheepdog creation woofed my deep-dyed, wide-warped airs.
V. Scattered Bells & Whistles
90i.m. Henry Darger
I've wrapped a rubber car-rack strap (like a winebarrel)
around the splitting dogwood now, so it might survive.
Here in Providence, like many an average middling burg,
you sort of, you know, make do with what you have.
Midwinter spring is its own season. But
we haven't had much snow here anyway this year--&
it's not as though that's going to make us all jump for joy.
In fact some of us could have just come from the morgue.
Why that is--I'll tell you the reason.
In this little town we all look vaguely familiar--
but not so familiar that we're gonna hail-fellow-well-
met everybody! Which foot forward? We're never quite sure.
It's just a local variation on the principle of the shroud.Providence
We're in disguise. It rains a lot. We're under a constant cloud.
My web's afloat now, nude sans string theory
& though I can't see where I'm going in this cloud
it's pebbled in the quantum foam--down to 10-40.
It might even be visible someday (out loud).
These partial masks we wear--abhor--applaud
donned quickly for each grandest late finale
are portioned from a general evening shroud.
Odds are we're gypsies all--beyond the pale.
One--a regal Russian poet-son (of Riga leather man).
Two--a frank Swede belle from Algiers (alias Luba).
(Floats pas-de-deux with Ballets Russes.) (--Can, can!).
Three--that flautist Henry (plays the tuba)--he
whose ALMA now canoed across (aquamarine)
a warm canal lame ticker-time has never been.
92 Henry's Baker (Chet)
stay and we'll make each day a Valentine's Day
Touring through Holland one more time you fell
from a window like an evening angel emptied out
into the valley of the blues (this well
of the horizon filled with your lost trumpet).
Your craggy face was hollowed long before
dragged from the harem to the heroin
--quarters tossed halfway to 88s-- the score
is nothing-not-nothing (future-has-been).
My funny Valentine her face has changed,
her hair it's still the same melodic thread
(your bread & wine) & it is so arranged
we never leave-- the river flows ahead
into heart's mournful gulf & stays, sustains
your veiled demise with victory & peace.
You're handsome, ominous...
I ken your anonymous osmosis.
Muzak crowds rush bingo hall,
gun mall. & tardy kitten Cisco
says: Hell I dunno what it's all.
Red Flag on that Huey over Frisco.
&, & dud birds on the aerial.
Who's that masked mannikin?
What? Too loud in here!
Now where did Ken go? Hide seekin?
Obituary of an X. Canned.
Is Wanda over there
by the process--Aisle? Cheese?
In the last island of his Lenten mind
in that gray London of his final shroud
with snow upon his heart John Donne
had glimpsed a razor's lucid edge--of
winter sunlight--& feathered down his page:
Hell's bruise & heaven's laws are wise
& in the halls rose all in willing praise &
hills wells skies walls holes--all ways--always
will pause to hear my sighs & tolling bells
& setting down his pen slowly at last
his heart still balanced between strife & rest
like Prospero when his dear ding-dong play was done
rose from his island bed & praised out loud
Love's wonders--once so lost & now at last rewon.
95 His Parable
The Chosen One after all that he'd been through
was lying still-- & sirens wailed, & silver bowls
were melted down & the Garden, the Garden turned blue.
The mournful town was filled with sheepdog howls.
& when the Magdalen with green-eyed glance
rolled back the stone & let a blade of light
break in He was confused--dazed by the trance--&
wondered who He was--& whether it was right
that she advance & touching, lift his arm
across her shoulder (there in the dank darkness).
But soon her eyes (like ruby lamps) glowed warm
& on his lips she burned a mordant morning kiss
& said I am your servant Mary, here
to wake you now-- rise up! & be my valiant--volunteer!
There is no salvation for the dirty deeds
of plunder treachery & greed. The land's
not ours nor worthy of its smallest seeds
are we. The blood is on our hands.
Still a fleeting gypsy blessing might redeem
innocent children from the general's curse
& serve as model toward a better scheme
for our rude ways & late benighted manners:
I'm thinking of (once more) one hearty pioneer
whose bark's capacious sail, so purposeful
set free the civitas--shrouded his clear-
eyed friend Canonicus in his best-woven shawl--
& closed those regal lamps that spied his own--
escorting him with eagle feathers to his town.
My early years are winding down spirals
canal O lead me river to that sweet
shy lock of your Italian walls, &
set me in your gong-sent gondola-casket.
I have not seen those verdant smoky domes--
dove-hearted Bogotá-- those roseate peaks
& sheer-strung crevices inset with palms, &
spires uprisen high in playful pinks--
& yet collegial petals can play Roma too--
& loop the loop into... --that gulf of roses,
buried in my chest might grant you
amorous fortitude! & winestained poses!--as
dancers (rising to their constellated task) quick
check their mates & soar--right through the mask.
98 Henry's Fake Book (out-takes)
...my one and only love.
Every thought of you the veritable heart shakes
Soar, & showers my paired dice high--O hell it's low--
But then I'll take a chance & say goodby's hel-lo...
Pennies from heaven-- but my love's a
SKing's Queen's to Jack's son's brothersome, blac-
Khole in won-der! [o.k.! now--try it to sing!]
Dawn shadows fall & spread their misty day, a-
Carolling sweet red & blue, & gre-en matchsticks, too--
Her you & me--I am in love with you this way way way
way way way way...
[read down/up 3 bars]
Jaybirds & larks & stars might sing a ding-a
Ling ling ling but still my aching heart
Tacks o-ver & sails in lo-ve with you-hoo!
Fly [G cleft--no H note] [time to play up]
were you in my arms...
99 from H.Q. Re: Final Report
Glancing over her sunlit shoulder, Dr. Louise Chan U.N. Littletree (the arch-geologist) virtually blinked a moment in astonishment when she noticed--lying in an anomalous, undistinguished corner of the Soberlost Dig Project potshed--a small sherd of blacquered Arpeggian cupware, datable not earlier than circa 1386 B.C.E. [...] "Whoa!" she shouted, just as Melrose the mule was about to pulverize the precious relic with his iron-shod left back toe. Melrose, fortunately, desisted--and as a result, we have the following inscription (transfigured into angles by Prof. Wedgeworth Crease):
[...] gold & yellow-black-leaved book of spinning
Jenny Double-essencell-El Chris O'Ferrous Balm
shelled giddy hailstorms up & down my waning
spine, Doc!-- Out of my hands-- My diving poem,
that is! That is! That is! That is! That is!
& though this whorl street constellation's programmed
darkening green day, one's quantum foam begins to fizz
new yolks! & Petrograduate I'll cease my roaming
since the aspiring baker-bacon is already hamming-jammimg
& to Seedling City (all-wise node) some
dumbig polarbunionbrain Nord
Easter is coming [...]
Henry Gould co-edits the literary journal Nedge. He is a founding member of the Poetry Mission, an RI-based arts association. He recently co-edited and published an anthology in honor of poet/translator Edwin Honigentitled A Glass of Green Tea - With Honig (distributed by Fordham Univ. Press); his poems, essays and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in: alea, apex of the M, Electronic Poetry Review, Free Cuisenart, Happy Genius, LVNG, Negations, Newport Review, Poetry New York, Providence Journal, Talisman, Taproot Reviews, and Witz. Chapbooks of his early poems were published by Hellcoal Press (Where the Skies are Not Cloudy All Day, 1972) and Copper Beech Press (Stone, 1979). He lives in Providence, and welcomes questions and comments about Island Road via email: Henry_Gould@brown.edu.
William Slaughter, Editor
Department of Language & Literature
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, Florida 32224-2645
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