Sobornost

Somewhere in sobornost
with onion domes and ringing bells
columned halls peer heavenward
the riches of a thousand mines
speckling the inward skies with glory
alleluias pierce in threes
like the wounds of a savior
hanging dead on a tree
eyes closed in painful repose
as the sky blackens in dismay.

They sing in unison like angels
shouting fear not on Christmas eves
and the candle processions dot
the long ridge lines like light shows
on Independence Day, or fireflies
dancing in the new June heat.

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Brown Lawns

Like the treasury in the Alhambra,
with the recession of Goths,
lost in their coastal enclaves
as exarchs and regents affix waxen
seals as symbolic as imperial wills
for long dead Caesars like whipoorwills
nesting in their shredded, gilded robes
grousing like hens heckled at twilight
scattering under the watchful gaze of hawks.

There in the fourth line, the verse,
an allusion lingers, a painted scepter,
the long lost risen savior’s diadem displaced;
and on the new head, crowned in light
sweat stains the brow of silk covered prophets
armed with scapulas and croziers and the odd rib
while in the wind a hint of jasmine filters
and maple trees shed their leaves on brown lawns.

Joyless Vespers

Some bars are like joyless vespers
with bells and songs and sacrilegious prayers
yelped out in karaoke, soaked in liquor
strangers fight like brothers in dingy ill-lit rooms.

Sometimes the sushi is fresh, and worth eating
doused in soy sauce til all you taste is salt
and the hints of avocado fool your palette
like some Gauguin rainy vista or a harlequin.

The thumping beat can fool you, your heart racing,
the animal insomnia as Eros dances, playing
with the soiled rags of your untended spirit
as you memorize the catechism of despair.

Smokehouse Alewives

The day was drowned in beer,
soft sunlight leavened by heavy leaf cover,
smoking pit sizzling with the last whimpers
of up til moments before creeping crawling
crabs and lobsters, resting in a bed,
sitting down for a nice hot steam bath.
Their last.

Down the grey road, houses filled with the dissolute,
despite the sunny flower gardens, and the heady scents
of oregano and marjoram, the beefy heads of horseradish
and the bobbing, swaying rose hips in a heavy nautical wind
the wide tides rolled out, revealing mud flats, tempting
tourists, to trap their kayaks, hinting at clams to be had.

Some days slide by unnoticed,
some visits to little smokehouses,
gutted alewives hanging on tempered steel
etch themselves more surely into memory
than a thousand other limp hours.

They got heavy

Punch button coup, strung out on beach towels,
a trace of seaweed like some monstrous serpent,
hints of low tide in the stinking air,
a pair of squabbling crabs, half-broken claws
tickling the sands, little alien warriors,
defending shoals and tide pools, where life began
or at least we can all agree it ends sometimes.

The rocky jut, a spine of constructed land,
home to slime and slugs and starfish,
little snails and other icky things
collected by young boys
who promised to wear their life jackets,
but they got heavy.

Will the seagulls ever care?

There on the empty sandy beaches
among the fish-heads and blue corn
the dunes swept white, an incoming storm
peaked hats buckled after long sea voyages.

Someday soon the planks are laid
and quaint little coffee shops will sprout
doused in pastels and chalk board signs
and instead of seals and rotting fish
tourists and Adirondack chairs will populate the shore,
but the sea gulls still won’t care.

Will the -uits and -inuacs and -panoags return
when the rockets blast and other rocks are plundered
will the trees creep forward cautiously
breaking up the lifeless suburban lawnscape?

Will the seagulls ever care?

Caeser Glanced Elysian Fields

When Caesar glanced Elysian fields,
the silver slip of spears like coronets,
crowned hills, shivering in light,
the ancient Gallic cries for liberty,
long lie the honored dead,
the victims of countless luminaries.

When dust clouds rose to block the sun
as the walls barbed brackets embracing camps
ditched and trenched and pronged hills,
dressed with lilies in fish-less ponds,
took life, each sodden warrior’s ascent
the grasping fist of Julian ambition.

Here the Senate’s standard is raised.
Here defeat is turned to victory.

For the Heroes Dipped in Scarlet

From Last Poems by D.H. Lawrence

Before Plato told the great lie of ideals
men slimly went like fishes, and didn’t care.

They had long hair, like Samson,
and clean as arrows they sped at the mark
when the bow-cord twanged.

They knew it was no use knowing
their own nothingness:
for they were not nothing.

So now they come back! Hark!
Hark! the low and shattering laughter of bearded men
with the slim waists of warriors, and the long feet
of moonlit dancers.

Oh, and their faces scarlet, like the dolphin’s blood!
Lo! the loveliest is red all over, rippling vermilion
as he ripples upwards!
laughing in his black beard!

They are dancing! they return, as they went, dancing!
For the thing that is done without the glowing as of god, vermilion,
were best not done at all.
How glistening red they are!

Prelude To An Unwritten Masterpiece

by Siegfried Sassoon

You like my bird-sung gardens: wings and flowers;
Calm landscapes for emotion; star-lit lawns;
And Youth against the sun-rise… ‘Not profound;
‘But such a haunting music in the sound:
‘Do it once more; it helps us to forget’.

Last night I dreamt an old recurring scene—
Some complex out of childhood; (sex, of course!)
I can’t remember how the trouble starts;
And then I’m running blindly in the sun
Down the old orchard, and there’s something cruel
Chasing me; someone roused to a grim pursuit
Of clumsy anger… Crash! I’m through the fence
And thrusting wildly down the wood that’s dense
With woven green of safety; paths that wind
Moss-grown from glade to glade; and far behind,
One thwarted yell; then silence. I’ve escaped.

That’s where it used to stop. Last night I went
Onward until the trees were dark and huge,
And I was lost, cut off from all return
By swamps and birdless jungles. I’d no chance
Of getting home for tea. I woke with shivers,
And thought of crocodiles in crawling rivers.

Some day I’ll build (more ruggedly than Doughty)
A dark tremendous song you’ll never hear.
My beard will be a snow-storm, drifting whiter
On bowed, prophetic shoulders, year by year.
And some will say, ‘His work has grown so dreary.’
Others, ‘He used to be a charming writer’.
And you, my friend, will query—
‘Why can’t you cut it short, you pompous blighter?’

 

Leighton’s ‘Francesca Di Rimini’

‘That day they read no more,’ Virtue grows faint,
One hand lies powerless, the wife’s sweet face
Is half-convulsed by loss of self-restraint.
Outstretched to resist, remaining to embrace,
The extended arm will clasp her guilty lover,
And all the bright, pure world beyond for her be over.

Their very forms grow blurred and change their colour
Into dim snaky wreaths of purple pallor,
Fading away with Honour’s fading Law
Into the pale sad ghosts that Dante saw;
Which we too see, crowned with departing glory,
When Leighton’s genius deepens Dante’s story.

-Robin Allen 6th April 1861

Blue Hour

It has been a while since I posted a poem to this blog. Here’s one I found at a German website. Translation thanks to google translate, although I did modify the text a little to make it more suitable to English diction.

by Stefan George

Look at this blue hour
Behind the garden,
behind the tent!
She took merry findings
For the valuable consideration of pale sisters.

Filled with Excitement and Cheer
So she hurries to the clouds – look!
A victim slowly failing.
She says as she burns up what they gave.

That they should not go so fast
So we ponder · remaining dedicated to her
Eccentricity, even as it arches
[Bringing upon us]
A dark rich revelry.

As deep as
The cheering and groaning is
In this new Paradise
Still it lures and stirred when already verdant.

The Applicant

by Sylvia Plath

strange plath

First, are you our sort of a person?
Do you wear
A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch,
A brace or a hook,
Rubber breasts or a rubber crotch,

Stitches to show something’s missing? No, no? Then
How can we give you a thing?
Stop crying.
Open your hand.
Empty? Empty. Here is a hand

To fill it and willing
To bring teacups and roll away headaches
And do whatever you tell it.
Will you marry it?
It is guaranteed

To thumb shut your eyes at the end
And dissolve of sorrow.
We make new stock from the salt.
I notice you are stark naked.
How about this suit –

Black and stiff, but not a bad fit.
Will you marry it?
It is waterproof, shatterproof, proof
Against fire and bombs through the roof.
Believe me, they’ll bury you in it.

Now your head, excuse me, is empty.
I have the ticket for that.
Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.
Well, what do you think of that?
Naked as paper to start

But in twenty-five years she’ll be silver,
In fifty, gold.
A living doll, everywhere you look.
It can sew, it can cook,
It can talk, talk, talk.

It works, there is nothing wrong with it.
You have a hole, it’s a poultice.
You have an eye, it’s an image.
My boy, it’s your last resort.
Will you marry it, marry it, marry it.

(Courtesy of A Wind of Such Violence)