I saw my soul at rest upon a day
As a bird sleeping in the nest of night,
Among soft leaves that give the starlight way
To touch its wings but not its eyes with light;
So that it knew as one in visions may,
And knew not as men waking, of delight.
This was the measure of my soul’s delight;
It had no power of joy to fly by day,
Nor part in the large lordship of the light;
But in a secret moon-beholden way
Had all its will of dreams and pleasant night,
And all the love and life that sleepers may.
But such life’s triumph as men waking may
It might not have to feed its faint delight
Between the stars by night and sun by day,
Shut up with green leaves and a little light;
Because its way was as a lost star’s way,
A world’s not wholly known of day or night.
All loves and dreams and sounds and gleams of night
Made it all music that such minstrels may,
And all they had they gave it of delight;
But in the full face of the fire of day
What place shall be for any starry light,
What part of heaven in all the wide sun’s way?
Yet the soul woke not, sleeping by the way,
Watched as a nursling of the large-eyed night,
And sought no strength nor knowledge of the day,
Nor closer touch conclusive of delight,
Nor mightier joy nor truer than dreamers may,
Nor more of song than they, nor more of light.
For who sleeps once and sees the secret light
Whereby sleep shows the soul a fairer way
Between the rise and rest of day and night,
Shall care no more to fare as all men may,
But be his place of pain or of delight,
There shall he dwell, beholding night as day.
Song, have thy day and take thy fill of light
Before the night be fallen across thy way;
Sing while he may, man hath no long delight.
May 17, 2007 | | Leave a Comment
This is a double sestina. As if the regular ol’ sestina wasn’t, you know, hard enough.
There is no woman living who draws breath
So sad as I, though all things sadden her.
There is not one upon life’s weariest way
Who is weary as I am weary of all but death.
Toward whom I look as looks the sunflower
All day with all his whole soul toward the sun;
While in the sun’s sight I make moan all day,
And all night on my sleepless maiden bed.
Weep and call out on death, O Love, and thee,
That thou or he would take me to the dead.
And know not what thing evil I have done
That life should lay such heavy hand on me.
Alas! Love, what is this thou wouldst with me?
What honor shalt thou have to quench my breath,
Or what shall my heart broken profit thee?
O Love, O great god Love, what have I done,
That thou shouldst hunger so after my death?
My heart is harmless as my life’s first day:
Seek out some false fair woman, and plague her
Till her tears even as my tears fill her bed:
I am the least flower in thy flowery way,
But till my time be come that I be dead,
Let me live out my flower-time in the sun,
Though my leaves shut before the sunflower.
O Love, Love, Love, the kingly sunflower!
Shall he the sun hath looked on look on me,
That live down here in shade, out of the sun,
Here living in the sorrow and shadow of death?
Shall he that feeds his heart full of the day
Care to give mine eyes light, or my lips breath?
Because she loves him, shall my lord love her
Who is as a worm in my lord’s kingly way?
I shall not see him or know him alive or dead;
But thou, I know thee, O Love, and pray to thee
That in brief while my brief life-days be done,
And the worm quickly make my marriage-bed.
For underground there is no sleepless bed.
But here since I beheld my sunflower
These eyes have slept not, seeing all night and day
His sunlike eyes, and face fronting the sun.
Wherefore, if anywhere be any death,
I fain would find and fold him fast to me,
That I may sleep with the world’s eldest dead,
With her that died seven centuries since, and her
That went last night down the night-wandering way.
For this is sleep indeed, when labor is done,
Without love, without dreams, and without breath,
And without thought, O name unnamed! of thee.
Ah! but, forgetting all things, shall I thee?
Wilt thou not be as now about my bed
There underground as here before the sun?
Shall not thy vision vex me alive and dead,
Thy moving vision without form or breath?
I read long since the bitter tale of her
Who read the tale of Launcelot on a day,
And died, and had no quiet after death,
But was moved ever along a weary way,
Lost with her love in the underworld; ah me,
O my king, O my lordly sunflower,
Would God to me, too, such a thing were done!
But if such sweet and bitter things be done,
Then, flying from life, I shall not fly from thee.
For in that living world without a sun
Thy vision will lay hold upon me dead,
And meet and mock me, and mar my peace in death.
Yet if being wroth, God had such pity on her,
Who was a sinner and foolish in her day,
That even in hell they twain should breathe one breath,
Why should he not in some wise pity me?
So if I sleep not in my soft strait bed,
I may look up and see my sunflower
As he the sun, in some divine strange way.
O poor my heart, well knowest thou in what way
This sore sweet evil unto us was done.
For on a holy and a heavy day
I was arisen out of my still small bed
To see the knights tilt, and one said to me
“The king;” and seeing him, somewhat stopped my breath;
And if the girl spake more, I heard her not,
For only I saw what I shall see when dead,
A kingly flower of knights, a sunflower,
That shone against the sunlight like the sun,
And like a fire, O heart, consuming thee,
The fire of love that lights the pyre of death.
Howbeit I shall not die an evil death
Who have loved in such a sad and sinless way,
That this my love, lord, was no shame to thee.
So when mine eyes are shut against the sun,
O my soul’s sun, O the world’s sunflower,
Thou nor no man will quite despise me dead.
And dying I pray with all my low last breath
That thy whole life may be as was that day,
That feast-day that made trothplight death and me,
Giving the world light of thy great deeds done;
And that fair face brightening thy bridal bed,
That God be good as God hath been to her.
That all things goodly and glad remain with her,
All things that make glad life and goodly death;
That as a bee sucks from a sunflower
Honey, when summer draws delighted breath,
Her soul may drink of thy soul in like way,
And love make life a fruitful marriage-bed
Where day may bring forth fruits of joy to day
And night to night till days and nights be dead.
And as she gives light of her love to thee,
Give thou to her the old glory of days long done;
And either give some heat of light to me,
To warm me where I sleep without the sun.
O sunflower make drunken with the sun,
O knight whose lady’s heart draws thine to her,
Great king, glad lover, I have a word to thee.
There is a weed lives out of the sun’s way,
Hid from the heat deep in the meadow’s bed,
That swoons and whitens at the wind’s least breath,
A flower star-shaped, that all a summer day
Will gaze her soul out on the sunflower
For very love till twilight finds her dead.
But the great sunflower heeds not her poor death,
Knows not when all her loving life is done;
And so much knows my lord the king of me.
Ay, all day long he has no eye for me;
With golden eye following the golden sun
From rose-colored to purple-pillowed bed,
From birthplace to the flame-lit place of death,
From eastern end to western of his way,
So mine eye follows thee, my sunflower,
So the white star-flower turns and yearns to thee,
The sick weak weed, not well alive or dead,
Trod under foot if any pass by her,
Pale, without color of summer or summer breath
In the shrunk shuddering petals, that have done
No work but love, and die before the day.
But thou, to-day, to-morrow, and every day,
Be glad and great, O love whose love slays me.
Thy fervent flower made fruitful from the sun
Shall drop its golden seed in the world’s way,
That all men thereof nourished shall praise thee
For grain and flower and fruit of works well done;
Till thy shed seed, O shining sunflower,
Bring forth such growth of the world’s garden-bed
As like the sun shall outlive age and death.
And yet I would thine heart had heed of her
Who loves thee alive; but not till she be dead.
Come, Love, then, quickly, and take her utmost breath.
Song, speak for me who am dumb as are the dead;
From my sad bed of tears I send forth thee,
To fly all day from sun’s birth to sun’s death
Down the sun’s way after the flying sun,
For love of her that gave thee wings and breath
Ere day be done, to seek the sunflower.
The winds of spring are starting
Even in June to blow
From a wild sky, and round this house
Where a cat sleeps on a bed
And my friends bring me in some kai,
Goat chops roasted a bit too much
In our family oven. But that’s not much
To gripe about. When we were starting
Here we often had no kai
Except onions, and the rain would blow
Through broken windows. Now I lie on a bed
In what the cops would call my house
Though it is in fact a Maori house
Under the wing of the marae too much
For many to like it. The church would give us a bed
Of nails to lie on, the State would like to see me starting
An army borstal. Let the wind blow
From the Maori hill and we will get our kai,
Our houses, our freedom. Tank our friend brings kai
Up from the pa. Father Te Awhitu patched this house
Chopping timber blow by blow
When the pakeha farmers would not have given as much
As a cup of tea. Now the tree is starting
To sprout from its ramshackle seedbed,
The love of the many. I can lie in bed
Under blankets and eat for a kai
The goats my friends have shot, while slips are starting
To block the river road. This old Maori house
Is the mother’s lap where the child learns as much
As he is able, and the June rains blow
Harmlessly. I wait for God’s breath to blow
Life into the body of a culture on its deathbed
Or else, Frank, for those who have had to bear too much
To make a new start, share their clothes and kai,
Put down mattresses in every meeting house
And build their own canoe. It’s difficult starting
Anything new, yet the wind starting to blow
From the house of the sun will tumble the saints out of bed.
It’s wise to eat one’s kai and not say too much.
You said that you would never want to be
remembered as anything but lucky.
But now, a year after your death, and here,
in this stark, symmetrical place more
rigid than the most restrictive poem,
I wonder whom to blame your luck on—God?
You said that you could always turn to God,
that given any situation He would be
more solace than the most respected poem.
And did I think that I was merely lucky
in my talent and accomplishment? More
likely God had put me, for some reason, here.
Still, my father, I ask why you are here.
And through those long, untimely years did God
watch your slow paralysis grow, more
deaf than He had any right to be?
I’d rather think that you were just unlucky
and not some pawn in God’s unending poem.
I’d like to think that somehow my small poem
could bring a measure of solace, even here.
Whitman said he felt that death was lucky,
that he could far outstrip most any god,
that through his manly verses we could be
immortal—a self, a song, a kosmos, something more.
Soon enough, we’ll all be nothing more
than figures in some unforgotten poem
(if we’re lucky). God, don’t let us be
cut off, incomplete, like a sestina, ending here.
October. They decide it is time to move.
The family has grown too large, the house
too small. The father smokes his pipe.
He says, I know that you all love
this house. He turns to his child
who is crying. She doesn’t want to leave.
Outside in the large bright yard the leaves
are turning. They know it is time to move
down onto the ground where the child
will rake them together and make a house
for her dolls to play in. They love
the child. A small bird starts to pipe
his song to the leaves while the pipe
in the father’s hand sputters. The father leaves
no doubt that he’s made up his mind. He loves
his family; that’s why they must move.
The child says, this is a wonderful house.
But nobody listens. She’s only a child.
The father continues to talk. The child
cries, staring out at the Indian pipes
in her backyard, wondering if the birds of this house
will pack up their children, their nests, and leave
the old yard. Do birds ever move?
Do they know her sadness, her love?
Her father is smoking and talking of love.
Does he know what it’s like being a child?
He knows she doesn’t want to move.
She hates him sitting there smoking his pipe.
When has he ever been forced to leave
something he loved? He can’t love this house.
The father sits by himself in the house
thinking how painful it is to love
a daughter, a house. He’s watched her leave
saying she hates him. She’s just a child
but it hurts nonetheless. Smoking his pipe
he wonders if he is wrong about the move.
Outside the bird pipes: Don’t move. Don’t move.
The bright leaves fall on the wonderful house.
And the child sits crying, learning about love.
I opened this poem with a yawn
thinking how tired I am of revolution
the way it’s presented on television
isn’t exactly poetry
You could use some more methedrine
if you ask me personally
People should be treated personally
there’s another yawn
here’s some more methedrine
Thanks! Now about this revolution
What do you think? What is poetry?
Is it like television?
Now I get up and turn off the television
Whew! It was getting to me personally
I think it is like poetry
Yawn it’s 4 AM yawn yawn
This new record is one big revolution
if you were listening you’d understand methedrine
isn’t the greatest drug no not methedrine
it’s no fun for watching television
You want to jump up have a revolution
about something that affects you personally
When you’re busy and involved you never yawn
it’s more like feeling, like energy, like poetry
I really like to write poetry
it’s more fun than grass, acid, THC, methedrine
If I can’t write I start to yawn
and it’s time to sit back, watch television
see what’s happening to me personally:
war, strike, starvation, revolution
This is a sample of my own revolution
taking the easy way out of poetry
I want it to hit you all personally
like a shot of extra-strong methedrine
so you’ll become your own television
Become your own yawn!
O giant yawn, violent revolution
silent television, beautiful poetry
most deadly methedrine
I choose all of you for my poem personally
These dried-out paint brushes which fell from my lips have been
with your departure; they are such minute losses
compared with the light bulb gone from my brain, the sections
of chicken wire from my liver, the precise
silver hammers in my ankles which delicately banged and pointed
magnetically to you. Love has became unfamiliar
and plenty of time to tend the paint brushes now. Once
with my processes. Once removed
from that sizzling sun, the ego, to burn my poet shadow to the
wall, I pointed,
I suppose, only to your own losses
which made you hate that 200 pound fish called marriage. Precise
ly, I hate my life, hate its freedom, hate the sections
of fence stripped away, hate the time for endless painting, hate the
of my darkened brain that wait for children to snap on the light,
corridors of my heart with strangers running in them, shouting.
incisions in my hip to extract an image, a dripping pickaxe or
and each day my paint brushes get softer and cleaner—better tools,
cease to mean loss. Beauty, to each eye, differently pointed.
I admire sign painters and carpenters. I like that black hand
up a drive-way whispering to me. “The Washingtons live in those
and I explain autobiographically that George Washington is
sympathetic to my losses;
His face or name is everywhere. No one is unfamiliar
with the American dollar, and since you’ve been removed
from my life I can think of nothing else. A precise
replacement for love can’t be found. But art and money are precise
ly for distraction. The stars popping out of my blood are pointed
nowhere. I have removed
my ankles so that I cannot travel. There are sections
of my brain growing teeth and unfamiliar
hands tie strings through my eyes. But there are losses
of the spirit like vanished bicycle tires and losses
of the body, like the whole bike, every precise
bearing, spoke, gear, even the unfamiliar
handbrakes vanished. I have pointed
myself in every direction, tried sections
of every map. It’s no use. The real body has been removed.
Removed by the ice tongs. If a puddle remains what losses
can those sections of glacier be? Perhaps a precise
count of drops will substitute the pointed mountain, far away,
Twenty stories high above the desert
with its morning shadows, like the face of a woman wearing
a wide-brimmed hat, you stand quietly so that you won’t
your husband, who sleeps like a tired gardener,
his hands brown from Michigan summer
labor—tomatoes, gypsy peppers, sweet basil and sun flowers.
You love this time of day when the hotel-bordering flowers,
—pansies like eyes and snap dragons like mouths—even
in this desert,
hold dew. To some, this world is beyond summer;
but not to you, a California Girl who will grow old wearing
blue jeans and T-shirts. Your Beefmaster Tomato-gardener
husband loves this city of mirages later in the day, when
it is awake,
But you love it in the morning light before others wake
up and drink their coffee. You are the gypsy flower
at the 6 a.m. blackjack table. Steel Man, husband-gardener
loves his Keno games, tends the numbers. You prefer to
sit with these desert
cactus, old timers who’ve stayed up all night wearing
cigarettes growing inch-long ash from their mouths. Summer
long-gone, their wrinkled wintry hands stack up the chips.
is a joke to them, here where they’re always awake.
They’ve been around the clock; humor this Snapdragon-lady,
her night of sleep like a sprinklered flower,
sits down at their table in the early morning desert.
They know an inhospitable garden and its harsh gardener.
They know that Steel Man sleeping upstairs is not such a
They know hard summer;
her wide-brimmed hat shadowing her old face, Dame Desert
is a survivalist. They’ve learned this staying up all night,
playing blackjack at basil green tables. They could be
big-rooted, heavy-headed, wearing
Sandy cigarette ash, which has fallen over them for hours;
the cards like rows of seeds. She is their gardener.
They laugh at nursery-grown flowers
like me. Summer
snapdragons or pansies, newly awake
at 6 a.m. on their private desert.
A desert where they stay up all night wearing
tough, dusty foliage. I love to see Her wake in them, this
of summer morning blackjack players, these old desert
Miss Bishop assigned us the task of writing a sestina
while she was out of the room.
Hers weren’t so easy, with fifteen
or so drafts, but ours had to leap
right out of our heads, in proper sequence,
arranged to strike the reader as clever.
No one ever told me I was clever
or that I was smart enough to do a sestina
I got it mixed up every time—the sequence—
and couldn’t do meter. When she left the room
I tried for a while, then gave up. Fifteen
minutes had gone by, and I wanted to leap
right out the window. Even today I’d leap
in order to prove I am clever,
I who flunked Latin and trig before I was fifteen,
and still can’t manage a complete sestina
While Miss Bishop was out of the room
I made a chart but still screwed up the sequence.
In fact, I think it’s absurd, a fixed sequence
of six words weaving in and out, not even a leap
into chaos or free verse. We huddled in that room
and tried not to moan and groan. Joan, most clever
of all the students that year, finished her sestina
and showed it off when Miss Bishop returned fifteen
minutes after she had left. “Class, your fifteen
minutes are up,” she said, and took our papers in sequence—
each student taking the stack, adding his sestina
or hers. And Miss Bishop was more than willing to leap
to the conclusion that I had not tried to be clever,
for those terrible fifteen minutes in the yellow room.
It’s not that I hated Miss Bishop, or wanted a Home Room
assignment, more relaxed with a teacher who thought fifteen
minutes not enough to demonstrate how clever
or stupid we were. One mistake in the sequence
and Miss Bishop assumed we were not able to do a sestina
or anything else worth her time. We might as well leap,
hold hands and leap out the window of that yellow room—
we who could not do a sestina in no more than fifteen
minutes, using a sequence of six words—like Miss Bishop, clever.
May 10, 2007 | | 1 Comment
The first word you must know is relevant,
The qualifier of experience.
Relevant experience of the revolution,
For instance, trains you to confront the pigs,
The first defense line of the power structure,
Which guards insidiously the Establishment.
What we are after is the Establishment,
Which acts as if we are not relevant
And forces us to wreck the power structure.
This confrontation is an experience
Not only for the people but for the pigs
Whom we’ll win over in the revolution.
When we make love we make the revolution,
As war is made by the Establishment,
For in our confrontation with the pigs
We prove to them that they’re irrelevant
And immaterial to the experience,
Which in itself can wreck the power structure.
The military-industrial power structure,
A major target of the revolution,
Must also be a sexual experience.
To expose the symbols of the Establishment
Expose yourself—it’s highly relevant
And absolutely petrifies the pigs.
In our utopia there will be no pigs
And no remains of any power structure
Except what we decide is relevant;
And what is relevant but revolution?
We spell the death of the Establishment,
Which will probably welcome the experience.
Meanwhile, experience the experience;
Demand, demand, and overwhelm the pigs
Till we in fact are the Establishment
And constitute a groovy power structure.
Remember the slogan of the revolution:
Now is forever; Now is relevant.
While pigs perpetuate the power structure,
Baby, be relevant to the revolution
Till we experience the Establishment.