In vino veritas (1960)
Why do the clouds lie so lazily,
sprawled across the evening sky?
Don’t they know the night wind holds their death,
flail to shred them, drive them all awry?
Why do dayflowers bloom in morning’s coolness,
when noon’s harsh heat will wither them away?
Why do we strive
to grow the sweet grapes of life
when life itself will one day crush them?
And will that yield a wine?
And, if so, who will drink it?
(For L B)
Trembling in its trap of bone.
Ringing with the fleeing horses’ beat.
The sand against his skin.
The slow gather of threats about him.
The fire of wounded eyes,
The day-bright accusation.
Not now fat with righteousness,
Articulates a dry rattle,
Tocsin for excuses fled
And arguments as empty as
The last flicker of earthly lust is ash
And dust the taste of treasured praises.
Blood on the winning steel
Has turned to rust,
The feast of self-esteem become a crust
And all joy,
Waiting is a subtle art
Learned through long apprenticeship.
Beginners merely pluck and scrape at time,
With all the racket of a tuning orchestra.
Journeymen start with an arrogant pianissimo
Which waxes with each note
Until, tripped by a passing arpeggio,
They fall into a premature melody, and thus,
Masters of waiting are few.
You know them by the measured rests,
The long and soundless deserts
Where the extravagant absence of music
Is foil to wild imagination of rhythms,
Mirages of symphony,
And ghostly whirls
Of non-existent fanfares and cadenzas,
Perpetual anticipation of which,
Orchestrates the studied power
That moves beneath their silences.
Words are strung on a million strings,
crotcheted nets, wrapped in themselves,
dictionaries, in which
each many-stranded knot,
tapestries into unending differences,
but nowhere can you find the meaning of a single
We cast these nets,
poor fishers of meanings that we are,
but never catch;
the meaning-fishes swim right past,
for they are wild
and always moving,
only sometimes are they there,
when the net is cast,
We cannot see beneath the surface,
glitter-blinded as we are by ripples of fashion
and the breaking and the foaming
as the swells of self-assertion crash upon each other
and by the endless plastic bobbing jetsam dance
of annunciations, myths and dogmas.
Who will tell us when to cast the net and where?
Midwinter under the southern cross, and the wildflowers begin their long blooming season, wattle and red grevillea…
and the wild creatures come out to play…wattle birds, with nectar enough for all, even those who capture them only on film.
The “Black Dog” the old english Statesman called it,
And took a little more from whiskey than whiskey took from him,
But that was not so kind to Labradors,
And all such less than fair dogs.
Wolf I’d rather call it,
Top predator of souls,
Hounding the evolution of our minds
from love of self to other,
from inward loss to outward grace.
Unless, of course, we manage to evade this wolf
And, in that, rob our suffering of its fruits,
and so seek shelter from our life in inner mausoleums,
Among funerary figures
Of Guilt, and Sin, and Long Regrets,
And all the unforgiven things,
Concerning which we claim our own exemption from forgiveness
of faults which, in any other, we might readily forgive,
Even though we know we share with them a common weakness and fragility.
For ourselves, then,
Singular even in this,