A poem of hope
I must find another Poem somehow,
A poem of hope,
Or else I’ll join the vultures of despair
Who, in our time, circle the wounded and the dying,
descending to squabble over stolen fragments
not to be numbered with the losers.
There is a carrion comfort for each time,
A way of witnessing the hopelessness
And roiling circumstance of each age,
The suffering sickness of our savage grasping,
A way of telling all that in our futile fix
Self-interest without restraint alone
Can answer for the strong,
Poulticing their wounds with wealth and influence.
But then, you look into a presidential face
and see a sad portrait there
A map of scars
Where every part of hope
Has been excised
And only plastic counterfeits remain.
Better to toil among our troubles,
Clutching our thin human mede of hope
than circling, deluded, there, among the raptors.
Of once shouted poems
I hear the faintest echoes,
Just a murmur more than background noise today.
They sound a barely whispered chant
of ancient and confused distress
and if I try I can discern
a falling meter to it.
rings with the harmonics
of all of Persia’s unremembered bards
but gone beyond all resonance
are those whose languages
as well as songs
The Wind and the Hill
Furred like a Persian cat,
Rippling as the wind writes hieroglyphics on it.
That wind, they tell us,
Comes whorling and scrolling,
As ocean currents do,
From the ends of the world,
Of suffering and celebration;
Carrying talk of me,
My hill, and more,
Back whence it came.
Through the wormhole of time,
I see my youthful self
And feel again that world wind
On my face,
Marvel at its paisley scrawling,
Across the smooth volcanic breast
That looms above our makeshift army camp.
It takes away my fears
And, small price to pay, for just a moment,
My hopes, too.
The Launceston Train.(1970)
The train pursues the logic of a snake
Bursting in and out of cuttings
And startled crows, ungainly,
while red hawks
Smoothly wheel above,
Impatient for the flickering run
Panicked from their midday sleep
In hidden gold-grass nests
By the sudden roar of steel
and the vibrating earth.
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.
They did the best they could,
paring and turning the pegs they had to hand,
to plug the misshapen holes in the story
he who had come among them told.
back in Jerusalem,
it was all unlearning.
the leader was not quite what was expected,
not the kind of man they thought the books foretold;
different, and much more.
They could never quite agree, of course,
so they set out to crawl across bridges of metaphor,
above that abyssal other world
they feared but could not name.
They speculated for 300 years,
until Imperial swords outside the door
brought them at last to a simulated comity.
The Shining Ones
Have you ever seen one of the shining ones?
They’re there and not there,
like cleanest window glass,
that endlessly outpours beyond-born, blaze-bright goldenlight.
I want to be like that,
not here, that is, but there;
or rather, truly neither,
filled instead by the light my here-self merely frames,
the light where all of light comes from;
here and beyond-gone, also
where other or self cannot separate;
Because they are drawn back
to their deep-true oneness,
yet still are, still are unique
forms of the same unfolding infolding manifold
but not apart or alone,
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?