Poems of Immediate Occasion
Since learning all in such a tremble last night—
Not with my eyes adroit in the dark,
But with my fingers hard with fright,
Astretch to touch a phantom, closing on myself—
I have been smiling.
Mothering innocents to monsters is
Not of fertility but fascination
It was the beginning of time
When selfhood first stood up in the slime.
It was the beginning of pain
When an angel spoke and was quiet again.
After the count of centuries numbers hang
Heavy over the unnumbered hopes and oppress
The heart each woman stills beneath her dress
Close to the throat, where memory clasps the lace,
An ancient brooch.
It is a mission for men to scare and fly
After the siren luminary, day.
Someone must bide, someone must guard the night.
If there are heroes anywhere
Unarm them quickly and give them
Medals and fine burials
And history to look back on
As weathermen point with pride to rain.
Dire necessity made all,
Made the most frightful first,
Then less and less dire the need
Until in that world honors were least
And haunting meant never to see ghosts.
Intelligence in ladies and gentlemen
And their children
Draws a broad square of knowledge
With their house walls.
But four corners to contain a square
Yield to an utmost circle—
The garden of the perpendicular is a sphere.
Need for a tragic head,
Though no occasion now to grieve,
In that mere mental time
When tears are thought of and none appear.
The optician, in honour of his trade,
Wore the most perfect spectacles ever made,
Saw his unspectacled mother and father
And all his unspectacled relatives with anger,
On holidays for spite never went home
But put away his spectacles to visit Rome,
And indulged his inherited astigmatism
As the vacation privilege of an optician,
Squinting up at the Cathedral
As the Romans thought cultivated and natural.
‘I shall mend it,’ I say,
Whenever something breaks,
‘By tying the beginning to the end.’
Then with my hands washed cleanAnd fingers piano-playing
And arms bare to go elbow-in,
I come to an empty table always.
The broken pieces do not wait
On rolling up of sleeves.
I come in late always
Saying, ‘I shall mend it.’
Gently down the incline of the mind
Speeds the flower, the leaf, the time—
All but the fierce name of the plant,
Imperishable matronymic of a species.
The poppy edifices of sleep,
The monotonous musings of night-breath,
The liquid featureless interior faces,
The shallow terrors, waking never far.
Love at a sickbed is a long way
And an untastable thing.
It hangs like a sickroom picture
And wears like another’s ring.
Then the guarded yawn of pain snaps,
The immeasurable areas of distress
. . . . . .collapse . . .
. . . cheated history—
Which stealing now has only then
And stealing us has only them.
Now victory has come of age,
Learned in arts of desolation,
Gifted with death, love of decline,
Hunger of waste and fresh corruption.
And here it softens and laments,
Mourns fallen enemies, kisses the razed cities,
Hovers where sense has been,
In a ravished world, and calls the pities.
Forgive me, giver, if I destroy the gift!
It is so nearly what would please me,
I cannot but perfect it.
‘Worthy of a jewel,’ they say of beauty,
Uncertain what is beauty
And what the precious thing.
And if occasionally a rhyme appeared,
This was the illness but not the death
So fear-awaited that hope of it
Ailing forgetfulness became.
In short despite of time, that long despite of truth
By all that’s false and would be true as true,
Here’s truth in time, and false as false,
To say, ‘Let truth be so-and-so
In ways so opposite, there’s no
Long-short of it to reason more.’
Between the word and the world lie
Fading eternities of soon.
When a dog lying on the flagstones
Gazes into the sea of spring,
The surface of instruction
Does not ripple once:
He watches it too well.
Love is very everything, like fire:
Many things burning,
But only one combustion.
My address? At the cafés, cathedrals,
Green fields, marble terminals—
I teem with place.
When? Any moment finds me,
Expanded into space.
Let us seem to speak
Or they will think us dead, revive us.
Nod brightly, Hour.
Rescue us from rescue.
What a tattle-tattle we.
And what a rattle-tattle me.
What a rattle-tattle-tattle-rattle we-me.
What a rattle-tattle.
What a tattle-rattle.
What a we.
What a me.
What a what a
The small the far away
The unmeant meanings
Of sincere conversation
Encourage the common brain of talkers
And steady the cup-handles on the table.
Over the rims the drinking eyes
Taste close congratulation
And are satisfied.
Happy room, meal of securities,
The fire distributes feelings,
The cross-beam showers down centuries.
How mad for friendliness
Creep words from where they shiver and starve,
Small and far away in thought,
Untalkative and outcast.
Under apparel, apparel lies
The recurring body:
O multiple innocence,
0 fleshfold dress.
One self, one manyness,
Is first confusion, then simplicity.
0 simultaneous mouth.
Cease, inner and outer,
Continuous flight and overtaking.
There is Much at Work
There is much at work to make the world
Surer by being more beautiful.
But too many beauties overwhelm the proof.
Too much beauty is Lethe.
The succession of fair things
Delights, does not enlighten.
We still know nothing, nothing.
Beauty will be truth but once.
Exchange the multiplied bewilderment
For a single presentation of fact by fairness;
And the revelation will be instantaneous.
We shall all die quickly.
An Ageless Brow
This resolve: with trouble’s brow
To forswear trouble and keep
A surface innocence and sleep
To smooth the mirror
With never, never,
And now, now.
The image, not yet in recognition, had grace
To be lasting in death’s time, to postpone the face
Until the face had gone.
Her regiments sprang up here and fell of peace,
Her banners dropped like birds that had never flown.
And her arrested hand, clasping its open palm,
Pressed on from finger to finger
The stroke withheld from trouble
Till it be only ageless brow,
A renunciatory double
Of itself, a resolve of calm,
Of never, never, and now, now.
The Definition of Love
The definition of love in many languages
Identities of episodes
And makes the parallel
Of myth colloquial.
A future in brains.
Speech invents memory
Where there has been
Neither oblivion nor history.
And we remembering forget,
Mistake the future for the past,
Back to a long ago
Not yet to-morrow.
Many gentlemen there are born not babes.
They will be babes, they will be babes
In the shades.
They will dribble, they will babble,
They will pule in pantomime
Who were not babes in baby time.
Of such infant sorrow
Will they whimper
On Diotima’s bosom
In the shades to-morrow:
Many gentlemen, many gentlemen frowning,
But not Socrates simpering among these,
Who was well weaned of her honey
In his prime and needs no pap now,
Having then long with baby eyes
Smiled upward to her learned brow.
The Poets' Corner
Soldierly at last, for the lines
Go marching on.
And happily may they rest beyond
Suspicion now, the incomprehensibles
It was mere loveliness.
Death has an understanding of it
Loyal to many flags.
Sky scanned the mind and found behind
Holes in the mind, more mind behind,
Clouds to provide appearances of thought.
`Dear Sister!’ it cried,
The bland outrage
Spread over both as one,
Whispering ‘This is heaven.’
‘Oh, no,’ said the populations
Getting out of bed into slippers,
‘What lovely weather!
To-day is Sunday!’
A Previous Night
A previous night is now,
Its passion without desire,
In the mind, a commonplace
Of not forgetting,
On the tongue, an automatic sentiment.
The allegiance is: it was so.
The treason: I survive.
I have my history present like this,
As I have my body,
Employ memory like limbs,
Without repine to move away,
Look down, seem where I was.
And of such furious standstill
I may escape at last to when
No previous night is now,
Time having caught up somehow.
The Devil as Friend
Too late for peace
Your peace is ever late,
And farewell and alas,
Who hated falsehood
Better than truth loved.
Good-bye, and never greeting.
See how his antics multiply
To this fresh ancient theme—
Ours is the endless judgement-day,
His the corrupt new endless years.
Life-size is too Large
To the microscopy of thinking small
(To have room enough to think at all)
I said, ‘Cramped mirror, faithful constriction,
Break, be large as I.’
Then I heard little leaves in my ears rustling
And a little wind like a leaf blowing
My mind into a corner of my mind,
Where wind over empty ground went blowing
And a large dwarf picked and picked up nothing.
The Map of Places
The map of places passes.
The reality of paper tears.
Land and water where they are
Are only where they were
When words read here and here
Before ships happened there.
Now on naked names feet stand,
No geographies in the hand,
And paper reads anciently,
And ships at sea
Turn round and round.
All is known, all is found.
Death meets itself everywhere.
Holes in maps look through to nowhere.
A modulation is that footfalling.
It says and does not say.
When not walking it is not saying.
When saying it is not walking.
When walking it is not saying.
Between the step and alternation
Breathes the hush of modulation
Which tars all roads
To confiding heels and soles and tiptoes.
Deep from the rostrum of the promenade
The echo-tongued mouth of motion
Rolls its voice,
And the large throat is heard to tremble
While the footfalls shuffle.
It says and does not say.
When the going is gone
There is only fancy.
Every thought sounds like a footfall,
Till a thought like a boot kicks down the wall.
Death as Death
To conceive death as death
Is difficulty come by easily,
A blankness fallen among
Images of understanding,
Death like a quick cold hand
On the hot slow head of suicide.
So is it come by easily
For one instant. Then again furnaces
Roar in the ears, then again hell revolves,
And the elastic eye holds paradise
At visible length from blindness,
And dazedly the body echoes
`Like this, like this, like nothing else.’
Like nothing—a similarity
Without resemblance. The prophetic eye,
Closing upon difficulty,
Opens upon comparison,
Halving the actuality
As a gift too plain, for which
Gratitude has no language,
Foresight no vision.
The Troubles of a Book
The trouble of a book is first to be
No thoughts to nobody,
Then to lie as long unwritten
As it will lie unread,
Then to build word for word an author
And occupy his head
Until the head declares vacancy
To make full publication
Of running empty.
The trouble of a book is secondly
To keep awake and ready
And listening like an innkeeper,
Wishing, not wishing for a guest,
Torn between hope of no rest
And hope of rest.
Uncertainly the pages doze
And blink open to passing fingers
With landlord smile, then close.
The trouble of a book is thirdly
To speak its sermon, then look the other way,
Arouse commotion in the margin,
Where tongue meets the eye,
But claim no experience of panic,
No complicity in the outcry.
The ordeal of a book is to give no hint
Of ordeal, to be flat and witless
Of the upright sense of print.
The trouble of a book is chiefly
To be nothing but book outwardly;
To wear binding like binding,
Bury itself in book-death,
Yet to feel all but book;
To breathe live words, yet with the breath
Of letters; to address liveliness
In reading eyes, be answered with
Letters and bookishness.
Elegy in a Spider's Web
What to say when the spider
Say when the spider what
When the spider the spider what
The spider does what
Does does dies does it not
Not live and then not
Legs legs then none
When the spider does dies
Death spider death
Or not the spider or
What to say when
To say always
The dying of always
Or alive or dead
What to say when I
When I or the spider
No I and I what
Does what does dies
No when the spider dies
Death spider death
Death always I
Death before always
Death after always
Dead or alive
Now and always
What to say always
Now and always
What to say now
Now when the spider
What does the spider
The spider what dies
Dies when then when
Then always death always
The dying of always
Always now I
What to say when I
When I what
When I say
When the spider
When I always
When death what
Death I says say
Dead spider no matter
How thorough death
Dead or alive
No matter death
How thorough I
What to say when
When who when the spider
When life when space
The dying of oh pity
Poor how thorough dies
No matter reality
What to say
When death when the spider
When I who I
What to say when
Now before after always
When then the spider what
Say what when now
Legs legs then none
When the spider
Death spider death
The genii who cannot cease to know
What to say when the spider
When I say
When I or the spider
Dead or alive the dying of
Who cannot cease to know
Who death who I
The spider who when
What to say when
Who cannot cease
What to say when the
When the spider what
Does what does dies
Death spider death
Death cease death
To know say what
Or not the spider
Or if I say
Or if I do not say
Who cannot cease to know
Who know the genii
Who say the I
Who they we cannot
Death cease death
To know say I
Oh pity poor pretty
How thorough life love
No matter space spider
How horrid reality
What to say when
The knowing of always
Who these this space
Before after here
Life now my face
The face love the
The legs real when
What time death always
What to say then
What time the spider
That Ancient Line
Old Mother Act and her child Fact-of-Act
Lived practically as one,
He so proud of his monomaniac mother,
She so proud of her parthenogenetic son.
After her death he of course
With his looks and education
Lived on the formal compliments
That other phrases paid him;
And had, of his economy, one daughter
Who remarkably resembled
Her paternal and only grandmother.
Indeed, between Act and Matter-of-Fact
Was such consanguineous sympathy
That the disappearance of the matronymic
In the third generation of pure logic
Did not detract from the authority
Of this and later versions
Of the original progenitive argument.
Long flourished that estate
And never died that self-engendering line out.
Scion followed after scion
Until that ancient blood ran nearly thin.
But Verily, In Truth and Beyond Doubt
Renewed the inheritance-and
And So On.
Opening of Eyes
Thought looking out on thought
Makes one an eye.
One is the mind self-blind,
The other is thought gone
To be seen from afar and not known.
Thus is a universe very soon.
The immense surmise swims round and round,
And heads grow wise
Of marking bigness,
And idiot size
Spaces out Nature,
And ears report echoes first,
Then sounds, distinguish words
Of which the sense comes last—
From mouths spring forth vocabularies
As if by charm.
And thus do false horizons claim pride
For distance in the head
The head conceives outside.
Self-wonder, rushing from the eyes,
Returns lesson by lesson.
The all, secret at first,
Now is the knowable,
The view of flesh, mind’s muchness.
But what of secretness,
Thought not divided, thinking
A single whole of seeing?
That mind dies ever instantly
Of too plain sight foreseen
Within too suddenly,
While mouthless lips break open
Mutely astonished to rehearse
The unutterable simple verse.
Though in One Time
Though in one time
Occur such unlike incidents
As my quickening of substance
And yours or yours,
Close questioning of our prompt elements Tells nothing,
Baffling replies the baffled shrug.
Yet continue the comparison of names
And signs, searching of eyes,
Hands and the blurred records.
A same bewilderment of mind
Marries our proximate occasions,
Yet perhaps no more tokens
Than a colliding of the rapt—
Of zealous purposes
That for impatience
Left their sealed messages behind.
Then I think these are not lame excuses,
I think we are not much disgraced
In these our second reasons,
In these our new credentials,
By which we justify encounter
With a bewildering accuracy.
Originally being meant
In us no sense of us.
No guiding sense meant
Minds ruled by hearts,
Those brash foreminds
Minds questioning and answered:
‘This way, death following.’
Hearts faded, minds knew,
Death led from chaos
Into sense of us,
And no remembrance
Save death behind.
If now seems little known
Of joys of origin,
It is that there were none.
The Wind Suffers
The wind suffers of blowing,
The sea suffers of water,
And fire suffers of burning,
And I of a living name.
As stone suffers of stoniness,
As light of its shiningness,
As birds of their wingedness,
So I of my whoness.
And what the cure of all this?
What the not and not suffering?
What the better and later of this?
What the more me of me?
How for the pain-world to be
More world and no pain?
How for the old rain to fall
More wet and more dry?
How for the wilful blood to run
More salt-red and sweet-white?
And how for me in my actualness
To more shriek and more smile?
By no other miracles,
By the same knowing poison,
By an improved anguish,
By my further dying.
With old hours all belfry heads
Are filled, as with thoughts.
With old hours ring the new hours
Between their bells.
And this hour-long ding-donging
So much employs the hour-long silences
That bells hang thinking when not striking,
When striking think of nothing.
Chimes of forgotten hours
More and more are played
While bells stare into space,
And more and more space wears
A look of having heard
But hearing not:
Forgotten hours chime louder
In the meantime, as if always,
And spread ding-donging back
More and more to yesterdays.
You or You
How well, you, you resemble!
Yes, you resemble well enough yourself
For me to swear the likeness
Is no other and remarkable
And matchless and so that
I love you therefore.
And all else which is very like,
Perfect counterfeit, pure almost,
Love, high animation, loyal unsameness¬
To the end true, unto
I am for you both sharp and dull.
I doubt thoroughly
And thoroughly believe.
I love you doubly,
How well, you, you deceive,
How well, you, you resemble.
I love you therefore.
The change of self in wide address of self
To use of self in the kind wideness
Of sense-experience: this loses,
Though memory has
One lasting integration—
The steady growth of death.
And so the habit of smile alters.
And so the hair in a new parting falls.
Can recognition be
Past loss of hour-by-hour identity?
Where is the self that withered
And the self that froze?
How do the rising days succeed to vacancy?
The days are in a progress,
As death in a steady growth,
From no to no and yes.
And from there to there and here
Needs no more proof or witness
Than the legs that stopped.
And if the legs themselves have doubt,
Self will the progress prove
With progress, the legs will move,
The smile alter, the hair
In a new parting relapse,
And the mind pause upon
A more mature perhaps.
This posture and this manner suit
Not that I have an ease in them
But that I have a horror
And so stand well upright—
Lest, should I sit and, flesh-conversing, eat,
I choke upon a piece of my own tongue-meat.
All Nothing, Nothing
The from foot-to-foot,
Is no real illness,
Is no true fever,
Is no deep shiver;
The slow impatience
Is no sly conscience;
The covered cough bodes nothing,
Nor the covered laugh,
Nor the eye-to-eye shifting
Of the foot-to-foot lifting,
Nor the hands under-over,
Nor the neck and the waist
Twisting loose and then tight,
Right, left and right,
Nor the mind up and down
The long body column
With a know-not-why passion
And a can’t-stop motion:
All nothing, nothing.
More death and discomfort
To walk away.
To fret and fidget
Is the ordinary.
To writhe and wriggle
Is the usual;
To walk away
Were a disgrace,
Would leave a mark and space
And were unbeautiful
And vain, oh, it were vain,
For none may walk away—
Who go, they stay,
And this is plain
In being general.
What, is their suspense
What, are their grimaces
And love of ghastilness?
What, is their anxiety and want
Teasing and taunt?
This were a troublesome
No, the twisting does not turn,
The stamping does not steam,
Nor the impatience burn,
Nor the tossing hearts scream,
Nor the bones fall apart
By the tossing of the heart,
Nor the heads roll off
With laugh-cough, laugh-cough,
Nor the backs crack with terror,
Nor the faces make martyr,
Nor love loathe
Nor loathing fondle
Nor pain rebel
Nor pride quarrel
Nor anything stir
In this stirring and standstill
Which is not natural,
Which is not trivial,
Not peaceful, not beautiful,
Or indeed further sense
Than going and returning
Within one inch,
Than rising and falling
Within one breath,
Than sweltering and shivering
Between one minute and the next
In the most artless
And least purposeful
Who have survived the time extreme,
The breaking, the last knot,
The day to be remembered
Or forgotten and all else forgotten,
These are the derelict, the chosen,
The older than the old,
The sane who know their kind by madness,
By the too sane look.
What is the love between them?
Talk in silence, luck in evil-boding,
Thought endless, speech used,
Fate in their stiff hearts,
The never-to-be-said on their still breaths,
As conversation between angels.
It is a dull bright day,
Clear doom as clouds of fortune.
It is north, south, east, west,
Equator, poles, meridians.
It is a map but no geography.
It is a place but not a space.
Do they sit down to meals,
Stand up to names,
Speak of to-morrow, yesterday, to-day,
Say yes and no and keep a body
To sometimes rest the brain?
They do, and they do not,
However it would please you.
Yours is the dying word and testament,
They do but after come,
Inherit of your havoc.
Sea, False Philosophy
Foremost of false philosophies,
The sea harangues the daft,
The possessed logicians of romance.
Their swaying gaze, that swaying mass
Embrace in everlasting loss—
Sea is the spurned dust
Sifted with fine renunciation
Into a metaphor,
A slow dilution.
The drifting rhythms mesmerize
The speechless book of dreams.
The lines intone but are not audible.
The course is overtrue and knows
Neither a wreckage nor a sequel.
Optimisms in despair
Embark upon this apathetic frenzy.
Brains baffled in their eyes
Rest on this picture of monotony
And swoon with thanks.
Ah, hearts whole so peculiarly,
Heaven keep you by such argument
Persuaded and unbroken,
Heaven keep you if it can
As visions widen to a watery zero
And prophecy expands into extinction.
By Crude Rotation
By crude rotation—
It might be as a water-wheel
Is stumbled and the blindfolded ox
Makes forward freshly with each step
Upon the close habitual path—
To my lot fell a blindness
That was but a blindedness,
And then an inexpressive heart,
And next a want I did not know of what
Through blindedness and inexpressiveness
To my lot fell
By trust, false signs, fresh starts,
A slow speed and a heavy reason,
A visibility of blindedness—these thoughts—
And then content, the language of the mind
That knows no way to stop.
Thus turning, the tragedy of selfhood
And self-haunting smooths with turning,
While the worn track records
Another, and one more.
To my lot fell
Such waste and profit,
By crude rotation
Too little, too much,
The picture over-like,
Illusion of well-being,
Base lust and tenderness of self.
Fall down, poor beast,
Of poor content.
Fly, wheel, be singular
That in the name of nature
This creaking round spins out.
It Has Been Read By All
It has been read by all
That a pleasure-party met death
At high speed, and that a child
Before its mother’s eyes a corpse reappeared
Instantly following the crash,
And that such a one, held venerable,
Went, like a commoner, mad in a money-rout,
And that the daughter of an earl, consumptive,
Lives by her own labour, a parlour-maid.
A public pain distresses the public epidermis,
A tremor passes as if through the one body—
The one body, cumbersome fond Titaness.
But instantly following the tremor
The reading heart returns to toast,
Having fluttered in self-pity
And felt its beat with curiosity.
An hour was taken
To make the day an hour longer.
The longer day increased
In what had been unfinished.
Another hour from sleep was taken, T
ill all sleep was contravened,
Yet the day’s course
More long and more undone.
And the sleep gone.
And the same day goes on and on,
A mighty day, with sleeplessness
A gradual evening toward soon lying down.
And sleep forgotten,
Like: What was birth?
And no death yet, the end so slowly,
We seem departing but we stay.
And if we stay
There will be more to do
And never through though much is through.
For much keeps the eyes so much open,
So much open is so much sleep forgotten,
Sleep forgotten is sleep contravened,
Sleep contravened is so much longer mind,
More thought, more speaking,
Instead of sleep, blinking, blinking,
Blinking upright and with dreams
Same as all usual things,
Usual things same as all dreams.
Finally bigness turned into the sun.
Hotter and hotter then made man.
Bigness reduced itself to someone:
The little giant with the big mind,
The sage who finally.
The big dunce with the little sieve
Whose passion is to sift and sift
Until triumphant he can stand
With an empty sieve in his hand.
The tympanum is worn thin.
The iris is become transparent.
The sense has overlasted.
Sense itself is transparent.
Speed has caught up with speed.
Earth rounds out earth.
The mind puts the mind by.
Clear spectacle: where is the eye?
All is lost, no danger
Forces the heroic hand.
No bodies in bodies stand
Oppositely. The complete world
Is likeness in every corner.
The names of contrast fall
Into the widening centre.
A dry sea extends the universal.
No suit and no denial
Disturb the general proof.
Logic has logic, they remain
Locked in each other’s arms,
Or were otherwise insane,
With all lost and nothing to prove
That even nothing can live through love.
Poem talking silence not dead death
Security not from danger drowning
Only from fear and fearlessness
Lasting weakness stronger than prompt strength
Pale health like tranquil mourning
Mourning nothing or rejoicing
Wholeness without whole
Whole of wholeness
A shrunken world no pride no after-shame
Inhospitable welcome deaf the door
To who is not within.
Cruel if kind and kind if cruel
And all if nothing.
Rhythms of Love
Woman, reviling term
Of Man unto the female germ,
And man, reproach of
Woman In this colloquy,
Have grown so contrary
That to have love
We must combine chastely next
Among the languages
Where calling is obscene
And words no more than mean.
‘Yes!’ to you is in the same breath
‘No! No!’ to Death.
And your ‘Yes! Yes!’ to me
Is ‘No!’ to Death once angrily.
The Universe, leaning from a balcony,
Says: ‘Death comes home to me
Covered with glory, when with such love.’
But such love turns into another stair.
Death and the Universe are an earlier pair.
Dark image of my mind,
Shadow of my heart,
Second footfall and third
Partner of my doubleness
And fourth of this—
Love stops me short of counting to the end
Where numbers fail and fall to two,
Then one, then nothing, then you.
Our months astonish, as meals come round.
We cry waterily like a pair of pigeons
Exclaiming whenever nothing happens
But commotion inwardly irises their bosoms.
And little more we know.
Our mouths open wide, our breath comes quick,
We gape like the first ones
And look to magic.
In these embraces glamour
Comes early and is an early go-er.
After we have fictitiousness
Of our excess
All will be as before.
We shall say: Love is no more
Than waking, smiling,
Forcing out ‘good morning’,
And were it more it were
Fictitiousness and loving.
You bring me messages
From days and years
In your time-clouded eyes
And I reply to these
And we know nothing of each other
But a habit, and this is ancient.
How we approach is hidden in a dream.
We close our eyes, we clutch at bodies,
We rise at dream’s length from each other
And love mysteriously and coldly
Strangers we seem to love by memory.
A brick and mortar motley,
A heart and mind confusion,
Built this Academy
And this Instruction.
We wag to bells
And wear the cap too high,
The gothic Axiom of Joy.
We know which jingling spells
Which understanding, but jingling
Is all our understanding.
Like dunces we still shall kiss
When graduated from love-making.
Nearly expressed obscurity
That never was yet but always
Was to be next and next when
The lapse of to-morrow into yesterday
Should be repaired at least till now,
At least till now, till yesterday—
Nearly recaptured chaos
That truth, as for a second time,
Has not yet fallen or risen to—
What news? And which?
You that never were yet
Or I that never am until?
Faith Upon the Waters
A ghost rose when the waves rose,
When the waves sank stood columnwise
And broken: archaic is
The spirituality of sea,
Water haunted by an imagination
Like fire previously.
More ghost when no ghost,
When the waves explain
Eye to the eye
And dolphins tease,
And the ventriloquist gulls,
Their angular three-element cries.
A death-bed restlessness inflames the mind
And a warm mist attacks the face
With mortal premonition.
Have arrived at this interrogatory.
Would know, for private information only.
Knowledge informs the what of the what.
For twenty-six years, six months, seventeen days,
Have studied what for what,
Spoken of what to what,
Am now tired of what
And know not what
For all the what have read or written
Since was who.
What is what is what.
That’s that. Am no wiser
For all that, for being wise.
Would now know for private information only.
Would like now to know who.
Would be obliged to be informed of others.
So far each who whom have encountered
Has been which.
Would be obliged to hear from who are who,
Pleased to meet you, glad to know you.
Have quantity guaranteed self
Willing affiliate with private party.
Will not ask name, publisher, address.
Confidence given and taken free of charge
And treated with the strictest confidence.
Would like to know who’s who and who is who.
Respond in person.
Frankness or secrecy
Need not apply.
No correspondence about what I mean.
No branch establishments.
Am just plain who
Who would respectfully inquire
Thanking you in advance
Who is yours most sincerely
Dear possible, and if you drown,
Nothing is lost, unless my empty hands
Claim the conjectured corpse
Of empty water—a legal vengeance
On my own earnestness.
Dear creature of event, and if I wait the clock,
And if the clock be punctual and you late,
Rail against me, my time, my clock,
And rightfully correct me
With wrong, lateness and ill-temper.
Dear scholar of love,
If by your own formula
I open heaven to you
When you knock punctually at the door,
Then you are there, but I where I was.
And I mean that fate in the scales
Is up, down, even, trembling,
Right, wrong, weighing and unweighing,
And I mean that, dear possible,
That fate, that dear fate.
0 Vocables of Love
0 vocables of love,
0 zones of dreamt responses
Where wing on wing folds in
The negro centuries of sleep
And the thick lips compress
Compendiums of silence—
Throats claw the mirror of blind triumph,
Eyes pursue sight into the heart of terror.
Call within call
Succumbs to the indistinguishable
Wall within wall
Embracing the last crushed vocable,
The spoken unity of efforts.
O vocables of love,
The end of an end is an echo,
A last cry follows a last cry.
Finality of finality
Is perfection’s touch of folly.
Ruin unfolds from ruin.
A remnant breeds a universe of fragment.
Horizons spread intelligibility
And once more it is yesterday.
Throe of Apocalypse
And in that shrill antithesis of calm
The goaded brain is struck with ague,
By a full moon of waste sublimely sweats.
Relent not, divine hatred,
In this convulsive prime.
You are enchanted against death
By that you are but death
And nothing but death can love or know.
Nor yet can mourn, except by mocking,
Crushed zeal, tired verse, bruised decoration,
Or any agony of blemish—
Except by vengeful imitation.
In Nineteen Twenty Seven
In nineteen twenty-seven, in the spring
And opening summer, dull imagination
Stretched the dollish smile of people.
Behind plate-glass the slant deceptive
Of footwear and bright foreign affairs
Dispelled from consciousness those bunions
By which feet limp and nations farce
O crippled government of leather—
And for a season (night-flies dust the evening)
Deformed necessity had a greening.
Then, where was I, of this time and my own
A double ripeness and perplexity?
Fresh year of time, desire,
Late year of my age, renunciation
Ill-mated pair, debating if the window
Is worth leaping out of, and by whom.
If this is ghostly?
And in what living knowledge
Do the dressed skeletons walk upright?
They memorize their doings and lace the year
Into their shoes each morning,
Groping their faulty way,
These citizens of habit, by green and pink
In gardens and smiles in shops and offices;
Are no more real than this.
And they are vast preliminaries:
Cohorts of hours marching upon the one
That must reduce and tell them.
Much must pass to be much vain—
Many minor and happy themes
For one unhappy major dissolution.
The calendar and clock have stopped,
But does the year run down in time?
While time goes round? Giddying
With new renewal at each turning?
Thus sooner than it knows narrows
A year a year a year to another.
The season loses count, speeds on.
But I, charmed body of myself,
Am struck with certainty, stop in the street,
Cry `Now’—and in despair seize love,
A short despair, soon over.
For by now all is history.
Do we not live? We live. And love? We love.
But I? But you? We are but we.
A long table lies between us
Of talk and wood.
The best is to go out.
`Unpleasant weather,’ banks and bakers say, `
But fine weather promised for to-morrow.’
To-morrow is when? This question
Turns heaviness of hours into affection:
Home for a place to lean an elbow.
Fierce is unhappiness, a living god
Of impeccable cleanliness and costume.
In his intense name I wear
A brighter colour for the year
And with sharp step I praise him
That unteaches ecstasy and fear.
If I am found eating, loving,
Pleasure-making with the citizens,
These are the vigours learned of newspapers:
By such formalities I inhale
The corrupt oxygen of time
And reconstruct a past in which to wait
While the false curve of motion twitches straight.
Love me not less, next to myself
Most unloyal of the citizens,
That I thus worship with
The hourly population.
For by such looseness
I argue you with my tight conscience
And take you for so long, an empty term,
An irony of dearness.
And this is both love and not love,
And what I pledge both true and not true,
Since I am moved to speak by the season,
Bold and shy speed and recession,
Climax and suspension.
Had I remained hidden and unmoved,
Who would have carried on this conversation
And at the close remembered the required toast
To the new year and the new deaths?
Oh, let me be choked ceremoniously
With breath and language, if I will,
And make a seemly world of it,
And live, if I will, fingering my fingers
And throwing yesterday in the basket.
I am beset with reasonableness,
Swallow much that I know to be grass,
Tip as earth tips and not from dizziness.
But do not call me false.
What, must I turn shrew
Because I know what I know,
Wipe out the riverfront
Because it stinks of water?
I cannot do what there is not to do.
And what there is to do
Let me do somewhat crookedly,
Lest I speak too plain and everlasting
For such weather-vanes of understanding.
Therefore, since all is well,
Come you no nearer than the barrel-organ
That I curse off to the next square
And there love, when I hear it not.
For I have a short, kind temper
And would spare while I can.
While the season fades and lasts
I would be old-fashioned with it.
I would be persuaded it is so,
Go mad to see it run, as it were horses,
Then be unmaddened, find it done,
Summon you close, a memory long gone.
So I am human, of much that is no more
Or never was, and in a moment
(I must hurry) it will be nineteen twenty-eight,
An old eternity pleading refutal.
Far roam the death-faces
From the face-shaped lockets,
The small oval tombs of truth,
In second-death, the portrait sadness.
Long hunger the death-faces to know
Who was once who and hear hello
And be remembered as so-and-so Where albums keep
Death like a sleep.
First-death, life unlikeness,
Second-death, life likeness
And portrait sadness,
Continuous hope and haunting,
`Time’s Conscience!’ cried the allerion.
`How great the thrustlecock and thistle,
How small the lily and the lion,
How great and small and equal all,
How one and many, same and sorted,
How not unchanged and not distorted!’
And the money was made of gold,
And the gold was made of money,
And the cause of the quarrel was nothing,
And the arguers stopped counting
At how much, how many, one and plenty,
And peace came and was the same.
If then, if now, then then, now now,
No more and always and thus and so,
To not believe, to not doubt,
To what, to wit, to know and not-know,
To eat evenly of fire and snow,
To talk, loud and soft, to not-talk.
But when was last night?
Oh, just before the cock crew.
And when did the cock crow?
Oh, just after remembrance flew.
And when did remembrance fly?
Oh, just as the chandler sat down to die.
Rejoice, the witch of truth has perished
Of her own will—
Falling to earth humanly
And rising in petty pain.
It was the last grandeur,
When the witch crashed
And had a mortal laming.
And quick heart turned to blood
Those fires of speculation
Where she burned long and coldly.
Away, flattery, she has lost pride.
Away, book-love, she has a body.
Away, body-love, she has a death
To be born into, an end to make
Of that eternity and grandeur
In which a legend pines till it comes true—
When fawning devil boasts belief
And the witch, for her own honour,
Takes on substance, shedding phantomness.
Pain is impossible to describe
Pain is the impossibility of describing
Describing what is impossible to describe
Which must be a thing beyond description
Beyond description not to be known
Beyond knowing but not mystery
Not mystery but pain not plain but pain
But pain beyond but here beyond
And This Hard Jealousy
And this hard jealousy against me
Of you a not sour advocate—
It means I think a time of when,
A time of not, when sourly
Because of not you plotted sourly
Against—as if against myself,
My not, as if against me.
I think it means.
When with a shade of me
A time of not I spelt
When greedily against a shade
You argued argue,
And this jealousy.
It meant I think I thought it means
A shade that guarded shared myself
To later and with fury fade
Into a hovering time of not.
And this hard jealousy against me
If now a time of when were,
And that hard jealousy against her
When with a shade she spelt.
In Due Form
I do not doubt you.
I know you love me.
It is a fact of your indoor face,
A true fancy of your muscularity.
Your step is confident.
Your look is thorough.
Your stay-beside-me is a pillow
To roll over on
And sleep as on my own upon.
But make me a statement
In due form on endless foolscap
Witnessed before a notary
And sent by post, registered,
To be signed for on receipt
And opened under oath to believe;
An antique paper missing from my strong-box.
A bond to clutch when hail tortures the chimney
And lightning circles redder round the city,
And your brisk step and thorough look
Are gallant but uncircumstantial,
And not mentionable in a doom-book.
All The Time
By after long appearance
Appears the time the all the time
Name please now you may go.
By after love time and she knows
And he says rose
Unless unless if not.
Or if if sometimes if
How like myself I was
Among the salt and minutes.
Celebration of Failure
Through pain the land of pain,
Through tender exiguity,
Through cruel self-suspicion:
Thus came I to this inch of wholeness.
It was a promise.
After pain, I said,
An inch will be what never a boasted mile.
And haughty judgement,
That frowned upon a faultless plan,
Now smiles upon this crippled execution,
And my dashed beauty praises me.
Then Wherefore Death
Death, removal of names, disappearance
Of flesh, furtherance, discrepancy—
Who worships this,
What thing of abased calling
Prays for equality?
Humanity lives by ambition
And by fortune dies:
Commemorative leafiness and intertreeing
Of conversant ranks in death it has;
No death. Then wherefore grief,
Pang of democracy?
Since we do not kill our dead,
Come, Words, Away
Come, words, away from mouths,
Away from tongues in mouths
And reckless hearts in tongues
And mouths in cautious heads—
Come, words, away to where
The meaning is not thickened
With the voice’s fretting substance,
Nor look of words is curious
As letters in books staring out
All that man ever thought strange
And laid to sleep on white
Like the archaic manuscript
Of dreams at morning blacked on wonder.
Come, words, away to miracle
More natural than written art.
You are surely somewhat devils,
But I know a way to soothe
The whirl of you when speech blasphemes
Against the silent half of language
And, labouring the blab of mouths,
You tempt prolixity to ruin.
It is to fly you home from where
Like stealthy angels you made off once
On errands of uncertain mercy:
To tell with me a story here
Of utmost mercy never squandered
On niggard prayers for eloquence—
The marvelling on man by man.
I know a way, unwild we’ll mercy
And spread the largest news
Where never a folded ear dare make
A deaf division of entirety.
That fluent half-a-story
Chatters against this silence
To which, words, come away now
In an all-merciful despite
Of early silvered treason
To the golden all of storying.
We’ll begin fully at the noisy end
Where mortal halving tempered mercy
To the shorn utterance of man-sense;
Never more than savageries
Took they from your bounty-book.
Not out of stranger-mouths then
Shall words unwind but from the voice
That haunted there like dumb ghost haunting
Birth prematurely, anxious of death.
Not ours those mouths long-lipped
To falsity and repetition
Whose frenzy you mistook
For loyal prophetic heat
To be improved but in precision.
Come, words, away—
That was an alien vanity,
A rash startling and a preening
That from truth’s wakeful sleep parted
When she within her first stirred story-wise,
Thinking what time it was or would be
When voiced illumination spread:
What time, what words, what she then.
Come, words, away,
And tell with me a story here,
Forgetting what’s been said already:
That hell of hasty mouths removes
Into a cancelled heaven of mercies
By flight of words back to this plan
Whose grace goes out in utmost rings
To bounds of utmost storyhood.
But never shall truth circle so
Till words prove language is
How words come from far sound away
Through stages of immensity’s small
Centering the utter telling
In truth’s first soundlessness.
Come, words, away:
I am a conscience of you
Not to be held unanswered past
The perfect number of betrayal.
It is a smarting passion
By which I call—
Wherein the calling’s loathsome as
Memory of man-flesh over-fondled
With words like over-gentle hands.
Then come, words, away,
Before lies claim the precedence of sin
And mouldered mouths writhe to outspeak us.
As to a Frontispiece
If you will choose the portrait,
I will write the work accordingly.
A German countenance
I could dilate on lengthily,
Punctilio and passion blending
To that slow national degree.
Or, if you wish more brevity
And have the face in mind—
A tidy creature, perhaps American—
I could provide a facile text,
The portrait being like enough
To stand for anyone.
But if you can’t make up your mind
What poetry should look like,
What name to call for,
I think I have the very thing
If you can read without a picture
And postpone the frontispiece till later.
That is, as you may guess,
I have a work but, I regret,
No preliminary portrait.
Yet, if you can forgo one,
We may between us illustrate
This subsequent identity.
Jewels and After
On the precious verge of danger
Jewels spring up to show the way,
The bejewelled way of danger,
Beautied with inevitability.
After danger the look-back reveals
Jewels only, dangerlessness,
Logic serened, unharshed into
A jewelled and loving progress.
And after danger’s goal, what jewels?
Then none except death’s plainest,
The unprecious jewels of safety,
As of childhood.
Tale of Modernity
Shakespeare knew Lust by day,
With raw unsleeping eye.
And he cried, ‘All but Truth I see,
Therefore Truth is, for Lust alone I see.’
By night Lust most on other men
Its swollen pictures shone.
And the sun brought shame, and they arose
Their hearts night-stained, but faces lustless.
They in the sun to themselves seemed well.
The sun in guise of Truth gave pardon.
Hypocrisy of seeming well
Blamed the sore visions on bed and night.
But Shakespeare knew Lust by day,
By day he saw his night, and he cried,
‘0 sexual sun, back into my loins,
Be night also, as you are.’
Shakespeare distinguished: earth the obscure,
The sun the bold, the moon the hidden—
The sun speechless, earth a muttering,
The moon a whispering, white, smothered.
Bishop Modernity, to his spent flock cried,
‘She is illusion, let her fade.’
And she, illusion and not illusion,
A sapphire being fell to earth, time-struck.
In colour live and liquid and earth-pale,
Never so near she, never so distant.
Never had time been futured so,
All reckoning on one fast page.
Time was a place where earth had been.
The whole past met there, she with it.
Truth seemed love grown cool as a brow,
And young as the moon, grown girl to self.
Bishop Modernity plucked out his heart.
No agony could prove him Christ,
No lust could speak him honest Shakespeare.
A greedy frost filled where had been a heart.
And that disdainful age his flock,
Resolved against the dream-delight
Of soft succession another world to that,
Like women slipping quiet into monk-thoughts,
Went in triumph of mind from the chapel,
Proud interior of voided breast,
To Heaven out, or Hell, or any name
That carnal sanctity bestows.
Home they went to heartless memories of wives
And appetites of whoredoms stilled
In lustful shaking off lust,
Of knowledge-gall, love’s maddening part.
Bishop Modernity in the fatal chapel watched
And end-of-time intoned as the Red Mass
Of man’s drinking of the blood of man:
In quenched immunity he looked on her
Who from the fallen moon scattered the altar
With thin rays of challenged presence—
The sun put out there, and the lamps of time
Smoking black consternation to new desire.
Then did that devilish chase begin:
Bishop Modernity’s heart plucked out
In old desire flew round against and toward her—
And he but shackled mind, to pulpit locked.
Which stirred up Shakespeare from listening tomb,
Who broke the lie and seized the maid, crying, `
Thou Bishop Double-Nothing, chase thy soul—
Till then she’s ghost with me thy ghostly whole!’
0 think what joy that now
Have burst the pent grenades of summer
And out sprung all the angry hordes
To be but stuttering storm of bees
On lisping swoon of flowers—
That such winged agitation
From midge to nightingale astir
These lesser plagues of sting and song
But looses on the world, our world.
O think what peace that now
Our roads from house to sea go strewn
With fast fatigue—time’s burning footsounds,
Devilish in our winter ears,
Cooled to a timeless standstill
As ourselves from house to sea we move
Unmoving, on dumb shores to pledge
New disbelief in ills to come
More monstrous than the old extremes.
And what regret that now
The dog-star has accomplished wholly
That promise April hinted with
Faint blossom on her hungry branches,
And pallid hedgerow shoots?
Exuberance so luscious
Of fruit and sappy briar
Disgusts: midsummer’s passion chokes
`No more!’—a trencher heaped too high.
And O what dearth that now
We have sufficient dwelling here
Immune to hopes gigantical
That once found lodgement in our heart.
What if less shrewd we were
And the Dog’s mad tooth evaded not—
But quick, the sweet froth on our lips,
Reached at fulfilments whose remove
Gave muscle to our faith at least?
Let prophecy now cease
In that from mothering omens came
Neither the early dragon nor the late
To startle sleeping errantries
Or blaze unthinkable futures.
The births have not been strange enough;
At ripeness failed of horrid splendour.
Our doomsday is a rabbit-age
Lost in the sleeve of expectation.
Let winter be less sharp
In that the heats of purpose
Have winter foreflight in their wings,
Shaking a frostiness of thought
Over those aestive fancies
Which now so inwardly belie
(Their fury tepid to our minds)
The outward boast of season—
We need not press the cold this year
Since warmth has grown so honest.
Let talk of wonders cease
Now that outlandish realms can hold
No prodigies so marvellous as once
The ten-year-lost adventurer
Would stretch our usual gaze with.
The golden apple’s rind offends
Our parks, and dew-lapped mountaineers
Unbull themselves by common physic.
There comes no news can take us from
Loyalty to this latter sameness.
Let the bold calendar
Too garrulous in counting
Fortunes of solar accident
Weary, and festive pipes be soft.
Madness rings not so far now
Around the trysting-oak of time;
Midsummer’s gentler by the touch
Of other tragic pleasures.
We need not write so large this year
The dances or the dirges.
But what, my friend, of love—
If limbs revive to overtake
The backward miles that memory
Tracks in corporeal chaos?
Shall you against the lull of censoring mind
Not let the bones of nature run
On fleshlorn errands, journey-proud
¬If ghosts go rattling after kisses,
Shall your firmed mouth not quiver with
Desires it once spoke beauty by?
And what of beauty, friend—
If eyes constrict to clear our world
Of doubt-flung sights and ether’s phantom spaces
Cobwebbed where miserly conceit
Hoarded confusion like infinity?
If vision has horizon now,
Shall you not vex the tyrant eyes
To pity, pleading blindness?
But what, my friend, of death,
That has the dark sense and the bright,
Illumes the sombre hour of thought,
Fetches the flurry of bat-souls?
Shall you not at this shriven perfect watch
Survey my death-selves with a frown
And scold that I am not more calm?
Shall you not on our linking wisdoms
Loathe the swart shapes I living wear
In being dead, yet not a corpse?
And what of jest and play-
If caution against waggishness
(Lest I look backward) makes my mood too canting?
Shall you not mock my pious ways,
Finding in gloom no certain grace or troth,
And raise from moony regions of your smile
Light spirits, nimbler on the toe,
Which nothing are—I no one?
Suppose the cock were not to crow
At whitening of night
To warn that once again
The spectrum of incongruence
Will reasonably unfold
From day’s indulgent prism?
Suppose the owl were not to hoot
At deepening of sleep
To warn that once again
The gospel of oblivion
Will pompously be droned
From pulpit-tops of dream?
And shall the world our world have end
In miracles of general palsy,
Abject apocalyptic trances
Wherein creature and element
Surrender being in a God-gasp?
Or shall the world our world renew
At worn midsummer’s temporal ailing,
Marshal the season which senescence
Proclaimed winter but we now know
For the first nip of mind’s hereafter?
*The Second Voice is Robert Graves