Hourglass Years: A Poetry Anthology by Mary Susannah Robbins - HTML preview

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Hourglass Years

Copyright © 2011 Mary Susannah Robbins

The Poems

And so a little has been accomplished

though not so an autobiography

could tell the difference - a rift diminished

there, and there greater uncertainty.

Books are blooming projected hours.

The pen turns cycles no life has told

nor been told - how little we ask of others

these written questions before they are old.

My sorrow and I are that kind of lovers

again though the winter had crystalled over

all but the moment that gleamed so crucial

it almost seemed time was my new lover.

I'm rambling and tired. Life seems a story

set down so lightly no poem could act

to bring up mysteries from the warmth

that will not yield to time or fact.

What is a novel? I've always avoided

words that devour in setting forth,

prepared to eat my own words, prepared

to distinguish life from what it is worth.

They say we are tending to write longer poems.

I tend to sleep less and write shorter lines,

but am willing to try with the best of them,

though I wouldn't take lengths as the signal signs.

Who was that vague blond Indian young one

who wants her poems to be secondary?

She can choose if she's lucky; my values refuse to consciousness any such hierarchy.

Let it all go, the comparing and growing.

Write what you can't dream and sleep out the rest.

My only worries the lack of presence

that makes the thought count - that kind of test.

O yes, I know it's better, and all that -

good and sad, that's what it is, good and sad

after years of bad and happy. Ararat

is a mirage, the water's where we gad

and a thousand seamews veer their bodies down

the air, and in that silent weight we drown.

Here is no sea to play in, and no youth

to bring us home rejoicing, after hours.

The snake we dreamed of has a human tooth,

Achille's heel's no myth. and all our powers

lead to the inlet and the murky pool

where years ago we played at love and fool.

Our blood's a confident saline solution

that says we first arrived out of this sea

experimentally, and resolution

has brought us back to nature admirably.

Yes. and there's something in the mind that says until we loved we wasted all our days.

Man's no amoeba, though, and must have thought

himself into the thickets and the hills

and built himself a contract, prayed, and sought, Promethean, a cure for nature's chills.

Are we abetting death by this dark ocean,

Regressing to an algae-like commotion?

My heart and body reach for wisdom's string

that always pulled me out of a bad place.

But thought's become a sea that will not sing

without my mind's consent and body's grace.

Here by this tepid, weatherbeaten shore

love rocks the waves, and we're a semaphore.

telephone numbers

they are as intimate

as tenderness, and hate,

private, personal. limited

as something one might have said,

conveyed in undertones.

so that all soon may murmur at their phones,

and when they are revealed

they intimate the depths that are concealed.

choice morsels

distributed to some sweet few, or all.

when they are told

the voice is carefully neutral, soft and cold.

as Sarah Bernhardt

reciting the alphabet

excited violent passions,

these digits, in their fashions

convey al1 that is to be known.

and now, what of the telephone

itself? intimate instrument, closer when

one tells secrets than anyone,

so discreet, acceptable, non-interfering,

one trusts it with one's voice and breathless hearing,

"cradled," as they say,

or at one's lips a dozen times a day.

one is alone with it when one confides

what one most longs to hide.

dusting it, one finds it is all

people, squat, rhythmical.

comfortable, enticing,

a human thing,

at home with itself

on table or shelf

and the clasped receiver

will never deceive one.

It snowed yesterday, and the snow

resolved itself into a dew.

Today the sky is bright and low,

a weight of pressing blue.

My soul went out into the wind

and drifted down, and danced on high.

Today's light freezes up my mind

and I must once more cry.

The freedom of the heart and limbs

to take all paths, whatever path,

has vanished. The sun sings and climbs

in ancient love and wrath.

Yesterday I sang: the fall

of snow wept for some, but for me

its benediction over all

set my diffuse 1ife free.

Today I sing because the sun

sings louder than I can uphold

and says, It's all to be the one

of beaten gold.

May, 1975

It's nearly over, and I wouldn't have it

any different, but with ends beginning

something blocks the throat - I wouldn't have it different, but the heart goes up like tinder

particularly if you've joined the union.

It's a job like any other, I’d say,

though some others hold it wastes more anguish -

anyway, the union was in order,

not to let the inspiration perish


So, they brought in leaders,

made us sign a statement we supported

freedom and equality in hiring.

Only trouble is, what's freedom got

to do with suffering? We are all equal

to suffering. That's when the fire started,

fire burning all equal sufferers.

Sure I'd hoped for freedom, but I thought it

something of a state of mind, respected,

government-controlled - not like this yearning

suffering's let loose.

But that's the union.

1'll be back next year. My contract's good

three more winters. Only, where's the end

now we're all suffering together? Bed

with the women, beer among the men.

She was very prolific.

Night after morning

beside the Pacific

a crash without warning

would leave the beach bare.

The fraught edge withdrawing

caught her unaware,

where some snail was pawing

and clams sank, sand-bubbled,

the vanishing ocean

the glitter. fleck-troubled,

the silent commotion

left day half-ended,

night's birth half-stilled

while her wet pen defended

what radiance killed.

Lumps of music like gold stones

roll down chasms wet with fired

all the tackle of life's hire

burns like amber in the bones,

sears away a dream. Bereft

of flesh's impudence and sleep

here at pinnaces of deep

nightblue fire, sing what's left.

Codas blind with finish rare

as blood in heaven rinse our eyes

of all but light, and leopard-wise

our glances narrow: joy, despair.

Joyous and desperate, we narrow

a1l that's left into one flame

that burns until all is the same,

its echo in our shouting marrow.

The man on the radio says it's just one of those days.

I believe him. The sky is like a dark sack. The trees are still under the weight of the air. The horizon's combustible, dull orange under the clouds. I believe what he says.

It's one of those days when you can't die, or love, when words come instead of tears. There's no difference between night and day and the morning stretches back to the night before. If you say it's just one of those days, I believe you. I hear the swords clash in my heart with a muted sound. I listen

for some fine-edged distinction between right and wrong but the air is heavy in my heart. The birds' song -

is it weeping, or just some innocent natural glisten?

It's one of those days when dullness terrifies, and the sound of cars is some impossible dream.

I can remember how it all would seem

if it weren't just one of those days. Emphasize just. The radio says it will pass. Heavy-eyed,

what is one to go on on a morning when the power is turned off? Will afternoon bring a clearer hour?

I long for something to judge, or say, or decide.

“It's just one of those days,” and we all know what he means.

Wrestling with God for our souls seems a glad illusion like strength or weakness or blood, or rainy confusion in the field, and your scatters; flowers, and all those scenes.

My grandfather sits like a twist of lemon

in a cool full glass. His skin

is waxy, and the ear proferred to me

for a kiss is a dry drop, a flake.

His shirt is crisp, clean and white his cheeks.

He sits in a cool removed liquid

irradiate. The white sun burps

as in some foreign country his linen passed through tëns of years ago. He has become his cool drink.

In the courtyard Piaf throws it out,

all that memory of war dead. I leap

across the night lo catch the yelled agony

that is like a drink, half moon. half sun,

foreign hearts. emphatic loud despairs.

My grandmother would never think of singing

in their final arboretum, but I imagine

she is singing of accordions, we are singing

of bells and valleys' horizontal light.

The trees are tossed in the wet air of memory,

leaning against the clear white sky.

All at once, as by a weather-god's decree,

bodies and souls ajoin like the pale and dark

heaven that breathes on sense that has grown shy.

When the blue tears out, and we are overcome

with its richness, our whole life is in praising the sky, and our absorption into some

exterior, our rush out of ourselves

into a white glove holding a paintbrush, raising our hands with fantastic and courtly bitterness that we can be, and yet not be, the sun,

the same conflict, only refined, of happiness

that shuts out memory, laying image on image

superimposed, that life may blaze and be one.

But today the body is clear, the air is damp

and our words know themselves, that used to scan for outer evidence or inner stamp

of credibility or relation. Now we breathe

something the roots, the rain, the shoots of past years plan.

One morning last dream,

last of many variegated prints

of liquid black and fire tints

the patterns on the window screen

shone waking green.

What is this fecundity

my morning window silhouettes?

Light says, brace not to forget

afore astringent galaxies

for softer trees,

"Keep back the grasses,

keep back birds' song

remember all that nightly right and wrong

for terror and truth so sharp as

a hawk's wing pass."

Song, there sang birds once too.

All was not flaming iron poised

to brand the daylight without noise.

without weariness comes no youth.

Morning's colors weave the light with truth.

Sing, then, for the bird's flight

not without effort, though it seems to drift,

for the sun finding a beam to sift

in other rooms, for time's light

catching a moving breeze, a greener night.

Water over the dam - how it boils and rages:

pain of division - the river no longer a river

gay, sparkling, leaping up in dragonflies, the ages of life told in landmarks, the source, continuous giver individuates over stones. around turns; joyful stages awakening to the moon and the sun, the shocking, mellifluous quiver of life playing, descending to the cold darkness sages intuit. To find there, like some impartial-eyed diver, pearls, moonstones, treasures useless as wages.

No reward, no incentive runs the mysterious liver.

And then, to have it all broken, the sheen

cursed and moiled, dragging up mud, not a jewel, obliterating all that, lovely and lissome, has been.

To adapt, the water charges, "This was always" - a fool afraid to feel. So the rack takes it all, all it has seen and garbles the fresh, multitudinous, rippled, cool surface and depth, saying, You have forgotten the mien of joy says, Under my skin- joy is wisdom. Dual river, remember: save yourself, do not break, for clean over the crisis you will see your face in your own clear and placid pool.

The sun falls into the sea

and the child into his bed.

I must hurry to be alone

under the shadowed tree.

My life that was holding me

halting and slow, is done -

the last dark hours have sped:

I have said goodbye, said she.

Said he, She has gone away.

dried her dim tears and left.

Tonight when I raise the light

and sit before the fire

I shall search and inquire

whether the change is right

that leaves me cold and bereft,

reluctant to face the day.

Said they, We are driven apart

by time, soul's necessity,

by lobbing on what is real

and choosing of quiet dreams,

and we ache - yet something redeems

the wound and lets it heal

under the shadowy tree:

in the fire of the heart.

I have a heart open to all.

Where it came from I don't know

made perhaps of a spring bird's call

and the quiet sound of the tinkling snow.

Friends and lovers are scattered far,

lost in a dream or tense with rage.

I would call forth all that are

part of my heart upon the page.

The wildest, and the ones who come

to mind most now, are those that share

dwelling-place with their feelings alone,

and never know a man's care.

And those whose duty seems to lie

in creating an artifact of their lives-

their drama makes my heart shy

but in the end they, too, forgive.

Then there are the radiant, various

souls who turn from love to hate

whose interests beyond self-knowledge lose

all pettiness in their profane passion for fate.

All these are in my mind, and yet

one escapes speech, whose daily mood

is innocent with the control which begets

truth, and the deepest choice of word.

Those lives has given me many dreams

and the love of the dreams of my soul,

and have made me see beyond what a friend seems to what a heart is when a heart is whole.

Who wants this other rhythm?

Carelessly I throw it away

to the winds - it plays with them,

wet and sunny, any day.

The music in the background,

the music in my heart

are comforting to have around -

come take this other part,

anyone, which is not love

or tears, and yet remains

the evidence that life's above

what satisfies and pains.

Hauteur eclipsed in the gleam of an eye,

dark and white, warm and proud,

speaks to my heart that desires don't lie:

you are my fear, you are my sight,

and I must return to speak out loud.

The turn of a collar, the turn of a hair

are equal in this strange fertile land

where desire lies fallow and seeded by care

that falls from the cups that the tulip tree wears and I say that this time I will understand.

The spotted leopards of the moon

move in our talk running raging with fear,

and the fear and the seedtime are over too soon and the sun pours down, and the sad trees bloom: love continues, and parting is near.

Happiness glimpsed in the flash of an eye

is over before you nor I can blame

more than a hurt. and the heart knows why:

that mornings and hearts are never the same,

that love speaks out in rhymes and games -

all but the heart breaks; now we know why.

There is no everyday for me

I rise and set by poetry

and if the rhymes are old and bowed

the clearest sky's a thundercloud.

There is no everylove for me

each new face, each he or she

testing like acid on a plate

of time, rubs out or burns a fate.

There is no everypoem for me

each moment's a new anarchy

where thing and thought cannot forget

one must fall from my parapet.

There is an everywhere for me

my page is sand and wood and sea

and love and day - how should 1 dare

but call this table, Everywhere?

Because You Are Here

Now that the need has passed. now that the need has changed, how grateful the need is to be

evoked. You are the need and the fulfillment, the seed and the rain. You are the eye and that I see,

the hunger and the sustenance, but more. You are the cover of my heart when it is awake, that allows it to dream aware. Without you, I am laid over

myself, filled into myself, mortared shut. Without you I have neither terror nor safety, doubt nor certainty, sun nor shadow. I am neither awake nor asleep. I

neither remember nor forget. Now one

is the answer to all final statements that now turn to questions -


Here the mountains are the clouds

pointing from ephemera

toward where the silver light explodes:

days defy all memory.

A perfect past will shoot out here,

a child, respecting pointed leaves

as things of God that shine out there,

but not too careful where God lives.

What will its mother think at dawn

when rising to the mountains' white,

the dreams of clouds recalled and done,

she turns to where the cradle's lit?

Wind moves the cedars. All is safe

from fancy's ghost and fury's wrench.

Down in the garden, half to half,

the teapots grow a flowered inch.

The sky is bare. The leaves shout up

their cry to blue. The sun is low.

A child's preoccupied first step

rejoices in what others do.

What heartstrings rustled in the swell

when God touched man to his green world?

What great passion flower fell

when all surrendered as it would?

I think you don't remember.

Do you remember the rose window?

Do you remember the roses?

I remember your mother.

Do you remember when you said to me,

How I am bent.

You are bent into my sight.

You are bent into a rose window.

I remember a love and a summer.

You were not there.

Your mother bends over the roses.

She raises her eyes and remembers.

I remember a moon when you told me you loved and missed me.

I remember a moon when you told me of love.

Your mother sent me rosecovered nightgowns.

There was no moon the night I loved.

I remember a child and a mother.

I remember remembering loving.

Do you remember the white beds where we talked of love?

Did you know that that is where there was no moon?

Do you think my love remembers loving me?

Remember for me. I love what you do not remember.

I love you and remember.

Window Decoration

a round slate of green

written on with morning

depends from the sun.

a vegetable zodiac.

or lamprey or electric ocean.

beneath the light. there is some miner

here or locomotive. light

brightening and approaching hard like

the softest vision of hell

one can imagined one's eyes are

not removed, one's tongue does not go

dead before the sight of that speech

fully-grown and flatly wizened as

a dark mushroom pressed in glass so

green the bottom nub is like amber

sealing wax, so round

that under its pressure

words have all objects.

The soft pebbles of words

succeed one another

tumbling like dew from the

dark. Morning silences

revolve small in the clouds.

The grey bark stills its tall

circular progress while

the branches grow straight out.

A high limb stretched across

the yard lets squirrels run

soft linear streaky like

furry locomotives.

We cannot ensconce the night.

The fire is put out now

that the motion danced in

lifts. The dispell of bark-

smoke like a gray bud dreg

the red flame like smoothing

still water falls out now

in cloud-like opals which

seen like words, now. all speech

passe drops through the bloom

morning clearing the path.

The sky from the labyrinth changes,

light gives way to black, and below

the cycles the monster arranges

repeats everything that I know.

But watching the clouds hide the sunset

I think, never darkness before

impelled me. I sleep, I forget

sleep, or run, or abhor,

but to dark I awaken once more.

In moments of sight I awaken

and think I have lived in a dream

which must constantly be overtaken

If I am to sing as I seem.

The mornings bring only remembrance

but sometimes, ascending the stair,

I greet and pass by my resemblance,

look up to the sky and the air

and see a new ancientness there.

The cycle continues to wander,

the spiral the monster foretells.

His laugh now is clearer and fonder.

I hear it through prisons and dells.

It is my voice, forever repeating

the dream and the morning's recalls

the maze of the world and my greeting

to memory, wakening, all

as they plunge down a darkening fall.


In shining beds of tulip leaves

lies my love

in grey beds of dawn's upheaval

dreams will move

the sun like water, sad and cold

My love is like a ferny spoke

under rain

growing like water at the tip.

A drop of pain

falls in sorrow, so full, too old.

Souls are forced from the clouded sky.

How can we

sustain a root in this empty

lake alley?

Here on the ground grey leaves unfold.

My love is full, inaudible

as the fall

of rain in reeds. The lake is whole.

Cold again.

The pearly water shines like gold.

In a white room under the rain

here at dawn

alone I wait for love again.

I've come back.

chilled at what silence the days hold.

Black trees stand against the evening sky.

Branches recline upon flaming space.

Black birds sing wandering on high:

May no fainter glory erase

pure joy from the wandering, choosing heart:

may choice be barren that does not lie

against flaming space till terror depart

and the heart stand black as the black birds' cry.

In impatience to ruffle the pool of day

with a random stone that the poet will cast

in idleness choice is driven away

while he sings that ripples do not last.

Speak instead to the strong black trees.

Their memory is longer than yours

and when their branches move, the breeze

does not weep for its brief hours.

All things get on, whatever you make

of it: the day drops to a close,

lovers and children at last forsake

their love to follow where the path goes.

The poet moves from sun to sun

and when at last the driving rain

wakes him, he sings, We have done, have done

with time: sorrow has come again.

The Toy Village

Afterwards, just past sunset, you walk out

to the main street of a town not your own.

Lamplights of fool's gold quiver,

store windows reel:

the covers of books and records

startlingly bright, incomprehensible.

This is a papier mache and cardboard village,

a momentary ice cream cone the only solace,

small and round.

This is a children's village.

Darker parts of the streets,

spaces between lamplights

pull you to yesterday and to last night,

when you were a child, and when

your childhood was taken from you.

Around a corner, three people strut quickly,

their laughter like thin coins

tossed onto an old and ragged street.

Photograph at Nineteen

Ilona has grown along

the lines laid down in black and white

under the flesh. Writing long

lines is like beachsweeps in sand,

undiscriminating. Thinner,

her flesh now shows that in her

tree and serpent were compressed in com-

position's toil. The test of

time comes alone. Ilona

passes all with richest hair.

What time does she dares: fittest

for spoil is that which is ready

to hand. Time sweeps youth into his

fresh basket and preserves in sand-

heaps. Ilona grows, Ilona

dies. Black and white knows this, discrim-

inating her short lines that kiss

the earth from work's shorter starts,

longest life. Ilona grows.

The morning is cloudy and wet.

Pale rays shine through

the wandering Jew

back of love shot through with forget.

Under the leaves near my old home

dun pages curl dry

where I passed by,

I shall be back - yes, shall come.

In this too-early summer dawn

words alone seem

substance, gleam

dew-hair on night's

vanishing fawn.

Where I go, awake or asleep

leaves under leaf-light


half-dead, make my quiescence leap.

And if I cannot remember

lines of spring

pale leaves curling

somewhere whisper, "Now! - September."

His province is the human heart

He used to be kind to us,

making maps out of dreams, which seems

now, rivers high, but the lines not just.

He swore, in part,

to be true to each of us two

which is why it appears through all these years he didn't know me from you.

There is more relief in verse

than in death, he believed, but now

with bated breath the storm grows worse,

I watch as the trees go apart and bow

the stress and fall of that shapely bough.

A white fence runs uphill. Tincture of light

flows between the trees. They stand like night

against the stars. How are we cut off? What door swings in the underbrush and forest's core?

Hands of dawn still the birdsong. They pare

thin new leaves. Oblong the light, its tear

of watered silk. Pale in a charring wood

the sun is white and still as motherhood.

Silently, rose is gold, and luminous

as will o' the wisp this fence. The grey dawn's press on grass like footprints stands. The morning stands over the turning earth. The trees are wands.

To what use can our breath attach the dawn?

It comes so still, erasing what pours down

from burning day and all its sacrilege,

coal of night and the great moon's sucked-out wedge.

The woman sings in the next apartment

or perhaps it's the radiator - I don't know;

I'm so happy. I've just washed my hair

and I've put two little red flowers in it

and what is that memory out of nowhere

of putting something up something else? mother, I think, and the bloom's sure to go,

but at least I'll have known what the poets meant.

I'll go to bed in just a minute.

Avenues are my mothers. Holding back the sun,

the stone, the sky, they led me, standing there, looking down the city's gleaming air,

unrolled, patient, majestic, walked me on.

Old love songs are my mothers. On the edge

of sleep, and four years old, forgotten gloves, dancing in the dark, my last year's love.

They rose like moons over the window ledge.

Sorrows are my mothers. On the foam

the bells ring out for you and me. Soft hands

touched in my dreams a world of darkened sands

my mother knew. Roads, grief, loves were home.

Now I am writing my own tragedy.

and as I bend, those grey streets, lovers' songs, sadnesses of loss I prayed never to wrong

well and float from my throat unceasingly.

I wonder how I've changed,

what final difference time has made.

I wish I could say, Chance's trade

of goods is only a way my mind arranged

ten years ago what someone said.

I wish I knew what time makes

out of the thoughts I have before

the glass. Time's empty phantom corridor,

when did it begin? or are mistakes,

beginnings and endings, only the mind's breaks?

I wish I could see your face

as it was before. Dare I sing to

myself? - o precious you,

I cannot reconstruct the palimpsest of space -

do not erase your eyes. Their lines are true.

I think of a looking glass,

silverbacked, filagree and flowers.

a blunt pencil over covering paper, hours

of childhood at this rub and pass,

ending with the design that was not ours.

Fear is all of the past.

My words are burdened: eons, days

ago, dim sentences woke and went their ways.

I fear prose now. At last

I fear what does not live always.

Has time made any mark

Upon the wall that I would not have made

in time? Why am I so afraid

of the candle in the dark

when life is all I've said?

Come tell me how I've changed.

Daffodils are as fragrant now

and peonies in a plot tell how

to love, by others hands arranged.

We shall tell all time will allow.

I wept.

I left off tears.

What silence returns?

And to-

night's moonlight:

how does it differ?

...have found

some solutions:

what sky waits like this?

How name

an evening's

trace of your beauty?

Now that you've got me, said Frances,

what are you going to do?

You can't complain of your writer's pain

in search of words. The shoe

is on the other foot today -

you woke and found me true.

And I shall stamp till your writer's cramp

lets what I would say through.

I'm bored with your lonely monologue,

self-conscious and outre,

said Frances Transalogue.

But listen, Frances Transalogue -

if that is your real name -

I dreamed you up on last night's sup,

and if you're seeking fame,

you've come to the wrong pen. Away!

I've only you to blame

for this morning's trauma that deathless drama

or novels aren't my claim.

It may bore you, but I can't write dialogue

so put up or shut up and stay,

vainglorious Frances Transalogue.

In your dream, said relentless Frances.

I came into my own.

I wrote so well on Raphael

I thrilled you to the bone,

while in a slothful sleep you lay -

now my talents you bemoan.

just because you're awake you can't forsake

my triumph, and cringe and moan.

Most art historians would write a catalogue -

that would make you pay!

said Frances Transalogue.

Listen, Frances Transalogue,

you're too big for my breeches.

You'd take over just like a parting lover

all my rhymes and verbs and speeches

if I let you in or out. You'd spay

old me - I know you bitches.

As it is I'm as wild as if I were with child

twelve months on some uterine hitches.

There's my interior travelogue,

it's as common as half-filled ditches.

destructive Frances Transalogue.

I see, said raging Frances,

don't believe in yourself then,

think that I want the things I don’t

to make you over again,

to change what you'll like to display,

to roust you out of your den.

You artists are likely to pervert the psyche

of the strongest muse at your pen.

I never asked you to write dialogue:

now look what you've made us say!

said Frances Transalogue.

I have waited all these long, forgotten years

for you to come to me. Have hoped and wept

dry sobs, for you were even all my tears,

you who were world, imagination, vision.

A seedling planted in my darkest room,

breathed over nightly by my shallow breath,

whose shoots turned inward. This is what I mean: I cannot tell my innards from your look.

Sitting and reading, no one watches me.

I become stale and drink you fresh each hour.

Now something is coming, Is it you, or I

approaches like the certainty of death,

a certainty, and one I never had.

I never cared for death. He passed me by

once, and the old flirtation now is dead.

Would it be so with you? Here is myself,

here, in the glass. My heart, alive, confused,

says one must have been beautiful to know

plainness. I am over, and yet calm.

Waiting has climaxed silently. I

am as though we two had never met.

Just pregnant with the quiet-passing years,

ready to render them to you, our silence,

slow-growing. thin: my lack of troubling dreams that make the nurture rich. A silent child,

baby of pain, whose mother's breaking voice

has yet to learn to bear pain's irony.

Quietly, I am plain. Perhaps these words

my mourning make. Something is coming in.

It knows the place in me that is its own.

No matter now if you are still alive.

My time for mourning's come, and I have known,

already, acceptance, compliance, to get peace,

which do the wresting and all rendering.

I have lived twelve years in the silence of the birds.

I have been at home in procrustean places.

I have looped my soul like a lanyard of curds

And cast after the Milky Way with falling traces.

I have fallen under the spell of the pendulous watch.

I have traveled in sun to the furthest curve of night And have brought back to the loom an irridescent swatch Of joy to set the hettles sure and tight.

I have seen a rose freeze in light before my gaze.

I have seen the cheeks of lovers pale at my unspoken heart.

I have known infinity in the squared board of the days when one day is like the next and every second falls apart.

I have loved bloody leaders and rust brick roofs in the sun.

I have taken hold of fear and let it loose in the grass to run like the field mouse free, and I have watched it run.

I have shivered full of leaves before the shadows pass.

Now the sky is whitening beyond the mountain snow and the fragrance of geraniums salts the stones' disquietude, and it is time for me to go where everyone must go sometime in his life before the night goes black for good.

We are organizing at Vassar.

We are getting ourselves organized.

We have stopped organizing our papers.

We have started organizing the students.

The administration is disorganized.

It says that all our organs

have no negotiating power.

They have only fantasy power.

Elie Weisel stood in front of the organ

in the Vassar chapel, saying,

I would like not to speak in the chapel.

I am not here to preach.

Culture has gone bankrupt.

The Einsatzkommanders loved Schiller.

What world have we provided

for you, the students? Art

is bankrupt without ethos.

The trustees are concerned about money,

about bankruptcy without ethos.

The ethics teachers are bankrupt.

The economists have seen it

all before. We are losing our jobs.

Their department head says he sounds

like a broken record. David

feels like an outside agitator

because he has lost his Job

teaching economics.

I wish you would come to the meeting.

"It's different for me." he says.

Different for a1l of us, David.

"You're right," he says, and he comes, but I do all the talking

since I have not lost my Job.

“1 saw David at the meeting,"

says Susan. "I sat behind him.

His gestures, his hands and fingers

emanate from his armpits.”

I wish I had your perspective:

That's one way to make something end well.

"Well, it was from the back."

“The front is different, I say.

“He's very cute,” says Susan.

He went to New York to ask

the deputy comptroller

to pay him for a Marxist

analysis of default.

The illusion lasted a day.

He's looking for a job

teaching economics.


I love him. I dream about him.

I eat dinner with him. I kid him.

I'd marry him if he loved me.

He's lost his first job this year.

At Christmas, tired, I got

a card from the Dallas airport.

Economics is meeting In Dallas.

He'll hear from it in the spring.

We are organizing at Vassar.

The administration says organs

have voices. The faculty has

a voice, but no negotiating

power. The chapel organ

is silent. Tonight, a poster

says, Can one be a Jew

at Vassar? We don't know.

We'd like to find out. Come.

8 o'clock in the Center.

We ought to go, I say,

then remember that this student

is not a Jew. She's a poet.

She writes what I've always written

the same way but better.

I've stopped writing the same way.

I've stopped writing better.

I've started organizing

my friends, my lovers, my colleagues

differently on paper.

I've stopped organizing my papers.

I'm getting together my friends.

The phone is off the hook.

The phone is busy. The phone

is ringing, I'm getting it

together. At three a.m.

I think of calling Weisel.

My friend Linda the linguist

is writing to Noam Chomsky,

not about the budget,

but about her paper

we're finally writing, together.

We've got an idea.

We're getting it together.

She was married to a rabbi

and during the divorce

she wrote him lots of letters

then took a vow of silence.

And who doesn't? I say.


It's different for all of us.

What should be the title?

Performance is Competence.

I clap my hands in the lunchroom.

The public relations director

looks in disapproval.

He has just lost his job.

Can one be a Jew

at Vassar? Mel Rosenthal couldn't.

Elizabeth Tennenbaum couldn't,

Daniel Bronson couldn't.

David Weinberg couldn't.

Joseph Lauinger couldn't

although he wasn't a Jew.

A11 of them lost their jobs.

Only my father's Jewish,

I'm applying for a grant.

Can students be Jews at Vassar?

Can students be at Vassar

if all the teachers walk out?

Can all the students afford

the tuition raise? They cannot.

Can the state universities where

the students will be next year

provide the ethos we're gaining

with the jobs and students we're losing,

or only bankruptcy?

We're concerned about life insurance,

and ethos for our descendants.

Can the students learns from the teachers

who feel it's too late for the students

and are getting it together?

That we'll learn from the students.

Can the teachers get it together

to organize together?

The classes are doing great guns.

The air is clearing. We're here.

Something we missed is gone.

We talk of these affairs.

"The faculty's learning," says Bill.

Why does it take so long?

It's hardly, you'd think, what you'd call

an effort, like learning to sing.

Why are we afraid to say "work"

when we make our students work?

Are we afraid we'd cry

as we make our students cry?

Bill says, "We're afraid that the donors

won't give if we organize."

That somewhere out here their banners

will furl or shrink to size

Or become larger and golder

and something we haven't earned

though we're growing bitter and older

as all the students have learned.

Why are we afraid to say, "give"

when all day we give?

Are we afraid the rich will become mothers

as we have become mothers?

The cart's empty on the hill.

the soft air's full of song.

What we're doing isn't at all

a one-sided thing

Or dark and at peace, or loud,

or for everyone - no one knows this

as we do who are sad

at more and more compromise.

Are we afraid they will become like us

whom we are afraid are not like us?

Are we afraid our differences

are afraid of all of our differences?

“Eighty writing students. Susannah!

Yes, one becomes very involved."

Because they're all different. I cannot

bear to see anything halved.

Binghamton's dropped its Russian

and its Geography.

Is there a black shoot pushing

up somewhere by the Black Sea?

Are we afraid we are all countries

as the Elizabethans saw countries?

Are we afraid it's only an analogy

when only another makes an analogy?

Bill talks of the beaten Bolsheviks,

I think of Chile, and Mao.

Bill says deprivation of books

is the greatest torture known

and hearing conversations

planning the death of friends

or others unknown. Suspicions

carry us to all lands.

Are we afraid they've all been there before

as we feel we've been here before?

Are we afraid of what follows

if we're doing what follows?

And to think that we are going to die!

Songs for my sister

This Fall is all Falls

and there is no Spring.

what need have we of something else

when this is everything?

Men say that all things change.

love dies and love grows,

but that love's no season

every woman knows.

How else could hearts heighten

leaves all red and dry?

Why else would all time remain

in a passing sky?

Who things that death and growth reflect

love's passage, yet can see

your face in every tiny branch

of this November tree.

Fall says there will be Spring

and Spring the Fall.

The brightest lightest blue

is but recall.

The high bare warming trees

remind us futures pass

and we imagine growth

in the dying of the grass.

We would abandon time

and live the present all

but that the winds of Spring

remind us of the Fall.

And when I think I've lost in heat

what time cannot erase

sunlight everywhere

reminds me of your face.

I didn't say the bitter thing.

that love can never die

because a moment came between

me and the sky.

my heart is warm as summer sun

and full as April's trees

and Winter seals the promise

the heart suspects from these.

So if I love you with a rage

of bright and frozen trees

from Winter's crystals light refracts

all time in these.

And if love is so all at once

that the trees seem to die

it's just their clarity against

a bright December sky.

Lay the summer down

in sunlit trees

and the cold stream.

Play of love alone

what the wind says

in roads of dreams.

Down the wreaths wet

down the roads long

through the songshotten fields

echo of stones set

where dark wing

through heaven reels.

Down, mark down

drama of the fair heart

and hazel grove,

worth of ritual done

mind's spurt

the gloom of love -

golden the night above.

The day was warm with black clouds and bursts of sun and I had the duty of writing this poem.

Duty to whom? - to the cicadas, those summer leaves dying ?

Anyway, it was all over, the light and dark all, over and done and morning had come, the rain was over and morning had come.

I had a duty: the cicadas, after so much trying aloud amid the thunder of light, with last night's rain lying in the air like a blanket to be spoken to were reconciled into the heat. Nothing was dying, again.

The morning, onyx set in gold, or that gold filagree of heat.

There was no singing left, there was no song left but to do: over and over, sang clouds in the golden street.

There was a woman

who all her life could stare

as though she saw not air

but something really there.

Laugh and cry, stand and lie, face to face with space.

And she could watch forever, as the best

can watch forever the faces they love best

and lose their faces in that face

and lose all times and places to one time and one favorite place.

And, being so,

she welcomed shadowy children down below

and pressed them to her thighs,

and all the time her eyes

were raised as though in grace

or to the presence of another face.

If she saw in the air the fire of wings

and fell the heat of angel songs

was it her fault the shadows flickered so

on the grave-eyed children as they wandered down below.

They laughed when the sun caught them,

and wept when it was gray.

She alone awakened to the fire every day.

And sometimes, in a dream,

the children saw the angels flit like smoke across a screen and call them to ascend.

But one child would always say, How will this end, how can this end, and scare away the flicker and the gleam.

And sometimes in the night

the darkness would be shattered with a light

brighter than the day, and calling them away,

but one would always say, It is late, we must sleep, hours are to keep, not to throw away.

Keep time, or it will slip away.

And they grew old, and blossomed into life,

and began to look for angels as the sun went down, and found none, and stayed awake, and were afraid of death, afraid the little light they glimpsed would vanish while they slept, and they would waken dead and dry to all the hours they'd kept.

And they thought they would make a song

to call back the angels and drive the dark away, but the pale ink of their pens ran dry

and instead of angels they sketched in the day.

Though one evening, as they wandered on their way, the air shone with beauty, and the clouds drew away and high above them they beheld their mother, and were filled with awe, and her face was a mountain, and the mountain laughed to the mountain it saw.

For a moment they stayed forever,

until one had to say,

If we stayed, how would it end, this way?

We could stay, but by the end the day,

we would change, we would not be the same,

and they went back the way they had come.

And the clouds rolled to below her lap, and she smiled on.

Who can you turn to


your glories are fading

your riches are gone.

How you must yearn to

recapture pleasure

while all in your court sing

the battles you won.

Who can you speak to

ancient Methusela

you who have lived more than

all other men.

Though your heart break so

torn and confused by a

wish that all life began

over again.

Where is there comfort

for you who have lived the most,

loved the most, wept the most

wished the most? - all

companions of common sort,

those for whom life is brief

love is brief, joy is brief

deaf to your call.

I go through one more Fall with you,

eyes grey as mist, damp air clinging

to my bones in a shudder. One more Fall

of old despair after secret meetings, old dreams, paths where your foot has trod. The season

comes suddenly, quietly, and I know as I hold my heart that time is your time, and that I never

will see yellow leaves without remembrance of you.

I go through one more Fall without you.

I sacrifice this light to your praise

god of day, gold beams stirring,

gold bells ringing,

your averted face.

I might make this day

song to myself or to him

gold in feature and limb.

the bell-like things he says.

Eyes as clear as dawn

may look on each other unafraid.

But I choose to say the things unsaid,

at dusk to fear nothing undone.

From a far world passionate and dim,

dream-tossed and cool in the early room,

rising in the mist to see the colors of creation raging in the palette of the sun-drenched king.

Grey grass, sharp-edged, plaits the hillside.

Dew webs burn in the valleys of the lawn.

High, the wild birth-chase, crimson and black.

Violet fingers stretching back along the wall.

Cold in the cold beginning, straight from night, the stones'

dumb fear. Old things at sunrise huddle against the shock.

But the hayfields open to the winnowing rays.

The grass curls green in the bathing witchery.

Drifting and dark, the waking house conceals

A sunlit stone deep in the kitchen wall.

Labor Day Inland

The summer eddies this end as the ocean

pours into crevices starfish-eyed.

Resurgence and fulgence, seawhite motion

pours to and fro, and nothing is to hide

in the rocks, or the seagulls' glorious commotion, the beat of the sea's translucent tide.

Visions float under the passage,

clear for eyes to absorb with wonder.

Sea horse with its manly carriage,

frail anemones brushed asunder,

while some passing crab makes portage

over the rocks that boom with thunder.

At these finishes, convolved as sea-

cloven conches, why do we remember

sistole and diastole

of water live as a burning ember?

These glittering reaches carry me,

eyes wide, into September.

the snow in the eclipse of trees

is silent as a tree or moon

or any featherweight sun

softly shining.

the trees close.

between eclipses time closes,

the moth with wings too frail to see

except at night, ephemerae

whose stretching and unstretching

tentatively closes.

in me each eclipse of trees

snow, suns that blot, chose

small times that make eclipse of those:

you test infinities.

I wish that this were new to me,

but love is never new. And never old

growing like a turbulent tree

and no more capable of being told

over than the night that drops

and in the morning lifts a cover.


it's your morning, that is to say

where the leaves

fill the

sun stays


your arm's dark. what life,

what caress since


on me like wind through grain


to be

over, love, again?

that's what I was thinking of

how the light remains

Quarreling at a knot

shows lack of vision - the rosestem

meets a turn, hesitates, builds up

back power, enters, succumbs,

thickens, twists, and out of turgid necessity

moves on, unafraid of the thorn

marking the struggle.

What's a little bitter confounding

to all the blossoms? Flowers don't fade

out of delicacy, nor refuse to bloom

because of a hard winter.

Sap boils in the spring to push

one more lattice into flesh.

A knot, a thrust, a thorn -

the frailest cloud-pink petal wouldn't

deny its roots pulling through the half-thawed ground: human propriety can hardly expect

longevity of soul if it can't face

as much innocence and beauty.

I'm sick of all these Goddamned Catholics.

A woman at my rooming house last night

said, “Girls, life is passing you by.

The lights of Boston glimmer low and bright.

If I were your age, why

I'd go out and grab it by the tail.”

In my mind a recollection clicks,

a poem I wrote about a cat and mouse

and the night wind circling around this house.

I like her because I could never be like her

(If I told you the truth once, would you believe my lies?) I am trying hard not to psyche her

out in any sense. No one near her cries.

The word that she's divorced is only rumor.

She's Catholic, a pagan sense of humor.

"l'm going to 'Masculine and Feminine,' so don't fuss."

She, largely, “Some of each in all of us.”

Declaration of Independence of all Self-evident Truths wait a minute, us, be fair: it's our problem, too.

be generous: why should men get all the glory?

be tactful: listen to our side of the story.

be kind: why should men have more learning to live through?

be intellectual: we know they're in our minds and hearts.

be analytical: we understand what we do and they do.

be reasonable: do we want them to say again, it's all you?

be sensible: we love them, that's not what keeps us all apart.

be angry: we understand. that's why we're so mad.

be bitter: men are: is it a privilege?

be disappointed: we're all sorry there's no cutting edge.

be brave: we always thought it was all of our problem: was that so bad?

be familiar: remember how we always thought they were?

be trusting: why do we think we thought that? our madness?

be reverent: we always knew there were things beyond sadness and gladness.

be afraid: without that we might think it was all them, that fear.

don't write of the ocean's need for a grammar: find ours.

or see truth in an unsung lullaby: babies don't.

or reduce all sense to our sex: what do we think men want?

or say it's all someone else's fantasy: what powers!

our problem: we see if we see it all we ought to show it and that if we know something, that's how we know they know it.

The Snail

I am afraid to touch

Even so small a thing, so am27l and self-protected As a snail, fearing my fire

will wash off from my hands

on his grey, curved back,

fearing his cold and slowness

will melt into my veins, bringing his lack of life.

I am afraid to catch his motion with my mind,

fearing his destination.

His house, you know, is a grey graveyard

where my spirit could curve and die.

I am ashamed of my hands

before his one foot, stopping and stopping,

no relief from its constant toil.

I am ashamed before his moving feelers

. '

anxious he should not see me.

To be seen by a snail, I think,

would be a terrible fright.

My own hands seem bloody

Before his bloodlessness.

Before the barrenness of his carved barrack

my faith reproves my home.

I am ashamed to be seen with him

he is so much my brother

feeding on leaves and the limbs of trees

after my fashion. My impulse is

to run with the snail and forget the course of the sun.

We are both so weary and so patient with retreating our minds each with its blinders.

My mind is so blind to the sides of my living

even a snail is a threat to my being.

It had to be true, verifiable

by others, or by some objective evidence,

you, that I loved: when you had not changed,

or changed, I thought no more. But loved still

as the field shadowless yet real

where then out of the ground grew

we that shadows slew and said so

speaking at the top of the wheat in the twilight the echoing of a further sunrise.

Childe Harold in Albany

Now it's Sunday morning, and I dreamed last night, finally - in fact., awoke saying aloud,

"Where's someone who can play a good hotel?"

Oh, when one's life all comes together well

at night, what use the day? - hardly to write

it all down (dreams, prevent my growing proud!) and still, the graying trees are not so stark

as one might wish, the streaked sky hardly poised against a question. "Where's someone who can forego analysis? where's the happy man

who'll build against this cubit flood, whose ark reflects no wonder at command or voice?"

My head's a good hotel, half-filled with dreams at check-out time (eleven) when I wake.

yet keeping a right register of rooms

and roommates. so that when the night returns

if all connections, good and ill, still deem

its floors fit place to mate, I won't mistake

heaven for long life, nor mistake the bath

for a product of two faucets, pipes and stopper -

night's backdrop of connection's a linked curtain against which full rooms and mild lights can play. I'm certain no autumn sky's branches of bolted black

express a juxtapositon half so proper.

in fact, today's grey, and my own hand draws

its own connections in the tepid sky.

I'd like, you know, life without effort, dreams that come from everywhere. It always seems,

however, that a new influx of laws,

material con metaphysic, try

our senses as young stags will try their horns

on trees; no one will win, young points grow peaked, roots weak, by this symbolic trial. Then what

shall we have for a coda? To, or not

to's not sufficient: the laws' symbols warn

that all our actions all to clearly speak.

Then act as though action's a good hotel.

or say an arm's a tree, scattering connections.

or what you will of it. I'm out of dreams

with all this urge to flood the joints and beams till they say, we are good, we are made well....

If all this could lead into some prediction!







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