Today dawn came over the French Baroque garden with the dreary birds' Relentless chatter in the shrubs. They drenched the armless mermaid in their bathing, cracked The skin of ice that wrinkled fast the face Of water stealing stars from space, And stirred the pool into a thousand mirrors Struck with gold.
A month ago the elms were flames Burning among the pines. The wind now hints Of sleet and snow; the arrowed chapel dove Appoints north to lord the air While prints of summer leaves are pressed like yellow gloves. (Five fingers spread a moist caress on stone, Now nailed by slivers of frozen sun.)
But even spring is bitter in another Country, on the other side of winter. On the gentle slope outside the window A cup of shade held last year's leaves. On the forest's edge New blooms scattered beneath the jackdaws Storming the fields and woods; I must go home.
Each day I bend into the crowded street And twist and turn the crooked way to church. In overcoat I mount the bench and search For Bach With groping hands and far flung feet, Until both Bach and I are out of wind To fill the pipes. And still behind my mind, Though every atom is involved (a whole man Wants it so), though truth is at my fingertips, The host of diehard queries linger Hushed and tense: and always blazing Green and blue, Saint George has neither won nor lost The stained glass war of good and evil.
I came here for answers and found None; the cobblestones beneath my feet Whisper questions; voices on the wind Inquire in susurration at the window. The mermaid shushed by snow, my Venus Headless in the courtyard – these, all heavy footnotes Starred to my attention, tell me all I have learned: To fail in loving is the great defeat.
I have just stoked up the wood burning Jotul, and just in case we are inspired to song, put on the heater in the music room. By my wing-back is the copy of Great Jones Street cover curling from the damp bookmark in place. I have just cooked turkey in mustard with old-fashioned mashed potatoes, loose leaves of lettuce on a serving plate. We eat the leaves the way you might eat bread alternating with the main dishes to refresh your taste buds.
Normally I don't cook, but S was obsessively ripping up plants by the roots, with a pitchfork, clearing the way for timber men who come next week and fell the huge dead almond. As usual, once the plants are out of the earth, S is in anguish until there roots are once more snugly tamped into soil in some new nook of the garden. We have the only jetset irises on the island. Their lag is six months, but I suspect a new variety is in the making, an iris genetically evolved to thrive on displacement.
Actually, given the world we live in, where homelessness is not only from war and acts of God, where even our village of two hundred fifty souls has a man living in the treehouse built by kids, who offered it when they noticed he was sleeping under a porch by the parking lot – living in such a world I started to say, it's no wonder that all nature is becoming extremely transient. Not only do species die, billions of new creatures are born, most of them viruses threatening the human race. It's the world fighting back. All the animal minds are calling on their brothers, the primordial forces of the earth, the volcanoes, the very geological plates, the winds, the sea, and, in the heat of Africa, another microbe was just sent on its trajectory toward the total destruction of venal man.
Now it's time for a couple of tokes of female dope, if there is any. Searching this cupboard and that close, she comes up with a jar of just the right thin, except the flowers from 1991 have mildewed to a damp mass of funky green fuzzed up at the edges with white mold. Another jar says female, no year, but turns out to be okay. Now comes the hard part. What to do the euphoria? Read a little? Look a Schubert? Put a few words down?
The sky behind the bluff catches fire and burns Down the clouds, spreads to the peaks Above the bay; the wind changes and turns The waves into dolphins racing to break The headland toward the open sea. The squall breaks over us, not from sky or hill, But out of black crashing ocean spilled Over sprits and masts of the fishing fleet, Water grapples mooring posts and clambers Paylines, spuming into the streets. The dwindling wick of sun is pinched, Fury reels keening on the pitchblende wind that roils Among the palms, fronds flicking verdant fire, Savage swords in the caverned dark.
We stand in line, waiting our turn with Destiny, always more or less aware that even Mr Nobody enjoys a flash, before checking out: That life was mine. Some lift off like Fred Astaire doing a Peter Max rainbow; a few burn like meteors, never reaching the earth; Mozart fiddled in billions of brains. Meanwhile we advance; fate a sculptor who chips a little here, a little there, until gradually we appear or should I say I appear in case you don't agree with we, from the void. But to get down to now: inside the translucent door voices of thirsty men and women ride the arpeggios of the harp like so many hives of bees on the wind, flap their chins like donkeys, braying bravely in the face of it all while the guitarist's fingers fly loose like a wing playing songs all know by heart: I am, I am You are, you are He is, they are, I was, you will, he did, she will never, I know, you know, we know, forgive, forget... To the swirl of egos in the room we add our two: the guitarist does not know all the chords. All quit their jabber, though swiftly our inert mood is grasped the hives buzz again. What fools they think we are to sit and stare, our laughter the last resort of silence, while we contemplate the truth: all alone, we orbit - the moon shining, the sun waiting below the earth, the sea sighing, the wind crying to come in and we sing: I love, we love, and then of course they love. Harp and guitar, the wood sings: O how we yearn for the instant order of song.
The first oxygen goes to feed the fire
that flames in the heart of us;
that flares our gaze out beyond
the near business of day to day.
Like the bonfire
which begins its own round grave,
the center goes first into coals,
then cinders, then smoking dust,
a crater ringed by useless fuel.
Burn from the outside in, let the flesh go first and leave nothing bur spirit to ignite your glowing soul to supernova o glorious cosmos! before the last collapse into that darkness from which all light is born.
My father is referenced in the very first line, and Lois is mentioned later. I think this is one of Fred’s poems, but I’m not sure. The penmanship in the note matches a 1971 letter of his to a reasonable degree (the L and W in particular) and he references Bob, so I think my guess is good.
Con los ojos cerrados te veo. Con ellos abiertos, te miro. Con las manos cerradas, te hablo. Con ellas abiertas, te palpo. Con la boca cerrada, te hablo. Con ella abierta, te beso. Te escucho y suspiro, respiro y te inhalo. Con los cinco sentidos, TE AMO.