Pointless any happiness that happens by plan:
To live in nature is to suffer luck.
Thus blessed, thus cursed, I am myself again,
Empty-tipsy, drinking to the lees my lack.
Wind-tousled cloud, cloud-tousled chance,
Deep in the unseen an anchor drops, and clings.
O my lilting, my light-sheer, my linen existence:
As of another nothing floating over things.
I like the cakelike casino on the dunes,
And how the strict fingers of skeletal light
Come alive on the baize, and the view, vast as mist.
I like the tone of green that oceans in,
And the tight rosebuds of wine that bloom in the mind,
And the towering, scouring seagull, in whose eyes nothing
Hard night. Homer. Homeless sails.
I’ve listened to the list of ships in my own voice.
I’ve seen, as my own voice fails,
Those strange cranes arrowing sorrowing over Hellas.
Ever alien, ever more interior, these shores,
And the sun-flecked, god-picked wings glinting spray—
Anxiety’s army, ghost souls of Achaea,
Without your one longing, what is dying for?
The singer and the sea, all things are moved by love.
But what is that to me? Homer is dead.
And a wall of silence, eerily eloquent,
Breaks like a black wave above my bed.
Not one word
Not one word.
Purge the mind of what the eye has seen:
Woman, prison, bird.
Otherwise some wrong dawn
Your mouth moves
And a sudden pine
Needles through your nerves,
A trapped wasp crazes
In your brain,
And in the old desk’s ink stain
A forest mazes
Inward and inward
To the unpicked
Where you now and now always
An infinite inch
Between that sweetness
And your hand.
Come love let us sit together
In the cramped kitchen breathing kerosene.
There’s fuel enough to forget the weather,
The knife is ours and the bread is clean.
Come love let us play the game
Of what to take and when to run,
Of come with me and come what may
And holding hands to hold off the sun.
To the translator
Forget it. Don’t tempt yourself with tongues
Whose blood is not your own.
Better to bite a light bulb, eat an urn.
How long the haunting, how high the cost, that sky-wide
Of the bird we cannot name—
Like a happy man undone by an alley-flash of lace.
In the end, when the soul rends a man toward that
It was his whole ambition to express,
To speak a denatured thing is to fling the first dirt on your
own cold face.
Happy Tasso, Bittersweet Ariosto, how they enchant us,
Until they don’t. And if it’s they who come, in the hour
Throbbing their blue-brained truths, their starved and
So: you, then. Your animal urge. Your primal pride.
To you is given this sponge dipped in vinegar, bitter wad
Of silence: you, who thought love of sound alone could
lead to God.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 29 Number 8, on page 32
Copyright © 2019 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com