I KNEW A WOMAN
I knew a woman
lovely in her bones.
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them.
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways
The shapes a bright container can contain!
her choice virtues, only God should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I'd have them speak in chorus, cheek to cheek).
How well her wishes
went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn and Counter-turn and Stand.
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin.
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
was the sickle, I, poor I, the rake,
her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing
we did make).
Love likes a gander and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant
note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it
light and loose.
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing
Her several parts could keep a pure repose
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles
and those circles moved).
Let seed be grass,
and grass rturn into hay:
I'm martyr to a motion
not my own;
What's freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone
But who would count eternity
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).
My Papa's Waltz
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung
on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.
The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.
beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.
In a Dark Time
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I
A steady storm of correspondences!
flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.
Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself,
and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.
Journey into the Interior
In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out
interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden
veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road,
the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
-- Or the path narrowing,
upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.