A (very) rough draft of a bit of melancholy love poetry:
If, love, you fear that I should lose these moments when we part,
Or lose the precious image of your face
Beneath a heap of mental junk, cast on by time and art,
And utterly forget that once I traced
Its outline with a gentle hand—and struck it with a dart
Unseen—I can but offer my embrace
And these cheap words to qualify the thought that I depart:
It is eternal autumn in the kingdom of my heart.
For we lose many things—I, too, had beauty once, and grace,
And eloquence, and elegance, and ease--
And as we stand amid the glorious silence of this place,
Alone amid the rushes and the trees,
A chill anticipation makes the light upon your face,
The ripples of your black hair in the breeze,
That much more part of being, that much somehow more the case,
A miniature eternity no years could dare efface.
For we are always losing, merely losing by degrees,
And losing makes the having more a part
Of every sacred memory, and though the fickle seas
Of time may toss us, we will yet outsmart
The Fates; I shall forever know your smile in the breeze,
And though some sickly winter seize the throne in sudden start--
It is eternal autumn in the kingdom of my heart.
A bit of occasional verse I wrote for my school's honors night a few weeks ago:
They burn out quickly, don't they? Come some wind
Or squall, it seems, they flicker, fade, and fail;
What then, of all our hopes, our joys half-kenned?
Are they of no import, of no avail?
So one might think, then, every dream must pass;
Wind mocks our flame, and twilight mocks our toil;
Our kings distain us; Ozymandias
Will fall, and fertilize the desert soil.
Yet all this pother only brings us to
A premature conclusion. We burn fast
But many. So one candle lights another--
And light is, thus, eternal, ever new
And ever old; the future is the past
Reborn in dreams. Our candles burn together.
This poem, a sonnet written in fourteeners, discusses some of the anxieties and reminiscences of lost youth from the point of view of an aging man addressing his (presumably partially estranged) wife or lover.
Do you remember, darling, how it was when we were young,
And all the world was tinted with a hue of light romance,
When strains of song and laughter came as comrades to the tongue,
And all our steps were stepped along the patterns of a dance?
Do you remember, darling, how it was when life was bright?
We revelled in our company, and come the night we dreamt
And talked beneath a starry sky, and all our talk was light,
Exuberant in our designs, young, passionate, verklempt.
But now the world has changed, and we have changed within it too;
The world is too much with us, and the dull retreat of time,
And you are sick of loving me, and I of loving you,
And with my fading virtue fades the virtue of my rhyme;
But if our golden days are gone, then that's what dreaming's for;
We need but close our eyes, and then it shall be so once more.
A bit of somewhat socially minded religious poetry, just in time for the rapid approach of Holy Week:
The hands that saved the world were working hands:
A carpenter's, coarse, callused, golden brown,
Mud-caked and bleeding, ragged, unrefined,
Fit more to hold a hammer than a soul.
Now Pontius Pilate--Pilate had good hands,
Well-manicured and smooth, soothed, plucked, and trimmed,
Soft, gentle, tapering, and always washed--
Those hands could kill a god and make it graceful.
We waited many years, hands clasped in prayer,
Beneath the robes, the gloves, hushed talk in temples--
The answer came--but we could not believe--
The hands that saved the world were working hands.
A brief bit of levity for the Thursday before spring break:
Haikus are quite hard;
The syllabic structure is
So complex. Ah, well.
This piece, about and from the perspective of an elderly woman lamenting (sort of) her lost husband, is a somewhat experimental combination of free-verse and traditional elements. I like some parts much better than others, but I nonetheless found the whole compelling enough to merit a post.
I always half thought he was more in love
With the earth than he was with me;
He caressed it, plenty, with callused hands,
His supple, scarred fingers half a part of the land,
Half a part of nineteen sixty-three.
He was beautiful then, when we both were young
And reckless and feckless and fey;
I was beautiful, too, or so I’d like to think,
And we both were foul drunkards and hope was our drink,
And the cheap wood farmhouse our grand palais.
We were happy, of course, for far longer than that.
We were both, I would say, quite in love;
I am still. But he never could love me alone,
And I knew the earth borrowed his blood and his bones
And cried to him sweetly like a wounded dove--
Because from time to time, he would leave our bed
Late at night, and once quite out the door,
He would take to his love with a fiery zeal;
He would make and destroy; he would murder and heal;
He would dance with Nature in his robe and drawers.
(We buried him out there, beneath the crabapple tree,
When the night was halfway gone;
The Baptist preacher, weary, took a rusted spade
And dug and put a tarp on the casket, for now, and prayed,
And I sat up and waited for dawn.)
I could hardly hate him for it; he was born in that sin,
And his straying was half his charm;
The earth was his first and his tenderest lover,
And now, as the rain taps the frail tarp cover,
She will hold him forever in her arms.
This slightly more experimental piece, based (very) loosely on sonnet form but heavily modified to fit the needs of the moment, is largely centered on a juxtaposition of exalted Biblical and literary allusions with imagery of latter-day urban decay. I'm definitely not being pretentious here.
Don't come here looking for salvation, for
To spy with plank in eye some glimpse of God;
Don't come here for a prophet; nevermore
Will holy voice resound with staff and rod.
(Mind, what he says may not be what he means.)
Don't come here looking for the sainted dead
To rise and sing you songs; Jerusalem
Has tumbled; in its place there's but this head
Of brick, this rock and roll, this lovers' hymn.
(Watch where you put your mouth, watch where you lean.)
But this, this ratty store built at the turn
Of First and Seventh, this might be the place
where Rome first felt the subtle burn
Of passion, and he lived but for her face.
(The lights go out. As far as I'm concerned
This place is holy. Beatrice wears blue jeans.)
I am quite aware that this blog has become perhaps somewhat oversaturated with love poetry, and what I am about to offer is a rather more than usually typical example of the form; for St. Valentine's Day, though, with all due respect to the long-suffering reader, I could hardly do anything else.
Your eyes were gentle then; I half recall
The way they hit me, softly, like a fall
Of sweet slow rain--for, dearest, in those eyes
Were roaring suns and cerulean skies,
A world fresh born, a world alive and wild,
And--thought above all thoughts--within your smiles
Were endless stars and endless verdant vales;
Within you were cosmologies of scale.
Your eyes were gentle then--but now I fear
My peevish heart holds agony more dear
Than sweetness, and in every straying glance
Perceives a trembling voice, a pregnant chance,
A barren field, a precious thing sold cheap,
A harvest that my hands will never reap--
But I digress. What's at an end's an end;
I shall not want. Your eyes were gentle then.
This very short poem is an experiment with a fairly simple but nonetheless intriguing nine-line syllabic form, the nonet, which I encountered online.
Really, one could hardly blame the moth
For doing what moths do; the light
Was there, and it was something;
Tell me, quite honestly,
If you, beholding
That very flame,
Would not do
Though I hardly set out to write this short poem with the intent of creating a piece of light verse, I nonetheless ended up more or less doing so. What the final product, a rather absurd, mock-serious meditation on the nature of romantic attraction that centers on a kind of comic Metaphysical conceit, might lack in stolid sobriety I can only hope it makes up in some combination of humor, perception, and whimsy.
Love, like a cockroach, creeps in through the cracks
Of doors and walls and pipes; its bearing smacks
Of smug irreverence, a squatter's pride,
A wolfshead's swagger, rude but satisfied.
It crawls on; once, you catch it on the floor--
You'd swear you'd seen the dratted thing before--
And, as you sit and ponder ancient faces.
It makes its home in dark forgotten places,
And--once it's quite escaped your prowling eyes--