Some haunting lines from a very fine poem.
So much depended
on the sound unheard, shouts buried in fog,
indistinct as deaths telegraphed
along the old Atlantic cables
This does so many things well.
Because I’d done wrong I was sent to hell,
down black steps to the airless tombs
of mothballed contraptions and broken tools.
Piled on a shelf every daffodil bulb
was an animal skull or shrunken head,
every drawer a seed-tray of mildew and rust.
In its alcove shrine a bottle of meths
stood corked and purple like a pickled saint.
I inched ahead, pushed the door of the furthest crypt
where starlight broke in through shuttered vents
and there were the shears, balanced on two nails,
hanging cruciform on the white-washed wall.
And because I’d done wrong I was sent
to the end of the garden to cut the hedge,
that dividing line between moor and lawn
gone haywire that summer, all stem and stalk
where there should have been contour and form.
The shears were a crude beast, lumpen, pre-war,
rolling-pin handles on iron-age swords,
an oiled rivet that rolled like a slow eye,
jaws that opened to the tips of its wings
then closed with an executioner’s lisp.
I snipped and prodded at first, pecked at strands,
then cropped and hacked watching spiders scuttle
for tunnels and bolt-holes of woven silk,
and found further in an abandoned nest
like a begging bowl or a pauper’s wreath,
till two hours on the hedge stood scalped
and fleeced, raw-looking, stripped of its green,
my hands blistered, my feet in a litter
of broken arrows and arrowhead leaves.
He came from the house to inspect the work,
didn’t speak, ran his eye over the levelled crown
and the shorn flanks. Then for no reason except
for the sense that comes from doing a thing
for its own sake, he lifted me up in his arms
and laid me down on the top of the hedge,
just lowered me onto that bed of twigs,
and I floated there, cushioned and buoyed
by a million matchwood fingertips,
held by nothing but needling spokes and spikes,
released to the universe, buried in sky.
HT: Micah Mattix
One of my favorite Christmas poems surely is “Christ Climbed Down” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
The other day was my birthday. My wife challenged me to write about . . .
At my age, all the good topics are taken:
“if we had world enough and time,” but past
my three score that seems short; and Milton grumped
“how soon hath time” at a mere three and twenty;
and the day that Donald Hall grew older he
was younger than I am now, and that high school
musical still plays on – my musement broken
when the waiter brings our plates.
“Asparagus,” you say. “Write what you know.”
Asparagus, delight of Michigan’s
early summer, ours for three weeks or perhaps
by strength of growing season, four, the bright
stalks the color of June, those childhood spears
now fallen like so many candles diagonal
across my plate, a demarcation
before and after, meat and potatoes,
still crisp to challenge the knife,
green arrows that lead past the plate to you.
written for S Camp. June 2012
There’s nothing like a door to the future –
They’re sold by the pallet at Menard’s:
Steel core, hollow core, antiqued and painted;
the plain front and cross-buck; your classic fan light
Neo-Georgian; the smart timbered craftsmen
for the suburban sophisticate; the oval
frosted glass with French curliques
for the incurably romantic – they’re yours
to make every exit an entrance; this stage
set for imagination, a market theatre
of absurd choice, where doors, paint chips, hardware
and no-shadow light in a hundred designs
keep your back to the sliding door, the setting sun,
and the warmth of a summer, only now begun.