Thursday, June 11, 2020

Three Poem Re-Drafts

Kalaratri in the Starlight

Come now, come now, said her smile
as she leaned on the wooden fence;
come now, come now: a woman's voice
that coaxes and never relents.
She looked me over with sparkling eye
blushed and smiled once more,
flirted at me with glancing look,
with form that held good things in store.

My love is another's, I quietly said.
Though your deep eyes are bright,
Though you rise up with willow-tree grace,
My love's for another by right.

She smiled again, with softest of purrs
replied that true love left no choice:
when true lovers meet beneath a full moon
fate speaks in inexorable voice
of destiny laid from the first of the world
that cannot be turned or undone.
When she loved a man, that loving was sure,
and she loved, and I was the one.

But a bright, lovely girl awaits me, I know,
hopes to see me in clear morning light.
How can a man seek honor and truth
who dallies with strangers at night?

Ah, said the lady (as she drew near
with a brush of the warmth of her breath),
these frail mundane loves pass us like sighs;
I speak true, or my name is not Death.
Then she trickled her finger down the bridge of my nose,
took my face up with her hands;
she smiled at me beneath the cold stars
and we kissed, and I fell to the sand.


Mighty of mind was great Udayana,
mighty in reason's ways;
his thought searched out the higher things
like hound that leaps and bays.
From lowest thing to holy God
in breadth and width and height,
he walked on reason's highways,
his reasons ever right.
Never wrong was great Udayana.
His inference was sure
and traveled straight like arrow-flight
and always would endure.
He was a great debater;
he could bring the point to close,
and the God-denying Buddhists
he held his foes of foes.
Before the king of Mithila
he debated a Buddhist long.
His words were clear. His subtleties
and arguments were strong,
and at the end the Buddhist,
though for debate renowned,
in defeat ran to the cliff
and cast his body down:
ashamed of having been so wrong,
ashamed of his guilt and pride,
ashamed of having doubted God,
he leaped from the cliff and died.
Repenting, the great Udayana
went down to the temple-place
and before the God whom he had proved
he knelt and bowed his face.
The God gave not a whisper.
The silence was cool and cold,
and, anguished, great Udayana
spoke out in anger bold.
"My life has been a service,"
he said, "to lead all minds to you,
and to the God-deniers
I showed that you were true.
Why, then, are you so silent?
My existence comes from yours,
but by my proof and reasons
your name with men endures."
Then a dream came to Udayana.
The God spoke the word, "Unclean,"
and a storm rose through the temple
and shook the temple-screen.
"You may argue, O Udayana,
and your arguments are sure,
but this is also true of God:
the God is wholly pure.
Let us take a proof, Udayana;
I will give it in a tale,
and by my proof know that proof,
if impure, comes to fail.
A philosopher like Udayana
when Brahman and Buddhist fought
led them to the mountain
and gave them the proof they sought.
Down he threw the Brahman.
'There is a God,' the Brahman said,
and set down like a downy feather,
unscratched in limb and head.
Again he threw the Buddhist,
who said to the wind that sighed,
'There is no God, all things must end,'
and, ending, the Buddhist died.
It was a certain proving,
in a way that none could hide,
with only one objection:
that the Buddhist monk had died.
And from the sun of heaven
the fire of judgment fell,
casting impure philosopher
to deepest pits of hell.
God is most pure, Udayana,
the greatest eminence of holy life,
and shuns the bloody-handed
and the stirrer-up of strife.
Unfit are you, Udayana,
though the truth may crown your head,
for though you spoke the truth of God,
by you man's blood is shed.
You have argued with godlike splendor
and your fellow men have awed;
your word of truth was light to man,
but darkness to the God."

Morning Walk

As dawn approaches, sky transforms its purple into blue
though moon still rides on summit high, a sliver yet to view;
under clouds is tinged with gold the edge of heaven's hem
and soon the sun will process in with glory's diadem.
A little coolness intertwines my limbs with gentle sighs
and moves the clouds in flock and herd across the clearing skies.
Your face is to my inward eye brought slowly into sight,
recalling how you once did smile with sudden, dawning light.
I walk alone. In memories I may still walk with you,
but memory is just one form of being lonely, too.