Sunday, January 21, 2007

Some Selected Poem Re-Drafts III

Parmenides' Vision

Rapt, thrown upward, undone,
In ecstatic vision seeking vital clue,
I journeyed on the well-known path;
She came:
Great gold-winged goddess, chariot-driven,
More splendid far than Cyprian glory
On sands made manifest to Anchises' son.
She came,
And, speaking, said to my dreaming ears:
Two ways lie before you; one is true, one appears,
Both gated, and above the former
The message of the gods shines forth
Like the words above the Delphic road,
What is, is, and is not what is not.
Upon that path lies your way, said she,
The way of truth and not of seeming;
What appears will pass, what is real remains;
wisdom's lover finds sweet relief
In what is.
Then the fleeting, swift-footed, gold-winged goddess
Was gone, and I amazed.


The honeysuckle before the rain
Sends out its scent;
The sky, a gentle gray with cloudy banks
Looks down in meditation.
Its study prepares the thunder,
Rendering air electric,
Charged with age-old passion.
All is patient, contemplating;
each grass-blade is a scholar,
each blossom on the vine.

God has Blessed my Cup of Tea

God has blessed my cup of tea;
It is a thing of wonder.
In the cup amidst the leaves
I hear His holy thunder.

My bed's beneath God's Holy Throne;
His Light is on my walls;
And as I pray my very room
Becomes a new St. Paul's.

The wind bites deep into my bones,
The fires fade and dim,
But every single flick of frost
Bears up the weight of Him.

When you stand beneath the winter tree
And love God's snow and ice,
lift a hymn to pray for me;
each psalm is prayer twice.

A Graduate Student Reflects on Footnotes

There is a power and a danger in footnotes. Amen.
For the footnote is a text of its own, and is not.
And the loosening of this paradox has loosened many minds.
For they have grown churlish with useless detail.
For footnotes like coral build up into great reefs of madness.
For many minds have been shipwrecked by their own footnotes.
And many minds have thereby been put out to sea.
And footnotes, like coffee, add nothing to learning, and too much.
So avoid footnotes, my child, like Pythagoreans beans.
For they both cast out the Spirit and are an affront to number.
For they exceed the bounds of the discussion.
For they are απειρον.
And they are disruptive to the reasonable order of plot and argument.
And many more have been led into folly by footnotes than by strange women.
For the footnote is a license for promiscuous thought.
For the standards of the footnote are not the standards of the discourse.
And many have said things in footnotes of a stupidity they would not pronounce in the text.
So, my child, in life and in word, learn that footnotes lead away from the way.
And that silence is golden even for fools. Amen.

Aridity and Consolation

I walked one day, a wanderer amid the trees,
singing out a song, the sun all hid from view
but the air hot, and no whisper in the leaves
nor breeze to blow like balm that heals the wound,
and came I on a course that cut through sandy stone,
once widened by water as it wandered home,
but dry with dust, undamp, like ancient bone,
remembering ancient mists and moisture long ago.

And it seemed that I could see in the silence of the wood
a phoenix, fireborn, that flew from bough to bough,
that sought the stream long slain by drought of old,
and, coming to the course, did cry so soft and low
the angels would all weep and echo it in dreams,
and hardly had my hearing found heaven in those strains
than dropped the phoenix dead by drought unhealed by stream,
and, finished, lightly fell, its fire stripped of glow.

Then, herald of all hope, a hind of silver-white,
brought with bitter haste by the baying hounds,
valiant with a force that's felt in moonlit nights,
leaped beneath the laurel whose leaves were on it crowned,
and, taken by the dogs, it died and knew no more,
and, broken in its bone, blood on forest floor,
it sank like sunset, thrice solemn in its woe,
which had lately been alive, but at last was overthrown.

Then I wept, and from my eyes the water fled in grief;
the salt it bore of sorrow, and sadness in my pain,
in gravest ruining raining on the leaves,
and newly did I mourn that the marvels I had seen
should die in death, no dawn at all in sight;
overcome, I greatly cried for coming night,
and breath with sorrow bittered, I broke with sob and sigh:
my love, and it alone, alive did now remain.

But wait! one sole whisper, like the wind amid the trees,
did rise and rush, then roar with living force,
and wave, as in war an army like the seas
will arm and rise, did water again the course,
a pouring-out with power; like spring-kissed clouds of rain,
from furthest foreign-land a fountain broke again,
as though the gods of glory with grace, or even whim,
had compassion on the creek, and carved a living source.

So first there broke a flood; then flame did burst to light,
and, fire all around it, the phoenix, winged in gold,
did rise in ruddy glory with rays that blinded sight,
and winged up to heaven, the highest of high roads,
a scion of the sun, with shining in its wings,
so holy in its egress as to humble one who sins,
bring penitent to prayer, inspire seraphim to sing,
more glory in its going than gests and tales have told.

The pooling of the blood from the bitter death of hind
with flood and flame was mingled, and force imbued
into a flowing fire enveloping, embraced in kind
the carcass of the conquered, and covering it with blood
did wash like aeviternity its weariness away
and death undid, as night undone by day,
and, leaping into life, as long ago it played,
it sped, a shot, a silver flash, through primal wood.

The flood, I saw, was faith; the phoenix charity;
the hind was hope, the herald of new life;
and, filled with seeing vision, a flux of ecstasy,
I saw that what is saved is what is sundered for to die
and brought to burial, to be born anew;
for all grow old, and, ancient, to death must go,
but cycles may be started, and, from being severed through,
new life may live, and spring to wondrous light.

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