The word, the frogs, the pond, the neither/nor—
‘Neither’ left the fox too much to see,
‘Nor’ for long—not with all them frogs legs for…
At dusk, as the cathedral frogs sing songs
of unprincipled certainty, the fox
will circle the pond in search of what belongs
to every fox no matter how unorthodox.
It couldn’t matter less. Your theoretical
frog is not just a cliché—softened by
the fox’s growl—it is an inestimable
blunder. Why, if their song could even try
to rival a great graveyard in honest terror,
it would be as if all creation waited for
a mot juste from a bare nosed but blessed warrior:
the word, the frogs, the pond, the neither/nor—
‘Neither’ left the fox too much “to see,
‘nor’ for long—not with all them frogs legs for free
Some people die in sorrow,
some, despite the sleeping shadows,
die like a metaphor.
They compare the earth
to some final value, and
they want to weave the forest
into something good:
some good new man and woman,
some good new breeze,
some good new plant
that lives like an onion
at the bottom of the sea
and watches in wonder
at its huge bulbous skin
as it swims slowly towards
But look, the morn in russet mantel clad
walks over the dew of yon high eastward hill.[i]
What he says:
Of course I cannot see his distress.
A blackened bowl is one that makes the most
of the daylight. He is alone, left in the fortress
to have a conversation with a ghost—
‘I want to hold you close,’ is all I say.
Do you believe in ghosts? No light glints from
my disproportionate sight; he had to pray
to me to keep his life, his form, his sum.
All fury is at my dispensation now. To stare,
I see four eyes eyeing my eyes,
one pair medical and concerned, the other pair,
too young to know that death is never fair.
All are seeing in me what he suddenly fears—
the nastiness of ripening him to tears.
What I say:
If only life were like a soapsuds bubble,
or a balloon in a fresh breeze, or dancers
on a ballroom floor—if transience was not
the very essence of a life—but only
its tragic conclusion, if only we
could do to life what it does to us—
experienced dancers all—and make each ghost
see that all hot bodies should not end so cool.
‘Sir, I am not what fear is about.’
It’s shouted plain, but is not heard—
even when poured into a shapeless ear—
because even when it’s whispered, all
that is remembered is a stateless tear—
left to glisten here on another unmade bed.
For Anna Mark
My poems feel overdressed
when I read your poetry. [i]
I love their nakedness—
or, as modesty would have it,
I love the bathing suits they wear—
worn fully without clinging.
Yes, my clothing does cling—
like everything else—
too much these days.
Of course, one’s clinging to life
is the source and model of all clinging—
and to the life of your children,
the others , whose very otherness
can make it more precious and still—
How this poem clings to its loved ones,
holds then tight, then forgives them
enough to let them swim out
a little further and still further…
It could be a model for the world.
I wish I could swim with them too,
even when your feet touch other shores.
[i] I am talking about Anna Mark’s poem The Lake, which you need a password to access. I will reprint it here with Anna’s permission.
. She wears the deep water —
….. the clear dress soaks
……her shoulder length hair.
If only my words, if only my love,
were that sweet water,
that ancient lake you jump into wholly,
playful and free,
living water to your sense of joy, innocence and trust,
darkness beyond the depths of our sight,
beyond reach yet willing to be known,
worn fully without clinging,
rapture without entering too deeply, too soon,
as explored mystery captivating awe —
fear and wonder;
a mother’s caress reflecting light,
eroding the places that harden,
where you’d thrive with me,
your strong root in me for when you shed me,
when your feet touch shores,
when you leave,
when it’s time for you to go,
when you emerge —
.for my daughters