Descant in Song

November 2, 2009


Say frost kills flowers, kills

The roots, freezes the stem, stamen, stills all

The heliotropic dancing that a stop

Action camera might show, and so much more,

So that you can trace each petal,

As if it were an everyday flower,

As common as sunflowers are, ancient

As sunlight surely must be in descant

And song—frozen in flowers hence, hence the

Solemnity—the sun’s solemnity.

And hence our first thesis: that man is, as

It were, clapped into jail by his consciousness.

Essays, The first series. Self Reliance.

Waldo Emerson, who further notes—

The eye was placed where one ray should fall,

That it might testify of that particular ray.

Indeed. That piercing light, en passant,

Is parsed to model consciousness. You know,

The spectrum focused in the glass, the light

Starts to disperse, grows dim, exits,

Continues to exist… Ho hum… gets old.

Our reading is mendicant and sycophantic

And there is no excuse. Photosynthesis

Be damned as tiny blades take snips of sun

—That piercing light!—

Before the night comes back, as it always does,

To freeze the planet’s plants, its flowering.

Prisoners then to light the conscious mind.


Our second theses is not a thesis

At all. Just a walk on a beach, really,

A play of sunshine, picnic in the park,

A plum in place of the pumpkin—

Because, yes, it’s Halloween! A ghost

May come; for it’s a ghost’s right;

But more likely it’ll be a kid dressed up

To look like Michael Jackson, or come-as-

You-are in fishnet stockings, say, fairy wings,

And a non-aleatory assortment

Of masks—spooky, scary, appassionato—

A tricky walk too along a narrow stretch

Of sand, but a cool place for a beach parade.

Last year I went as a surf board; this year

I’m William Butler Yeats, in a white suit

And a white hat, horned-rimmed glasses, a book

Of poetry, some mystic symbols…

Too cool for words.

The judges guess I’m an owl, a wise

Old owl. Okay. Hoot, mon. An Irish owl,

Fitted, fluted, fated for the night’s fete.


First, two ideas: God will not have his work

Made manifest by cowards—and—Infancy

Conforms to nobody. Second, we decide

It’s sand. First, we sit at the ocean’s edge,

Metaphor of small creation and

Renewal, a big sea of tiny processes:

Land’s edge, breathes this: large rocks turning to sand,

Also a kind of renewal. So sand.

Second, we still live in a haunted house,

And peer out scared into the darkness,

Inexplicable despite Helios,

His chariot, the sound that words make scratched

In sand as, one, the tide snubs them, and two,

The seas seize them, transitory words in

Perdurable sand. So sand wins. Again.

Let’s have a show of hands. Who thinks that God’s

Intensions are made manifest by cowards?

One, two, three hands shoot up. We may have had

Too much to drink…

Besides, one, I’m getting cold; and, two…

Well, it’s true anyway,

That thing about infancy. That Emerson said.

Too true.

(Montauk, New York)


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