It was an adventure much could be made of: a walk On the shores of the darkest known river, Among the hooded, shoving crowds, by steaming rocks And rows of ruined huts half buried in the muck; Then to the great court with its marble yard Whose emptiness gave him the creeps, and to sit there In the sunken silence of the place and speak Of what he had lost, what he still possessed of his loss, And, then, pulling out all the stops, describing her eyes, Her forehead where the golden light of evening spread, The curve of her neck, the slope of her shoulders, everything Down to her thighs and calves, letting the words come, As if lifted from sleep, to drift upstream, Against the water's will, where all the condemned And pointless labor, stunned by his voice's cadence, Would come to a halt, and even the crazed, disheveled Furies, for the first time, would weep, and the soot-filled Air would clear just enough for her, the lost bride, To step through the image of herself and be seen in the light. As everyone knows, this was the first great poem, Which was followed by days of sitting around In the houses of friends, with his head back, his eyes Closed, trying to will her return, but finding Only himself, again and again, trapped In the chill of his loss, and, finally, Without a word, taking off to wander the hills Outside of town, where he stayed until he had shaken The image of love and put in its place the world As he wished it would be, urging its shape and measure Into speech of such newness that the world was swayed, And trees suddenly appeared in the bare place Where he spoke and lifted their limbs and swept The tender grass with the gowns of their shade, And stones, weightless for once, came and set themselves there, And small animals lay in the miraculous fields of grain And aisles of corn, and slept. The voice of light Had come forth from the body of fire, and each thing Rose from its depths and shone as it never had. And that was the second great poem, Which no one recalls anymore. The third and greatest Came into the world as the world, out of the unsayable, Invisible source of all longing to be; it came As things come that will perish, to be seen or heard Awhile, like the coating of frost or the movement Of wind, and then no more; it came in the middle of sleep Like a door to the infinite, and, circled by flame, Came again at the moment of waking, and, sometimes, Remote and small, it came as a vision with trees By a weaving stream, brushing the bank With their violet shade, with somebody’s limbs Scattered among the matted, mildewed leaves nearby, With his severed head rolling under the waves, Breaking the shifting columns of light into a swirl Of slivers and flecks; it came in a language Untouched by pity, in lines, lavish and dark, Where death is reborn and sent into the world as a gift, So the future, with no voice of its own, nor hope Of ever becoming more than it will be, might mourn.
Unmoved by what the wind does, The windows Are not rattled, nor do the various Areas Of the house make their usual racket– Creak at The joints, trusses, and studs. Instead, They are still. And the maples, Able At times to raise havoc, Evoke Not a sound from their branches Clutches. It’s my night to be rattled, Saddled With spooks. Even the half-moon (Half-man, Half half dark), on the horizon, Lies on Its side casting a fishy light Which alights On my Floor, lavishly lording Its morbid Look over me. Oh I feel dead, Folded Away in my blankets for good, and Forgotten. My room is clammy and cold, Moonhandled And weird. The shivers Wash over Me, shaking my bones, my loose ends Loosen, And I lie sleeping with one eye open, Hoping That nothing, nothing will happen
A man and a woman lay in bed. “Just one more time,” said the man, “just one more time.” “Why do you keep saying that?” said the woman. “Because I never want it to end,” said the man. “What don’t you want to end?” said the woman. “This,” said the man, “this never wanting it to end.”
A rough sound was polished until it became a smoother sound, which was polished until it became music. Then the music was polished until it became the memory of a night in Venice when tears of the sea fell from the Bridge of Sighs, which in turn was polished until it ceased to be and in its place stood the empty home of a heart in trouble. Then suddenly there was sun and the music came back and traffic was moving and off in the distance, at the edge of the city, a long line of clouds appeared, and there was thunder, which, however menacing, would become music, and the memory of what happened after Venice would begin, and what happened after the home of the troubled heart broke in two would also begin.
Imagine a poem that starts with a couple Looking into a valley, seeing their house, the lawn Out back with its wooden chairs, its shady patches of green, Its wooden fence, and beyond the fence the rippled silver sheen Of the local pond, its far side a tangle of sumac, crimson In the fading light. Now imagine somebody reading the poem And thinking, "I never guessed it would be like this," Then slipping it into the back of a book while the oblivious Couple, feeling nothing is lost, not even the white Streak of a flicker's tail that catches their eye, nor the slight Toss of leaves in the wind, shift their gaze to the wooden dome of a nearby hill where the violet spread of dusk begins. But the reader, out for a stroll in the autumn night, with all The imprisoned sounds of nature dying around him, forgets Not only the poem, but where he is, and thinks instead Of a bleak Venetian mirror that hangs in a hall By a curving stair, and how the stars in the sky's black glass Sink down and the sea heaves them ashore like foam. So much is adrift in the ever-opening rooms of elsewhere, He cannot remember whose house it was, or when he was there. Now imagine he sits years later under a lamp And pulls a book from the shelf; the poem drops To his lap. The couple are crossing a field On their way home, still feeling that nothing is lost, That they will continue to live harm-free, sealed In the twilight's amber weather. But how will the reader know, Especially now that he puts the poem, without looking, Back in the book, the book where the poet stares at the sky And says to a blank page, "Where, where in Heaven am I?"