It tries too hard to turn to something else: away.
Away and bottom still beyond the knot,
the creature climbs toward the light,
her leap, an alchemy:
silver unto gold.
crinkled all about.
Million mile amnesia.
a flash of tooth,
then placid lips close over any sign of youth . . .
. . . as if the fish had never been.
-the fisher wonders:
The line is limp
as if . . .
for all the years of it,
nothing at its other end.
A flash of recognition:
she leaps another time,
not knowing if what held her holds.
Silver fish scales golden ladder
a sunbeam at a time,
and all the rungs of memory -
breaks air an instant.
The line has held
and as she leaps, it claims her,
a thunder clap.
Arrested in her flight,
she drops deadweight into the bucket sea-
fish to air to gold to water,
Of the gold,
an afterglow centered in the thumb.
Did it happen?
Was she really there?
Air turns to air once more,
the fisherman to memory,
pig-a-back the job at hand,
one slender monofilament insisting: no!
and memory, another plastic,
refusing to let go.
my pretty lovely,
so flying and so softly spun,
you seemed the air to me.
So high and free,
so very near the sun,
my tears dissolve the earth’s connection.
The line my hands are holding:
to limit freedom at its height,
impossible without restraint-
the line between us,
subtle and so gossamer.
There, it glinted,
there! So very real.
Real . . .
The hook is realer.
Tangerine transfusion from the fastened lip,
bleeds unreckoned into the larger blue.
The sea - as wide as weakness -
sucks the strength without a hunger.
Tired, the hooked,
and tiring even more,
the line grows stronger,
shortening toward the bobber boat.
I’ve got her, cries the fisherman,
raping at dead weight,
dragging mystery toward the kitchen
-on his mind is steak.
Slaughter, separate from supper,
passion with a knife,
the knife . . .
. . . the knife is ready
held tight between the skinless thumb,
and vendetta fingers -
five Sicilian brothers
waiting for their sister to come home.
The other hand around the rod
is closing on the lover’s throat.
The rod’s erect,
the reel is angry.
Come, my dear, come, come.
She hears the music of the end,
the bowstring whine of gut
still lean and taut from her weight alone,
hears the rhythm of the reel
and tries to run once more
-provoking lust to snatch still harder-
but can’t . . .
. . . is free at last
surrendered with the last of blood:
quicksilver nearing zero-
and two dollars worth of ice.
(a virgin: never dead before)
betrayed and penetrated,
(it’s time now to give in, enjoy)
rests her weight upon the line,
toward the bottom of the boat.
The whore! I see her in the water!
She gave me quite a fight.
The captain, ready with the gaff,
the lover, in his rented swivel chair,
seize her from the water.
The maiden’s heartbeat
is faint and futile as a final cry of rape.
Her breath is fear, yet sounds like passion
at the very end.
Her swoon is now complete.
Her swain is prickled with his heat.
His blood pounds within his thumb.
is left alone with her.
He ponders . . .
. . . while he does,
she pales and sheds her rainbow.
Her eyes turn glassy from the air,
She’s turned to meat.
He lusts at memory for a moment,
then dries the little sweat
and goes forward for a beer,
and band aids.
The captain’s seen it all before,
surgically removes the hook
and tidies up the gear.
He and the mate carry her to the ice
and lay her out within the cold.
The mate disinfects the deck
with sea water and a stiff brush.
Returning with his second beer,
a badge of gauze and Vaseline upon his thumb,
the lover is confused.
The deck, shipshape,
of scales and blood
it all might not have happened.
Then there would be hope.
The mate calls him to the ice chest
for the viewing,
opens it . .
I’ve lost her. There she is.
The smell . . . it must wash off !
Time to go home.
The sea is empty.
It is over.
®COPYRIGHT 1974. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
A young stone,
one of many children of an old boulder,
spawn of older mountain,
now down upon its knees-
bald and manifold . . .
bearing remnant wrinkle tracery of birth
and at least one fragment manuscript
of an excellent map of home,
lies abed in stream
growing algaebeard in waterfeast,
moss in waterfamine.
It rains upon the rains.
Rains fall upon the flood,
are gargled by the earth.
Sky floods upon ground floods;
sky has more to shed than earth can neatly hold.
The stone moves.
Stripped naked once again,
clean cut and round,
then dizzy, as if head
instead of merely head sized.
Bodiless tumbler tumbles,
cavorts tagalong with sea drawn kin,
past reluctant monoliths,
more slowly mountain pushed
for the moment,
pulled more down and on.
The roar below the flood
a symphony of touching, moving things
many many more than many,
billiards and billiards and billiards -
for the dying father behind,
obedient to the insistent mother below
calling them home once more
as time itself coursing down the hourglass,
with water as its only answer,
gravity its throat,
and no one there to hear.
There are waterfalls where water tiptoed,
now taking giant steps
on escalators gone amok:
threads, ribbons, ropes and trickles,
drips and leaks and spurts,
rocklocked, mosslipped pools and puddles,
now torrents -
permutations flowing without error,
engineered and executed
one way with the water,
one way only-
The young stone -
spinning, nearly swimming -
leaps with the wildness of the water,
but not to air -
there is none,
not even in the air.
It is water’s reign upon the earth,
obeying only gravity.
Stone spins out
as far as down,
strikes a larger, harder stone,
barely chipping it;
the tumbler splits and rolls no more.
When the flood has gone,
and the brown has left the water,
when the stream and pools
are reasonable once more,
I come to fish,
or not to fish,
to wade among the smooth young stones . . .
and razor rocks!
Blood streaming down the sole of my bare foot,
hurts my eye at first
more than the rest of me.
The pain is rattlesnake:
having struck it winds itself again
as I look to see what I have lost,
which no one else had ever seen before.
As I saw Rome once,
and never once again,
in a tiny ancient onyx bust -
in stone a woman
so lovely that in touching her
she haunted me with her foreverness . . .
If she were that to me -
her flesh in onyx in my hand,
her eyes to my adoring eyes -
so did indeed the rest of Rome exist
and I knew it in that moment
in the museum with my friend.
Upon the fresh cleft stone that slashed me
where the blood it let from me
flows onto its crystal clotting,
upon its regularity there is a seam,
a mate to the slash it made in me
the size and shape of my fresh wound
as if my foot and it had once been one
Upon that mirrored gash
where the blood it took from me
clots dark upon its fractured grayness
there is a seam running diagonally
the size and shape of my fresh wound,
more the color of my clotting blood
a moment past
more the hue of my flowing blood
than ribbons or a flag
In my pain there is a thrill
of familial recognition.
one leaf of many,
time stripping bare the tree of eons.
I sit, faint and swiftly bleeding,
alone beside my wound’s companion.
now freshened with its borrowed blood,
the low west sun upon it . . .
darkening . . .
I touch it with my foot
to see if it’s still flowing.
smoother than the stone around it,
yet sticky moist,
throbbing, it pulses,
as I’m getting lost in time
and further from the dimming day.
The stone’s wound -
. . .or prisoner?
Should I honor its sanctuary?
Or set it free?
These token tools I carry
would break upon it;
with harder tools from home,
what would I be freeing
As I touch it with my hand
there is no seam
between the stone and our wound.
It is all one of a piece
older than any city I ever knew the name of,
yet here . . .
No way to take the whole thing home;
my brother is too heavy
for this limping man.
No way I’d really want to:
put it on the mantel,
in a case,
into the basement.
That is entropy.
Some things are meant to be
just where you find them.
The years have flown,
the day is swiftly fleeing,
and I with it
albeit at a hobble,
a Sphinx at twilight.
I will return each noon
until it goes away,
or I do.
I hate to see mountains come to their knees.
Young Rome was my limit in time
when my onyx woman beckoned,
showed me the way to come with her
away from the museum
where she was serving time,
and I was killing it.
Certainly I went with her;
she could not come to me.
Whose blood, congealed,
has mixed with mine,
I am become blood brother
to an ancient dying mountain
and am suddenly very tired.
How far in time can I now go
to see older brother young,
crowned with laurel,
Mountain has come to me -
as the trout swims . . .
Stars that died as mountain was born
beamed out their epitaphs,
which we have not read yet.
Mountain has come to me.
How far can I go to mountain?
®COPYRIGHT 1972. ALL RIGHTS
NOTE OR NOTES ON THE WASTELAND
A large tree fell in the forest. No one was there to hear
it fall. We know it fell, because
its massive carcass lies there still mouldering. Was there
no sound when it fell because there was no one there to hear?
There was one more element to the occurrence. The tree
struck a deaf idiot wandering through the wood, crushing him to death. Was
there still sound, or no sound, no one else hearing, not hearing? Was there
something like the sound of a tree crashing in the mind of the victim as he was
The following note or notes
was found in the victim’s pocket.
The paper was yellow with age
and wrinkled with much carrying.
“There is an awful Void, and that Void is Shit.
Out of misery, company.
Out of company, more misery.
Words, words! I am mobbed by words.
Bombarded, not by random missiles missing,
but by words well aimed, homing true.
It’s over - dead, not dead.
With my nails, I dig it up once more, it’s dead again,
then once more not dead.”
The contagion of poetry with age. I have caught from what
made me merely uncomfortable what now sickens me with life. I have caught not
what I will die from, but what I must live with. I am alive with the maggots of
other life, not mine, which are now all that moves of me.
(But there is still a me!), I say quietly. I say I am not
and the dung of less fertile insects, that distant life of
other on me.
I, Tiresias, queer old man with wrinkled dugs,
perceive the scene, and foretell the rest.
I, too await the unexpected guest
and, queer no more, I age with zest.
Free in the rattling mold
I shrink as I grow old.
All I know of space and time
is what is left
when filled with ancient rhyme.
Tough shit, Eliot.
Though shit, world.
Through shit, people.
If there are no words, there are no people.
If there are no people, there is no world.
Go home, Eliot.
Tough Shit, you have no home except in words.
You sonofabitch. If I knew where your words had been, I
would have robbed you of them before they grew and married (what’d you get
married for if you didn’t want children?)
and spawned the many sighs and silences, and died silently
with them within me instead of
of them. Poison the well! There is no water.
Slough, you meat of you, dead Eliot! Essence that hast
never been. (or never wert)
(or something) Believe, ye who cannot. Believe and be free
to write or withhold The Wasteland.
No one is using the land. It is the waste land.
No one admits he knows how to use the land. It is still the
It is the People who do not use (and say they do, and
can’t) the land.
It is still, nevertheless, the waste land of wasted people.
We are waiting, we say self-consciously:
To use the water,
To use the land,
To hold the wetness,
To build the sand,
To smell the sweetness,
To breathe the freshness,
To touch the pulse,
To quicken the hand,
To hear . . .
to hear . . .
We are waiting to hear:
that we need,
what we need,
who we need,
when we need,
why we need,
and where we will fill the need.
We are thirsty for all of this.
We are waiting to hear
(I think drip drop)
how to drink,
and what to drink,
and the rest . . .
YOU KNOW !!!
(but there is still no water)
My thirst creates a Trinity:
Myself, whom I cannot know,
Yourself, whom I cannot touch,
And the mirage who walks always beside you.
The strength of my thirst creates the wasteland. (Where is
my England in it?) And deafens me.
April is the cruelest date.
(I am born in April, too.)
Equally January and July.
(When lilacs fade, I start to die.)
Till crocus is the longest wait.
(Before I die, I start to hate.)
April is the cruelest, true,
when endless resurrection’s due.
Is boredom the waste? (It fills the land.)
Orderliness? (It fills the boredom.)
Orderly boredom? (It fills us.)
The boredom of order? (up,)
The orderly boredom of bored orderliness? (up to here)
Or the symptom (merely?) of the waiting
for the Word from the Void
and the solution (the only?)
to what to fill the waiting with?
My nerves are bad tonight.
(Who was that corpse I saw you plant last Spring?)
(That was no corpse, that was my life.)
My nerves are growing worse.
(Will it bloom this year?)
(And next and next and next and next and next and next