In what at least
Seemed anger, the Aquarians in the basement
Had been perfecting a device
For making sense to us
If only briefly, and on pain
Of incommunication ever after.
But look who’s here. Our prodigal
Sunset. Just passing through from Isfahan.
Filled by him, the glass
Disorients. The swallow-flights
Go word by numbskull word
Crashing into irreality,
Plumage and parasites
Plus who knows what of the reptilian,
Till wit turns on the artificial lights
Or heaven changes. The maid,
Silent, pale as any victim,
Comes in, identifies;
Yet brings new silver, gives rise to the joint,
The presidency’s ritual eclipse.
Take. Eat. His body to our lips. The point
Was anger, brother? Love? Dear premises
Vainly exploded, vainly dwelt upon.
Item: the carpet.
Identical bouquets on black, rose-dusted
Face in fifty funeral parlors,
Scentless and shaven, wall-to-wall
Extravagance without variety…
That morning’s buzzing vacuum be fed
By ash of metropolitan evening’s
Smoker inveterate between hot bouts
Of gloating over scrollwork,
The piano (three-legged by then like a thing in a riddle)
Fingered itself provocatively. Tones
Jangling whose tuner slept, moon’s camphor mist
On the parterre compounding
Chromatic muddles which the limpid trot
Flew to construe. Up from camellias
Send them by your great-great-grandfather,
Ghosts in dwarf sateen and miniver
Flitted once more askew
Through Les Sylphides. The fire was dead. Each summer,
While onto white keys miles from here
Warm salt chords kept breaking, snapping the strings,
The carpet—its days numbered—
Hatched another generation
Of strong-jawed, light-besotted saboteurs.
Kept track above the mantel. The cold caught,
One birthday in its shallows, racked
The weak frame, glazed with sleet
Overstuffed aunt and walnut uncle. Book
You could not read. Some utterly
Longed-for present meeting other eyes’
Blue arsenal of homemade elegies,
Duds every one. The deed
Diffused. Your breakfast Mirror put
Late to bed, a fever
Flashing through the veins of linotype:
NIX ON PEACE BID PROPHET STONED
FIVE FEARED DEAD IN BOMBED DWELLING
—Bulletin-pocked columns, molten font
Features would rise from, nose for news
Atwitch, atchoo, God bless you!
Brought to your senses (five feared? not one bit)
Who walking home took in
The ruin. The young linden opposite
Shocked leafless. Item: the March dawn.
Shards of a blackened witness still in place.
The charred ice-sculpture garden
Beams fell upon. The cold blue searching beams.
Then all you sought
No longer, B. came bearing. An arrangement
In time known simply as That June—
Fat snifter filled with morbidest,
Possibly meat-eating flowers,
So hairy-stemmed, red-muscled, not to be pressed.
Pinhead notions underwater, yours,
Quicksilvered them afresh.
You let pass certain telltale prints
Left upon her in the interim
By that winter’s person, where he touched her.
Still in her life now, was he, feeling the dim
Projection of your movie on his sheet?
Feeling how you reached past B. towards him,
Brothers in grievance? But who grieves!
The night she left (“One day you’ll understand”)
You stood under the fruitless tree. The streetlight
Cast false green fires about, a tragic
Carpet of shadows of blossoms, shadows of leaves.
You understood. You would not seek rebirth
As a Dalmatian stud or Tiny Tim.
Discolorations from within, dry film
Run backwards, parching, scorching, to consume
Whatever filled you to the brim,
Fierce tongues, black
Fumes massing forth once more on
Waterstilts that fail them. The
Commissioner unswears his oath. Sea-serpent
Hoses recoil, the siren drowns in choking
Wind. The crowd has thinned to a coven
Rigorously chosen from so many called. Our
Instant trance. The girl’s
Appearance now among us, as foreseen
Naked, frail but fox-eyed, head to toe
(Having passed through the mirror)
Adorned with heavy shreds of ribbon
Sluggish to bleed. She stirs, she moans the name
Adam. And is gone. By her own
Broom swept clean, no, wait, behind this
Drunken backdrop of debris, airquake,
Flame in bloom—a pigeon’s throat
Lifting, the puddle
Healed. To let:
Cream paint, brown ivy, brickflush. Eye
Of the old journalist unwavering
Through gauze. Forty-odd years gone by.
Toy blocks. Church bells, Original vacancy.
O deepening spring.
June 29, 1972