October 30, 2019KR OnlinePoetry

Two Poems

At Road’s End, Lincoln City, Oregon

The poem below is inspired by the form of a motet, a music composition for multiple voices. The poem is for three voices. All voices read simultaneously. The first voice reads only the first line of a stanza, then proceeds to the first line of the next; the second voice reads only the second line of a stanza, then proceeds to the second line of the next; the third voice reads the third line of the stanza. A “•” indicates that specific voice should remain silent for that stanza. The third voice reads Emily Dickinson’s poem 656.

I


I started Early—Took my Dog—

That last day I threw the sheets in the dryer and walked
                                                            The early gray sea,
        And visited the Sea—

to the sea. The gray day’s glanced sun, skewed by water,
lanced by light. Askew. Coarse. Bare but where crowned in silver
I started Early—Took my Dog—And visited the Sea—

made water seem like hauberk, coarse, bare, unwieldy.
and there rippling like a pinch of talc under breath.

Barnacle waged marriage to lichen on the waist

of the rock I sat on, and in a pool by my feet,
    Ascetic in its solidity, the sea stark

a pale ochre starfish en-penché.              The pearl-scud horizon
against the soft star of my splayed hand,
The Mermaids in the Basement Came out to look at me—

had an aureole against it broad, pale as blanched
                        broad as the plains of the hand—
And Frigates—in the Upper Floor Extended

lettuce, veined in shreds and ridges of curd-dense cloud.
lined like a hand—the sea a hand in my hand
Hempen Hands—presuming Me to be a Mouse—

Long sea, long-looked sea so long looked at, looked at long,
flexing His fingers—one by one by one by one
Aground—                              opon the Sands—

turned unreal, solid, a word in the mouth of my eyes,
by one by one—                                              Bariolage—

repeating over and over and over—

gray sea dull sea stone sea deep sea blown sea steep sea smooth sea old sea
sea dull sea stone sea steel sea deep sea blown sea steep sea smooth sea lulled

lulled sea webbed sea-wet sea-steeped sea-blown sea-lulled sea-tilled sea-tolled
old sea lulled sea webbed sea wet sea steeped sea blown sea tilled sea tolled sea

sea-cleft sea-full tilling away, tolling away, counting, falling, counting
cleft sea full sea tilled sea tolled sea falling, counting, full, full—

away the silence.

So full of meaning as to lack any. Or I
     fills my hand, a hand in my hand—
But no Man moved Me—till the Tide Went past

was, and this lack of it brought me back to the web of it.
                                and my hand shakes.
my simple Shoe—                                and past my Apron—

Along shore each succeeding wave deposited,

and my Belt—and past my Boddice—too

and arranged in its own shape thousands of infant
My hand shakes, and the ocean takes it.
And made as He would eat me up—as wholly as a Dew

crabs, infant limbs, tattered shells, kelp,
          My hand shook; my grandfather held it.
Opon a Dandelion’s sleeve—

eggs, bladders, all knitted into a quilt, by powdery
                                   My hand shakes, the other takes it.
And then—I started—too—

water in which, under which, large crabs shone silver
Only the hand holds the hand.

and squirmed and exposed their soft pale abdomens

and mounted each other.


Only the hand holds the hand pouring away.

Climbing the stairs back to the road, I meet you.

I touch you. We go back to the beach. We sit there,
I touched your hand.
                        No Man moved Me—Till the Tide went past—

on gnarled driftwood. The wind, an insomniac,
I tell you about my grandfather.

wrinkles and wreathes the sea.
A seagull with a Thales-look surveys with us


the unmade bed of the sea.

 

II


And He—He followed—close behind—I felt His Silver Heel


The house was locked when the sun was a wax seal.
Close behind—I felt His Silver Heel

Behind the golf course at Neskowin, behind lines

Opon my Ancle—

of bog anemones fringing Little Nestucca,
Between a broken rank of firs (one hollowed of

opposite the cheese factory at Tillamook closed
a sudden within a dysentery of light),
I felt his Silver Heel Opon my Ancle—close

for redesign, behind Nehalem, opposite Rite Aid;
opposite Farmer’s Creek Market Place selling bulbs,
behind—


jam, daffodils, rockfish; behind Nehalem,

driving to the mouth of the Columbia,
and finally, behind the slough in Astoria,

a wedge of, nail of, or patch of the Pacific is glimpsed—
dots of, an arc of, or a line of the Pacific was glimpsed,

never unmoving—
whole as a dew—
I felt His Silver Heel Opon my Ancle—



Then My Shoes Would overflow with Pearl—

its silver heel never unmoving, dented,
his silver hand unmoving, dented—

denting the things it touches—

Until We met the Solid Town—No One He seemed to know—



And bowing—with a Mighty look—At me—The Sea withdrew—

“Do not offer outdoor seating when the tide’s high,”
That morning I started early, threw the sheets in

hisses our waitress at her colleague. “The water
the dryer, and walked down to the heavy sea.

“can move right under the table.” Then to us,
Askew, long-looked, long-faced, aground upon

“Today’s special: clams. Tomorrow’s special, also clams.
the sands, I walked down to the dewy sea falling

“Surprise! Here’s some bread. What can I get you?” Our knees
into sea. “Everybody’s lonely,” my grandfather

touch. The table, vast. Shimmering, a brown duck etches
wrote in his last letter, “There’s no meaning.” That morning

circles around a nodding balize counting away
I watched the deep sea, full sea, old sea falling away,

the old creaking sea.
rising, tolling away the old creaking sea.

 

Gerard Manley Hopkins Drafts the Light

. . . I am writing a popular account of Light and the Ether . . . and my hope is to explain things thoroughly and make the matter, as far as I go in it, perfectly intelligible.
     –Hopkins

Empedocles taught fire behind the eye: the eye’s diaphanous membrane lets loose leaves of light, which congregate to the perceived body. Plato, to a degree, agrees: fire, fawn-fire, leaps from forests in the deep eye, mingles with sunlight, erects a Body of Vision: a sill, swelling and shriveling, ruled by swivels of soul, where things touched with ghost—body, body of a boy, the beauty of him—“enter seer through the eyes.” But the eye is a limb of the mind, and the mind is eyes of Christ. Channels to teeming charnel: whiskers on barleystalks and river’s skin two million brushstrokes, boys lanky as barleystalks; sea flashing silver, coiled tiger; boys with striped socks and damp lips, Malebranche in laps, under an ash; and a blot on the long ash, and blond-down burls of thigh, and its rushes, and its moles, and the fruit on the ash, the hitch and plait of the shirt taut in the teeth, the slip of hip, and it’s a thrush on the ash when the eye is a hand of flesh and the hand fills the hand fills To Aristotle, light is satiation (Actuality) of a medium blindly wishing (Potentiality) transparency; objects with potentiality to color, when in light, attain actuality to color. Color, via air, enters the glassy nave of the eye, and therein rides blood down to heart, the gatherer-of-senses, the Sensus communis. Vision, says Aristotle, is the soul of the eye, the Final Cause, breathing purpose into animal.

But the eye is a branch of mind The ancients were wrong: soul witnesses light, mote among mote, but does not forge it. Light performs out of doors. How, then, the sojourn in the eye? Look—boys dive into the Liffey; they float there, skin The tiger ocean reels in river and with it a garland of ripening boys. Space intervening the eye and burl what it sees is not empty, being infused with such riparian fluid, the Ether, which bears light just as water bears boys to the sea. Vision happens in a kind of estuary: the eye is limb of the  The ethereal medium, posits Newton, is far more rarefied than air, more elastic, and upon contact vibrates more minutely: the vibrations of air “made by a man’s ordinary voice succeeding at more than half a foot or a foot distance, but those of ether at a less distance than the hundredth-thousandth part of an inch.” Ether palpitates, expanding and compressing: when crumbs of light take compressed ether-parts, the denseness brought about by compression Reflects light; when ether expands, light sluices into interstice between two vibrations (as the drop of the foot through an imagined step), and is Refracted. Vision, then, is a happening in mingles of ether and sparked flesh. In the eye’s proscenium, the Retina, is the sheer meshing (like pithwork under an orange rind) of the ends, or Capillamenta, of the Optic Nerve. Light sets these pulsing, and the nerve carries vibration into the sensorium of the brain, which translates movement to color, to vision, vision of the beauty of a boy, vision of the beauty of this vision of a boy.

But ether is so rarefied as to be invisible, and still ether folds light. One sees light but not ether. Where, then, ends ether; where begins light? Put another way: ether is self, say, and light desire. Is desire self? Certainly not, yet each acts upon the other. Lord, why does my desire make me in your eyes? When one is desirous, what is meant is “I am alight in desire, light with desire, heavy with it,” inside all that yearning, self and desire intertwined. Carrying this through, then: ether is a thing forever alight with desire; take light away, and there is no need for ether. Yet, light propagates. So, something shall bear it.