Viking petroglyph

Here is the closing entry for Ancient Light, the 2nd chapter of Stubborn Grew.

I previously posted a bit from the first chapter, for which here is the link.  The one about the "headache of a rational animal" : one of the first poems written for Stubborn Grew.  "Here is the church, here is the steeple..."

The lucky, pickled pescatore from Fisher St., wandering around London, found his houseboat at the last minute.

       The year was sinking down, the perfect day
       was coming to an end – but I almost forgot something!
       I'd found my gifts (for harmonizing charming kids), so 
       I walked to the Thames again, down Chelsea way.
       And in the faint dusk, Orion overhead, found there 
       a miniature church, like a houseboat (Anglercan. 
       St. Stephen's).  Suddenly (inside) I heard the soar 
       of children's voices, caroling.  The door cracked open. 
       Here is the church, here is the steeple. Open the door. . .
       and add your mangy unquintessential to the choir,
       Henry!  (like a Viking petroglyph from Lake Superior). 
       Standing room crowd, glowing candles, voices, higher, higher. . . 
       How lucky I was, to be in Christmas!  London!  – There!

                                                                 1.19.98 (Martin Luther King Day)

Cathedral of St. John (Providence, RI)
(see Wikipedia note regarding its proposed future use)

Ancient Light

It may be possible for a poem to be a record of something mysterious, which can happen to us in the middle of our own quandaries & stupidities, & help us along.  "There but for the grace of God..."  Little signs of something, the "music of what happens" in some better realm.  That's what I try to get across in the following, the next-to-last poem of the second chapter of Stubborn Grew.  More darkness & confusion lie ahead, but I still feel the light lovely touch here.  A sense of closure.  Wish I had a photo of that little painted sign, up in the corner of a courtyard of the Greek Orthodox church in London.  "Ancient Light."  I still wonder what it means.

       Sweet children grow into adultery, and all 
       the aging imperfections.  Embroiled, inveigled. 
       The city blatts with brass-emblasoned 
       thievery.  But if there's providence in the call
       of Bluejay, miming the blue arch of sky – if 
       grinding sinbad violence (so Vico sighed) 
       is geared to pinwheels Ezekiel spied – then 
       I'll add my evidence, proof come what may.
       My Book of Q was sealed. . . retraced my steps 
       to Chelsea.  Christmas shopping. Entered
       a second-hand bookstore on King's Road, 
       about to close for good. In the basement sleeps
       an old dog and a pile of 19th-century prints 
       – little black-white view s– pale touch-up 
       colors barely there.  Five, six. . . stop! 
       Enough for those kids!  One more. . . since
       it's a scene of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul. 
       No.  I leave – I come back later – finally 
       surrender.  Add it to the tally.
       The wallet's empty, the bags are full.
       On the last empty day in London town
       I took a different route from the hotel.
       Up Moscow Road, past the two Greek delis, 
       until it crosses St. Petersburg Mews.  One
       glance to the left: Church of St. Sophia.
       A warm limestone fence sprayed with spiky 
       Byzantine palm-leaf design, bordering dusky 
       gold-brown hue of the bricks.  My Russophilia
       here, here finds its reward. In the morning light
       I stumble into the paved courtyard, burgeoning
       with green spear-fronds (in December).  Turning, 
       I see a faded painted sign, high on the wall.  Ancient Light.

Church of St. Sophia, near St. Petersburgh Mews, London

Albigensian frenglo-angles

So Prince Henry, Ugly Duckling, winds his ever-so-clever Subtilitie of tongue down London way... wheedling & yodeling his mellifluous Thames theme.  It will only deepen and grow darker later, methinks; there be more to face that he hath not yet.  Meanwhile he slithers on, whistling past his own self-consciousness, in the famous Capital... (p.s. the sculpture along the Thames which stimulated Our Hero in such a timely way was Atalanta, by Francis Derwent Wood).

from Ancient Light

       What is this ancientnew lighthearted light
       in a realm of frozen monumental statuettes? 
       Kissed to life by a skittish Provençal quintet 
       named Quitterie?  It was by the Thames we met,
       in Chelsea, across the road from Cheyne Walk; 
       I'd been four days already in the capital, 
       wandering lonely as a crowd.  Near the tall 
       and glittering bridge the houseboats knocked
       against the pier.  We glanced, and looked again, 
       awkward to speak.  I let you go, far up along the bank; 
       passed a statue of a naked woman, rank
       with fleshlier mettle – but it made me try again!
       – caught up with you by the next crossing;
       said something passable and mild; compared 
       our maps, our plans, our lack-of-plans – and fared 
       together into Chelsea. Bluejays began to sing. . .
       It was an alba – Albigensian,
       and guileless. We walked together, 
       barely understood each other –
       beginning again and again
       with friendly frenglo-angles, tongue to tongue 
       – piloting, from there to Leicester Square, 
       between adultery and innocence, aware 
       that freedom gives the lie – the fIrst rung
       on the ladder to those penetrating bells
       (if only we ring true).  Prodigal children, 
       Love is prodigal – more prodigal than sin
       So sang the spendthrift preacher of St. Pauls'.
       And in the maelstrom under Nelson's gnomon 
       (sun gone down, St. Martin-in-the-Fields) 
       granted a graceful Provençal farewell, I sealed      
       (canonical) my Book of Q (Lips Monastery). Gone.

Another rose window

Traffic with a Prince

So, in the Ancient Light, the puritanical Yank on holiday quickly ducks under the pub awning, the royal canopy... begins to blend lustily with the London scene... not without gestures toward some spacier Bluejay Commonwealth.  Foam on tap... (note the nod toward Bruegel picture, Adoration of the Magi, glanced at previously)...

from Ancient Light

       You descend out of your providential princedom
       like an ungainly duckling, marketing tidy judgements 
       on the world's pushed-in pussycat mews – dents
       in your fibrillated penal code – your bitterdom
       reigning down at Prince Eddy's pub.
       And a larger, darker sea roils around the scepter'd 
       specter in the Square.  An intercepted
       Empire pass floats into the end zone – aye,
       there's the rub: will ever pent-up copper pence 
       drift back up Nile, from whence they came? 
       Bluejay, hooded-eyed policeman of the air, hum 
       that undertone again – take up your residence
       in that pussy willow beyond this circle of fixed fears: 
       where Balthasar's honing his Baltic razor
       in a burg of unique scatterbrain-foaming peters 
       hoisting a green shell toward the little Czar
       with Everyman's burgled image poking through the hatch 
       and all the little chicks come chickling chuckling 
       trickling overboard, and Hen's right in there tickling 
       himself beardless into a seven-cornered hat to match;
       for it's busy as Byzantium in that juicy Rome 
       where Christ every Roman is roamin like no man 
       ever wanted to leave that little sofa-ship from Man 
       of Fools, and roll on, Muddy, roll! to Kingdom Come!
       Balthasar was a youngster once, and prodigal. 
       His wisdom's handed on – a bobbing tugboat 
       moored to the heartstrings by a moat
       in the wall of your eye.  So fly, little gal!
       – you're Magdalen in green, by van der 
       Weyden in the pool, reading again, afloat 
       again! – on the floor, rotating note
       by note – and it ain't Peter Pan!

The Magdalen Reading, Rogier van der Weyden (National Gallery)

Power is aristocratic here

The opening line of this section of Ancient Light is historical fact.  Seemed kind of fitting for this meditation on human frailty & Henryesque folly.

       They were playing Henry the 8th when the Globe 
       burned down.  No one to telephone then;
       his line had already gone dead.  Shakespearean 
       turgidity – lot of old bathrobes in a bathtub.
       And I too was tolled before my time. 
       Overdone and overdrawn, the dim librarian 
       tired himself out, flandering over and yon 
       across the expanding metroverse, so trim
       and fat for Christmas – underemployed 
       American turkey lost in the wrong holiday 
       or underwriting some unwritten lawyer's lay: 
       "idle pens lace canyons have enjoyed."
       And his heart finds no rest.  Squandered,
       a life spent prodigal toward no end;
       a father back in Providence, but only pretend; 
       poet-laughingstock, he wandered, wandered,
       happy, happy to be away, but whittled down.
       A splinter from a Thames-borne vegetable crate. 
       Woodchip, waterlogged firewood, too late
       for Roger's project (or the 1666 one).
       And all around, in every swirling neighborhood, 
       the City roared its glorious Time is Now.
       From blueskinned Briton to Imperial Scow 
       swift energies contrived – congealed and flowed –
       a Monument – an image, multiform;
       that one-armed admiral in his tricorn hat 
       astride the tallest pillar in the realm – now 
       that was a magnet (for the photostorm).
       And nothing is real, except this frenzied splurge. 
       The city swallows up the flitting toothpick, 
       disappears him.  Power is aristocratic, here –
       a flash of showering silver bulbs.  A dirge.

Globe Theatre, circa 2003

Shakespeare's Henry VIII

King in Disguise

Ancient Light, cont.  Another meditation on Royalty.  The King in Disguise as Homeless Man from Ireland.  With a side glance toward a majestic building in Providence.  Just about around the corner from the Ladd Observatory (keep your eyes on Orion).

(I was a busker briefly in London back in 1975, playing con geat in the Tube while I awaited my chance to interview with the Stones.)

from Ancient Light

       He lay in the tube tunnel just off Hyde Park, 
       not far from Mayfair, the American Embassy. 
       Under a pyramid of cardboard was he,
       his Irish accent – Belfast maybe? – larking
       everything abowt Lundun. Face invisible, 
       only his arm waved – giving directions 
       to a tribe of booty'd Scandinavians. 
       Your king in disguise – a buskin' Sybil.
       Back in the hometown, down Morris Avenue, 
       above the serene and perfect golden sphere
       of Temple Emmanuel, echoed in the atmosphere,
       the planets – lined up for an evening view,
       one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. . .
       I could see them, bright against the azure; 
       a heavenly anomaly, that would endure 
       no more than a dusk or two. Orion,
       keep your eye on those British loins; 
       even the King of Cats is still a Pushkin, 
       ready to vaporize in the wink of a sun. 
       London's eccentric orbit's like a loon's –
       now you here, him echo over there;
       her echo.  And if you bend over too fast,
       like Raleigh over a puddle, you won't last; 
       you'll get distortions coming up for air,
       like the groan of that doubledeckering by, 
       overloaded with oversize Van der Weyden portraits 
       – I mean average overage Renaissance pates –
       (each one different) under the Flemish snowsky.
       You want to look at yourself in the mirror
       again, Henry? Before you step outside
       and lose yourself in a Bruegel snowslide –
       where bent kids are chalking the proverbial Bronx cheer. . .

Temple Emanu-El, Providence

Ladd Observatory


Ancient Light, continued.  In which Our Hero visits the National Gallery, & sees himself - and history itself - in the mirror of a tyrant.  Memento mori.

       London.  Boomdoom.  Budthud.  Sootfoot.
       No more rambling except by troubled sneaker;
       lost Henry says, I'm here, I'm here, I'm here
       But the maze's thread is a Sargasso root,
       grounded, if at all, in some impenetrable 
       drowning darkness.  Old Roger sailed here 
       with a job to do, to ratify the charter
       for his commonwealth – around the table
       the John Hancocks feathered like peacocks 
       and history quivered, against all odds
       Henry's forehead only gets the nods.
       He's no can-do canoe.  It's on the rocks,
       and schools him in Melancholia.
       That puffy wench beneath the magic square 
       and a black sun – Dürer's duration dere,
       so durable, so fort et dur, forever sighing ahhh. . .
       I ran across her there, across from The Ambassadors 
       in the Gallery, at Trafalgar Square, in the bull's
       eye.  Etched cube, an extra birthmark – spells
       out your kingly name. . . (for sea-worm funnellers).
       Take flight from routine, and you find your heart 
       stays home.  Or part of it.  And cunning Providence 
       with slant-eyed perspective suddenly invents 
       your skull on the canvas, under all the cluttered art
       implements, the dazzling tooled measurements 
       displayed full-face between the subtle hands, 
       impassive faces of those mysterious friends 
       – Holbein's Ambassadors. The tremors are intense;
       fat, squared, football-padded Paddington Bear 
       Octo-Henry is preparing to stir the continental stew; 
       beneath his burgeoning largesse, the music's raw, 
       the ants is marching even now; the skull is there,
       though you won't notice it immediately; 
       Anne's bowling toward her own pinned 
       casket beneath the green-skinned
       grin of the charnel dome, his Principality.
       Square Henry fills the frame, but he won't square 
       this with heaven, no matter how many
       royal portraitors request his fanny
       sitting on the stool of a bleeding Empire.
       The Ambassadors, those friends, divide
       down the middle; the table, with all those tools, 
       begins to split beneath unfolding rolls
       of tablecloth, the panorama unable to hide
       another dimension breaking through the seams; 
       your view must wrench away from view
       to see an ordinary skull stare back at you.
       It's Europe, breaking into splintered beams
       of reformation, into seed-spilled filaments
       of Henry's crosshairs split and double-crossed 
       beneath a diplomatic nod-and-shake, embossed 
       around in smooth doubloons in golden doublets.
       And wavering Henry stood between them, between 
       all these national frame-ups, between home
       and pools of London whirl; his kingdom
       comes apart of all this, his heart's unfelt, unseen.
       A black stone on a white stone.  Vallejo. 
       Anonymous Peruvian.  Or Blackstone
       on a white bull.  What's done
       cannot be undone – only echo, echo, echo. . .
       a free fall into Paris thursdays.  Reigning 
       humour.  Hahaha, cried the gravedigger, 
       skuldugger, ghouldogger, Londonbeggar –
       black's eternal fashion's blood sustaining!

The Ambassadors, Hans Holbein the Younger (National Gallery)

Planes & trains

Ancient Light continues.  Anxious Henry is on the move.  But there's a moment, on the train to Oxford, which brings peace.  A Shakespearean well of well-being.  A moment which only returns again - in very surprising fashion - in the very last pages of Stubborn Grew.

p.s. Ancient Light opens with this epigraph, from The Tempest :

I think he will carry this island home in his pocket and give it to his son for an apple.

       Henry flies to capital – a mini-semi-rotten apple 
       rolls out of Providence on his wife's coattails. 
       The hangar – mangy titanium birdnest – crawls 
       with worms.  He's afraid we might topple
       from the sky – imagines sudden shock – panic! 
       – dismemberment – and in the impersonal 
       gray mirror stretching 40,000 feet below, his soul 
       is nowhere to be found.  Eat a breadstick;
       drink some more white wine.  You'll feel better soon. 
       The airplane drones along, aluminum
       generic cross above unruly orb.  Buzz of some
       inert gas sentence announces distance to London.

       Across the aisle, untimorous children
       scribble with crayons on their travel sketchpads,
       cheering up their nervous Moms and Dads 
       buoyed by something Henry's lost, or forgotten.
       The train ride to Oxford was something else. 
       Profound droning weight of iron travel machine, 
       farmland English backyard a pale moss green 
       in the moist December light, your pulse
       is calm outside of London, Providence 
       might be a way of life, a common sphere, 
       fair, sensible and just – a Hertfordshire 
       in an ovoid Shakespeare's head, a salience.
       Old Roger came here, gathering firewood 
       splinters for the winter poor; and Jeremiah 
       Gould, Newport Quaker, came back to lie 
       under John Gould's Oak, in an apple orchard.

Garden behind Shakespeare's Head, Providence

Ancient Light

The second chapter of the catabatic epic Stubborn Grew is called Ancient Light.  Your esteemed yapper views Ancient Light as a great advance on the tentative projectivities of previous chapter (Shakespeare's Head).   Ancient Light displays a real narrative-organic unity, it tells a story straight on.  Moreover it steps into deep waters of Western Civ - origins of the Reformation, the role of Henry VIII and Tudor regime in ending of Middle Ages... while carrying on with another, more comically-providential "Henry".  It's like a snow-globe or microcosm of the poem in its entirety, and more.

We happen to live on a one-blocker in Providence called Fisher Street - a wonderful little street, with wonderful neighbors we will be sorry to leave behind on our voyage to Minneapolis (see closing line of this section!)...  So here's more of the "pickled pescatore", fishing again on Fisher.

from Ancient Light

       The New Year arrived. . . babbling in the drink. 
       No one but no one was ready for the flood,
       the jovial frenzy was times squared 
       even a moving Titanic had no time to sink!
       Henry was homebound again in Providence, 
       supine with a backache on his favorite couch; 
       tabled at foot level – a little clay conch,
       a toy fisherman's coracle – his mother's hands
       fecitLucky, christened on the bow.
       A contemplative, maybe pickled, pescatore
       casting his rod in the unmoulded mare
       Lucky – lucky to come up with. . . zero. 
       Bruegel. Adoration of the Kings.  1564.
       In the National Gallery in the heart of London 
       in the hands of black Balthasar in a green 
       conch on a gold nef.   Is that a monkey there?
       And the scrawny peasants and the bourgeois tubs 
       staring at all that gold and frankincense, miraculous! 
       O clever, clever, clever calculation – and finesse, too!
       The has-been, burnt-out Wise Men ignore the rubes 
       meanwhile – have eyes only for the grinning pug 
       hidden in swaths of shrinking violet or 
       marigold blue (I can't remember). . . for He 
       shall Rule the Nations – snug as a bug in a rug.
       And Henry. . . what about Henry?  Is he ever 
       coming around again?  I wonder.
       Around Epiphany, his mind began to wander, 
       they said.  Still have a Q in his quiver?
      On Twelfth Night he remembered his grandfather's 
       birthday.  Granddad, Builder of Grain Elevator, 
       père apparent of his mother – of the
       grainstock of generations, ruler.
       Hardy pioneer, flower grower. 
       Opera lover.
       Mother's middle name – Elvira. 
       Clay vine of Ravlin violin – è vero.
       The higher you go the more grain implodes. 
       Spontaneous combustion fertilizer 
       mounts to flood tide and none the wiser,
       the straight line of inheritance erodes
       and out of a stumped Henry begins to drift 
       an example of poor penmanship.  Bark
       of a splintered retriever out of work
       and out of time into London's night shift.
       So many neighborhoods of rotisserie syllables! 
       Nobody needs your babytalk victories, your 
       bosky driftwood, boy.  Work another hour – or 
       metro enthused back homeless to Minneapolis! 

Lucky (MN 7)

John Ravlin, builder of grain elevators

Adoration of the Kings (Pieter Bruegel the Elder; National Gallery, London)

End of a chapter

So here we arrive at the conclusion to the first chapter of Stubborn Grew.  As you might sense, hometown Hamlet is about to head to London (in the next chapter, called Ancient Light).  Farewell, sweet-&-sour Prince!


It was only a moment coming round.
Bowled over, on the Terrace.
And then she got mad, got gone –
and he eloped with his pen –

witch! Falcon Ace! –
of which he was deeply fond. 
Some said he drowned. 
Someone – a siren cantatrice –

mare of the night, see –
might rob his rich rhyme 
of all reason. . . sometime. 
What will be, will be.

Repentance is all.


The lights went up inside, then outside,
then the stars came out and rewarded everyone 
with a regular astrolabe – 'Swounds!
How elegant, my dear malady! – So rude.

It was the story of a lifetime, I'd say,
said someone.  Anonymous was an Indian?
Another.  Anyone for quoits?  Nines?
I'll pass over the water, thanks. – I'll say!

The crowd left, and you still there, your eyes 
on me – I was too anxious to enjoy.
Life, love, that's what I say,
said Bloom. Flowers and dies and. . .

summer sun on the glinting flow.  Thames
time stems the last of the season;
the words gather in my heart. . . run, run!
So they rose and ran (evening whispering flame).

                                            5.26.97 (Memorial Day)

Gondolas in Providence River

Ladd Observatory

Inching down the hill

So we're closing in now on the conclusion of Stubborn's first chapter (Shakespeare's Head).  Perhaps you'll hear some of the persistent motifs starting to cluster & reverberate.  The epic Hamlet-ham Henry engaging with his local town - but inwardly fractured, looking off into the distance (geographical, temporal, psychological).  There's a nervous affinity between the nostalgic longing for a "drowned" past, and the literary "dive" into its recapitulation.  Something, or somebody, has to give - and they do, eventually.  There are these interventions... part of the plot to come.

from Shakespeare's Head

The beautiful day goes inching down the hill,
and the city slowly turns to salt, a cup of pink sediment 
for the archaeologists (– you know what I meant).
Our way of marking time is some kind of alarming fire drill

or lucky lie.  Booked up, full of libraries, 
Orpheus starts, doubling back toward midnight. 
He's not Dr. Faust, nor the last erring knight 
to give it all up for ghost-dance Eurydice –

he's just a January puss, a chilly two-edged blade, 
a marvel of a marred Marlowe on the line
to Hell and back; a ghostwriter on a pinhead 
twisted into the dying-down upside season.

And while the ice-cubed chalice cracks,
and the fortunate bluejays whistle the lowdown,
and Cardinal Eccles is among the asters flown, 
he'll only close his eyes. . . until mourning breaks

them open.  Atlantis sleeps there;
the gondola floats Venice leaning backward 
into the glazed rainbow canoe; Lord,
help him lift her into the air now,

the grief song, the whole harmless moan. . . 
motionless almost, but not like stone,
the meadow grass, the far-off oaks, the drone 
of the cicadas, the breathing animals. . . all one.


What then is the measure of the epic summer?
Love is strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave
Broken on the back of a lie – like the seventh wave, 
the crushed coracle on the beach. . . (a prairie schooner).

Park on ridge of Seekonk River, Providence

"The Hannah" ship sculpture, Burnside Park

Russian clay semaphore

Sources are elusive, not so pin-pointable.  I do know the Burago/Monas translation of Osip Mandelstam's collected poems, published by SUNY Press in the 1970s, was a model for Stubborn style.  Mandelstam was transmorphed into colloquial American - almost too breezy & familiar.  But I knew in the beginning that if I was going to write an "epic" I had to open up, let fly.  The Monas/Burago version gave me a clue.

Which reminds me of another facet.  You may have noticed the emphasis on "clay" and "earth" in these opening salvos.  This of course has something to do with gravity, Orpheus, & going down in order to come back up... but a deeper signal came from Mandelstam's late Voronezh poems, which are suffused with a very tender, empathetic & telepathic transmission of Russian "black earth".

(Locals may notice a reference to the "Waterfire" summer night festivals, which were starting to rev up in downtown Providence in the late '90s.)

from Shakespeare's Head

The little town hovered over the partying rivers, 
dangled fishline and docks, the harbor boats. 
Buildings rose and were gnomon routes
for the hobo sun; goldminers, pearldivers

all sent what they had for the jewelry works
and the rings glistened and glowed at the wedding. 
And if you were Hamlet, you'd perch on the pier – sling 
arrows toward the industrial pinnacle – until sparks

catch fire, all over that flagrant ingle.
All over the river, drums boom midsummer.
Bells tingle, feet slide across clay to the tambor 
shakes. . . Unmourned, you're heading for the jungle.

Boat landing near Point St. Bridge, Providence River

Osip Mandelstam

Rose with hose

Some of you dear dauntless readers may be wondering - whence the curious title Stubborn Grew?  That's an easy one.  We're still in the first chapter of the poem, called "Shakespeare's Head" (- name of Providence building, remember?  It's the "headache of a rational animal" - recall I was reading Aristotle's Poetics at the time, which is an analysis of tragic dramatic poetry.  Thus the poet plays an antic-tragic Hamlet living in a hamlet.)

"Stubborn grew" is part of the last line in the first section below.  "The rose", of course, is love, & poetry, & all... it's also "Little Rhody"...

This was one of the first sections of the poem written.  James Ravlin was my maternal uncle, father of Juliet.  A handsome, rakish raconteur - something Irish in him from both sides of family.  A Navy vet of WW2, served on a battleship in the Pacific.  Worked as lawyer in Louisville, KY for the cigarette companies.  Married, divorced, drank, & later in life lived with Agnes Eisenberger, across the street from Lincoln Center.  Agnes was a musical agent, originally from Vienna, for such figures as flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, et al.

On Dec. 7, 1971 (Pearl Harbor Day), his daughter Juliet jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was his birthday.

                in memoriam James N. Ravlin, 1912-1997

Light quick mosquitoes speed flitter
and slide at latter-day angle easily 
mounting every corniced ingle 
and fuming, spuming, better, better and better.

Mosquitoes there were in Saskatchewan, 
where you were born, between 
Granddad's grain
elevators, Grandma's steel-eyed span.

Those clever, clever lips hovered
in camel smoke
like a Cheshire hookah, smiled. 
And tumbled out an accent stranger

and stranger. What flute
troubled earth to bear him?
The bare tongue-footed ague of him?
The sweet-eyed flourish, the high note

of his Viennese liner?  Where now, 
sailor man, handsome PT-boat boy-o? 
He sleeps in his long canoe.  He is 
scattered. . . a late Minnesota snow.

Unmoored from the height of land, 
drifting from Lawrentian divide, 
blueberry, pine, air-filled
cliff, the taste of iron.

The cherry trees and the dogwood 
bloom now in this sinner-town.
Pale green sprays tender
over the graveyard.

Soon come the clever mosquitoes,
the new swarms.  I inch along.
A snail, with prairie on my tongue. 
Hesitant, grieving, stubborn grew, the rose.


The story begins when the rose turns to clay.
Slippery, niggling, the clay wriggled, sly and monotonous.
And the little hamlet followed, semi-conscious,
not saying what to do, either, nor doing what to say.

The rose inched off into the deep, so murmurous, 
and the Prince – well, the Prince did a lie burial 
off the stern end of the prow. . . So mercurial, 
that one! – like a cow-catcher off a caboose.

Quite realistic it was, too.  The waves were majestic 
purple mountains, and he went down and down, 
without a line, without an inkling –
it was a swoon sans the usual royal encaustum (to make it stick).

That quick-fingered ingle of his made such an impression 
he didn't dare exhale–inhaling was out of the question –
so he simply inched his way across that little island,
eyes closed, swimming like a swami, sorely moribund.

And lurking here and there for the entrance underwater. 
The truth was it was sub rosa–so they slay, 
anyway – that's the tragedy;
he was probably pretty prodigal, and definitely fatter,

they all agreed.  Well, it was nice knowing him.
Let's go have a wake-me-up.
These triple plays are all made up,
they seem to me. We inched our way around the scrim

and got out of there before the heavy snow fell.
Good night, dear diary.
Good night. Good night, lady.
Good knight – please save me! I've been playing like hell!

Where did we see that one?  Turn it off.
The couch inched down toward the muddy river, slowly,
slowly.  What sort of shofar blows so melancholy? 
The wind. . . inhale.  The wind plays rough.

            in memoriam Juliet Ravlin, 1952-1972

She was light on her feet,
came like somebody's pickpocket, 
a reedy bulb in a clay socket, 
springing complete

from the seasoned forehead.
She was light, she was twenty-two
just-once, and so were you;
and then she was wed,

or dead, or had – and Hamlet 
went mad. . .
He was still an undergrad 
up there on the hill, collegiate,

collecting himself for the big leap 
just as she took to the air;
she wasn't anywhere,
and he became – a creep.

She was his Golden Gate, 
everybody remarked; 
his life was parked 
there, checkmate.

Little they knew it was his birthday. 
Sail on, boy-o, toward Cuba;
these black squares from Yoruba 
yoo-hoo the voodoo.  The king must die.

Or so they said.  Hamlet's a masquerade, 
said Felix.  Drive any street,
you're bound to meet.
You're bound.  To meet.  And.  Fade.

So the woods came to the dunce, the forest 
became the aptest stern mast, and
Hamlet became himself.  Understand?
The end.  The grim wonder was all for the best.