A FULL MOON AT MIDNIGHT, ROSH HASHONEH
is a paean to relief and ecstasy
man's poem of course—the electric ah!
the long stream arcing a high rainbow
the spotlight moon, a covenant between
body and the earth's.
think of Li Po smiling
on Green Mountain and can hear Rumi
on rapture—drink my brother he calls to me,
of the elephant loosening a great ebullient
that floats a river past your house and drops
so immense you could build a hut from them
the shore to shelter your children.
Think of your child pedaling under your hand
and of a sudden—it just happens—you let go
and he's off on his own, free for that first
the achieve of, the mastery of the child.
(Hopkins of course.) See the stalwart trees in
the stones resting in the driveway, the cat
on the front porch, the smear of blood
on the lion's mouth sitting over his fresh
the morning paper and its stories shouting
for attention. The plenitude of it all.
somewhere a friend is dreaming of me, or someone
a stranger is peeing ecstatic under the same
A covenant then between us.
or not. It is no matter.
wasn't always so. It was a white hot
'69 Corvette once or in 1954 a new
T-Bird sleek and ebony passing you
with wild contempt, or even a Kaiser
convertible in 1952, rose-colored
knight of peculiar countenance striding
on Sunrise highway east towards Montauk
and the sea. Heads did turn in strange surmise.
beauty ages, pal,
and even the best lines go soft, the sweetest
(let's face it) cannot hold up. Service it
though you will, garage it against life's
follow every precaution — you can never
do enough. Either fatigue finally sets in —
or boredom. Salute their former dignity
or stash them in a museum, or write
encomia remembering them fondly
or sing of glories (like the ancient poets)
that inevitably go to ruin.
know the course:
the child becomes a man, survives
to three score ten, more or less, and then
becomes a child again, or worse.
Soon he's merely memory and then a blank.
Listen up. The day is calling, and the night.
Damn the clichés. Full speed ahead.
Pull out all the stops. Just drive the poet
"into something rich and strange" —
the damn thing straight and on the road.
REPUBLIC OF IMPERISHABLE LINES
see the world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower
world is charged with the grandeur of God
clouds of glory do we come.
in his morning's orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him
is beauty. Energy is eternal delight.
some revelation is at hand
I am dumb to tell
he on honeydew hath fed and drunk the milk of paradise.
frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
shall say I am not the happy genius of my household?
never did betray the heart that loved her
that Aprill with his shoures soote
heart in hiding stirred for a bird—
achieve of, the mastery of the thing!
thou light wing'd Dryad of the trees singest of summer in full-throated ease
at my back I always hear Time's winged chariot hurrying near
lone and level sands stretch far away.
is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land
robin redbreast in a cage puts all heaven in a rage
again would birds song be the same
bring the eternal note of sadness in
ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang
suffering they were never wrong, the Old Masters
ma and pa they fuck you up, they don't mean to but they do.
smiled at him but he stuck out his tongue and called me nigger.
milk of dawn we drink it at dusk we drink it at noon
cannot look out far, they cannot look in deep
shot him dead because, because he was my foe, just so.
learn by going where I have to go.
thou child of my right hand, and joy
I could not stop for Death He kindly stopped for Me
do you like your blue-eyed boy, Mr. Death?
friends, is boring. We must not say so.
have measured out my life with coffee spoons
I consider how my life is spent
sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than kill a hawk
think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contained
did I know, what did I know of love's dark and lonely offices?
should have been a pair of ragged claws
memory of having starred atones for later disregard
not to know for whom the bell tolls
have wasted my life
moves in darkness as it seems to me
I sang in my chains like the sea
we were all beautiful once, she said.
art of losing isn't hard to master
have no wilderness in them
I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee.
feelings I don't have, I won't say I have
see what I am: change me, change me
christ's sake, look out where yr going
you as yet but knocke, breathe,
shine, and seeke to mend
will make our meek adjustments
man's a man for a' that
lives lives because of the life put into it
ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses
new attempt is a raid on the inarticulate
the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul
I have fears that I may cease to be—
nothing that is not there and the nothing that is
Truth must dazzle gradually—
set up mast and sail on that swart ship.
follow knowledge like a sinking star.
I am grateful to my small poem for teaching me this again
is the supreme fiction, madame
imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown
on, shine on, Perishing Republic.
Merrill Leffler's third collection of poetry, Mark the Music, will be published in the spring of 2011. His first two collections were Partly Pandemonium and Take Hold. With Moshe Dor, he recently guest-edited an issue of Shirim with their translations of poems by the late Israeli poet Eytan Eytan. Leffler is the publisher of Dryad Press (www.dryadpress.com).