Until I hear the measure of your footfall once again
Upon the speckled halls, closing or--all too oft--withdrawing,
My heart missteps; it frets and hammers, fitful in its pen;
Time stalls its course through me and crouches in my corners, gnawing.
Until you bless my words with listening eyes and answering smile
My voice weighs cheap as chaff upon the balance of my ear;
My thoughts now surge, now flag: ill-humored mix of blood and bile
Until that amber mood, borne on your breath, steals softly near.
And Spring for me lives only as the schedule reckons
Until its gold-framed face returns and brightly beckons.
* * * * * *
This is not so bad, even if, I suppose,
Like all attempts at high verse, its trajectory
Is far too lofty; its descriptions, read as prose,
Come off a bit too ardent--overly sweet and nectary
To treat of a girl the writer really hardly knows
And speaks to most commonly only in the refectory.
(Humor is my shield and visor,
My vanishing-cream and tranquilizer.)
This piece, as in my expert opinion I must conclude,
Considering its fanciful romantic imagery, and other factors
Out of proportion to true experience, must be viewed
As clearly the improvement of later redactors
Upon the writer's original reflections--doubtlessly more crude
And modest, as we shall discuss in further chapters.
* * * * * *
Still--I seldom cast, for the perusal of one and all
Upon a paper screen, the attitudes of my heart,
A versified X-ray image projected on the wall,
Disclosing the motifs of every inward part.
But how is it I often find you there
When I retreat from every sifting stare
And having locked the door behind,
Discover you have stowed-away within my mind?
No: I have posted at the holy chamber
No heedless, dropping eye as watch and ward;
No casual acquaintance, sure no stranger,
No tourists pose beside my treasure-hoard.
No . . . no . . . no . . . no . . .
Whence this Yes?
To what does it confess?
What makes me mouth this thing?
Can it be only the strange, skyward gravity of Spring,
When bright red blood and green blades rise,
The seasonal uplifting of hearts and eyes
To downpours of light and draughts of living wind,
Stately cloud-ships voyaging to the heavens' end,
And stars embedded in the cavernous midnight dome,
So high it makes you dizzy?
Can it be the season's charm alone,
When men and women suddenly are busy
Telephoning and pheromoning,
Fevered with sun and wind and stars and sky?
But surely not, surely not I . . .
It cannot be a simple seasonal rise of sap
That leads me now to cautiously divest
Me of my winter muffler, and the sleeves and flaps
Of my well-worn jacket: a straighter
And more sturdy one was never made, I guess.
No, there must be a power and a truth still greater.
* * * * * *
For terrapins and likewise tender men
Secure their yielding flesh beneath hard plates
And weather out the world and all its charms
For they have felt, and still remember sin,
Seen men presume to call their feelings, "fates"
And rush to cradle vipers in their arms.
Still more: the Eastern magician and the electrician
And I, have severally apprenticed in the art
Of disconnection, severing the conduits and lines
Of bodily pain, and shocks, and what may move the heart.
Within I am as steadfast as a globe of granite:
What fulcrum has been found in me to turn this planet?
Few have dared to tug and so unravel
The trailing weave of my soul's hem
Though some, unwitting, in their travel
Have stepped on it, and captived me
But for a moment, and unknown to them,
While I in turn look round to see
Who has staccatoed my droning reverie.
From that syncopated measure, I am sure, I still can hear
A chord, and jangled rudiments of a highway song,
Unfolding into canticles, sometimes, of journeys long,
Or a veteran's rousing chantey, sung in sunlight and good cheer.
And I would walk with you awhile,
You who have caught my hem and hastened by,
And share a chorus or two, to pass the mile,
A psalm perhaps, or else whatever good and gracious theme
Delights you--though unpracticed, I would like to try,
Before this chord in me has faded to a distant dream.
I will follow, then, and match your pace
Though heavy-shelled am I, and you a meteor
For while the bottom note is held in place
As the top notes through the measure race
They end the song together, neither one the speedier.