Coleridge After Dejection
Hence, viper thoughts, that
coil around my mind,
I turn from you and listen to the wind...
At his desk, where Sara thinks he is writing,
he is, in fact, engaged in examining his
arranging their contents in a semi-circle
of blue wax
I may not hope from outward forms to
The passion and the life, whose fountains
Well, he pays
dear for his presumption:
a post-box stuffed with letters to himself,
the bony grip
tightening on his throat.
He mends some pens, checks his supply of
but what is
A mounting roar, as raving breakers beat
The sea to foam, and hiss in petulant retreat...
No. He will
rewrite that. He is miles inland.
The noise insists, draws him from his desk.
hard, tail-thumping wind
shoves him back and bangs the door.
Saplings, sacred acrobats, sweep
wall; the path to the garden
a dizzy mosaic of shivered
and shade, Heraclitus' river.
and branches, self-scourgers,
a gypsy glitter trembles in the undersides
He opens his mouth to proclaim
the life in
motion, within him and abroad,
or maybe just
to call Sara,
but the hurling wind empties his voice.
This is the poem he will not write.
Souvenir of Segesta
Crest the limestone hill
at Segesta and find the future
in ruins. Sixty talents of silver
bought this paradox under
the bright unwavering sky:
a perfect skeleton, never fleshed
and not a single column fallen.
The heart of the god never
beat here. Somewhere else
a black ram with gilded horns
screamed, blood streamed
and the dark wine; but nothing
stained this chalky ground.
No dwelling, no dispossession.
Sparrows have colonized
the vines hanging like hair
from the entablature; two
empty pediments stare.
What was and what will be fuse
in this palpable ghost, white
peristyle enclosing a roofless
oblong of air. Then why
do you slip that stone
in your pocket, soft shard
of the ungraspable idea?
What you really want to take home
is that small green lizard,
now motionless in the clear
noon blue, now nimbly
disappearing into the spiky
yellow-tipped brush as you
descend the shallow steps.
Lucertola, you would coax it,
green darter, until
in its flickering language
it spoke to you-
here, gone, here-
fugitive celebrant threading
the immemorial now:
stubborn dun of prickly
grasses, unconsecrated stone,
the fiery air.
Note: According to Thucydides, the sight
of this temple under construction convinced
Athens to send military aid to prosperous-seeming
Segesta in Sicily. But after paying 60 talents
to Athens as an advance, Segesta was bankrupt,
and the temple was never completed.
Between Rockland and Camden
I drove back
to forty years ago
and photographed it.
Look, the house is unchanged,
still dark-shingled, buffered by pines.
Here, still sloping away, is the sunny
garden where a child pinched snapdragons
to make them open their jaws.
Petals drop; the sexual blossom-
ovary, style-stands bare.
But function fades
too, falls to junk.
Against all odds, there
it still stands:
a miracle, but without
the power to save.
Here is the photo I didn't take
a house that isn't there.
a perfect spiral staircase
ending in mid-air.
rise as pure
beauty, keeping no one warm.
Clean as a camera's shutter-click,
rubble winks through balusters
on the unhoused
Ruin's a progressive revelation.
or next week a crowbar
will have scavenged
the polished rail,
collapsed the treads
like playing cards.
Those taper chimneys,
by cold chisel and hammer, will
someone's walkway or garden
Memory must lie down
with rose bricks in
stiffen in change as
sorrow fire it to ash.
First one foot, then the other.
Those are your directions.
nothing to tell you if you're
straying, getting anywhere
so vast is the
curve of this spiral stair.
(This poem first appeared in Tampa Review,
Are you a brave man?
I'm back from Bear Run, yes, but the visit
the waterfall in the woods stays with me.
The view is, you have said, your chief
Of course. The panorama is sublime.
In spring, the falls spit foam in the sun's
they throw off diamonds, milk, opaline
before they drop away.
the water's frozen fall,
a black marble
mirror. . .
And so forth. Views are exhilarating,
when they're fortified in stone.
can heap together a tower,
live in one. I don't advise it:
breeds a basilisk gaze.
To live with things,
you have to listen to them.
At Bear Run I listened. How shall I tell
you what I heard? A poet might call it music,
if one sole note repeated makes a tune.
At first the monotony of water splashing
half-hypnotized me. Limp as a mesmerist's
I listened and despaired. From this
Form could ever struggle into being?
on listening, until the Sameness lifted,
as the heavy gold curtain at the opera
slowly upward after the overture.
It came at the end, beside the stream,
the brutal cry of beautiful un-making.
Each staccato instant, change hammered change-
as in the falling water, so in the furious
currents occulted beneath my traitor skin.
The house I want to build asks daring-
not of me, Kaufmann, but of you.
cantilever concrete slabs
over falls and
stream, layered like birthday cake.
a conjuror's trick, mere cunning.
Kaufmann, is: have you the courage
to look at the waterfalls, but to live with
Yours most sincerely,
F. Lloyd Wright
NOTE: In 1936 Frank Lloyd Wright built
Fallingwater, the Edgar J. Kaufmann house,
on Bear Run in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.
Italicized phrases are quoted from Wright's
(This poem first appeared in Parnassus:
Poetry in Review, Vol. 24, No.1)
The Poet and the Hedgehog
Next morning I got up
and it did not.
Call it the attraction of one prickly creature
If the misanthrope poet had
something in his garden, it wouldn't
be a primrose,
an oak tree, or a songbird.
What else but a hedgehog glimpsed at dusk
in its furtive, lone routine:
an alter ego,
a second genius of the place.
He "even fed
The poem he wrote after
he killed it in the blades of his mower
ends with uncharacteristic meekness
in honor-I like to think-
of the mild little creature.
what blunted the poet's barbs
and muzzled his bite was simply
the shock of ceasing,
against which (it frightened him to see)
sharpness is no defense.
(This poem first appeared in Natural