The farther out,
the more contingent, more illusory:
Society bobs and rises. Smiles all around.
(A handshake, while we finish these documents.)
the more empty, and the clearer too,
a demonic clearness, tautology’s looking-glass.
(Alphabets, lookup-tables, and just-because.)
Where lies the teacher
of the perfect world? Where is his army
sundering the deep, O mystic column?
He has won many battles—too many—
and so, full of goodness, retires to his academy;
so now let him rest, in that endless middle distance.
Bethany, wildwood, barrier islands:
People are drawn to haunting, floating places,
Waiting half-naked in the sun, as if possessed
By a taming, or a brave covering-up,
Projections of a play-acted life.
In the quiet cumuli of years
Thoughts of here keep turning, piling up.
Underfoot I see white shores,
Sea-foam, sea-creatures, clear as lenses,
Dredged-up epithets from the primordial;
I recall joy, aging friends, simmering shrimp,
Dinners amidst faces drawn tight, keen as a syringe-tip.
I remember madness
In the mirror:
A me who was not me, the still ocean
In the window calling us down to its edge
With visions of a parallel time, new selves,
And out there, past the little hill, the sand
That spoke crisply of all things burning:
Of passions lost
and caught midair,
But mostly of life, rigged out
In all its solitary beauty,
Like the sail
Of some coast-hugging ship,
Tacking carefully, yet almost lost, all but plunging
Full tilt into a blue infinity.
In the winter’s dark sanctum, I see
Parts returning of me.
A heavy black snow is falling on everything.
Where now is the secret fire?
She has left everything in a pile,
In these ashes at my feet.
Truly, the nightmare begins
When we cease dreaming
That we share the same dream.
Is nothing but the gift
Of painting with rules:
Peeking through the symbols, suckling-faced, the new cosmos beams.
Is a powerful magic fife:
Well-played, it soothes man’s madness,
Ill-played, it dances him towards death.
But engrossed in canvas,
Wrestling a verse,
Or lip curled in thought
Over the keyboard:
The artist’s distant look
Is like the child humanity,
Straining to descry
Some truer calling.