Monday, January 30, 2012

Tuesday Poem--The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

This is the most perfect anti-war poem I know. Wilfred Owen
was killed on the last day of World War I, the day the armistice
was signed, November 11, 1918.

The Parable Of The Old Man And The Young
by Wilfred Owen, 1916 
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,
A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tuesday Poem--First Snow

Wafers of paint are flaking from the frescoed clouds in the Duomo of the sky.

Shredded angel feathers drift down in the foreground, on swift brush strokes 

of houses, on the smudge of a greyhound tugging its master, a charcoal bruise,

into the wind. Chimneys’ floating ivory puffs above the rooftrees disappear, 

cottages dotted with scattered cadmium, a parody of the last of the light. 

Branches clot with gesso, hedges heavily daubed with pearls. A tinker’s cart 

trundles through the town, its silent wheel tracks whitewashing the road.

Who are these standing behind on the terrazzo, dressed in mosaics of gold?

A wedding party? Popes or patrons of the arts? Slowly their tesserae go out

like votive lamps. Radiant apostles at either pillar, their faith faltering, turn 

to statuary, immured in thick impasto. Beyond the archways’ salted brickwork, 

the sea’s cobalt is icing over. The fleck of a lobster boat draws the horizon line. 

Inside the cabin a child studies the frost flowers etched on the glass. Intently,

 her warm finger pressing down, she writes her initials. So the picture is signed.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Father by James Wright

In paradise I poised my foot above the boat and said:
Who prayed for me?
But only the dip of an oar
In water sounded: slowly fog from some cold shore
Circled in wreaths around my head.
         But who is waiting?
And the wind began,
Transfiguring my face from nothingness
To tiny weeping eyes. And when my voice
Grew real, there was a place
Far, far below on earth. There was a tiny man--
It was my father wandering round the waters at the wharf.
Irritably he circled and he called
Out to the marine currents up and down,
But heard only a cold unmeaning cough,
And saw the oarsman in the mist enshawled.
He drew me from the boat. I was asleep.
And we went home together.
James Wright

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tuesday Poem--In the New Year

The holidays done with, I can breathe again. January 1st is always like

an endless rolling pasture of pristine snow, acres completely unmarked

but for a chickadee’s delicate scrimshaw, a pure field on which I can hike

into happiness, love, a clean path, without the torques my life usually takes:

this time, things will be different. Bright blue high tide makes a little lake

of the inlet. I sit on the bank and smooth out a new page in my notebook.

A Laughing Gull hovers over the sea wall, a dripping clam clenched in his beak,

letting fall the shell which breaks open when dropped from a height onto rock.

He caws proudly, struts, circling his prey in yellow, pigeon-toed feet, picks 

jerkily at the salty belly. Above us, a wheeling falcon waits, eyes unerring, black. 

Then, fast as a feathered shaft, he gouges the gull’s foolish white neck,

the hawk’s jaw and pincer-grip talons killing the bird in one lethal shake.

Bloody feathers fly, some of the wound striping my hair and book. I shriek,

leap up to slap off the gore, appalled--shell-shocked that nature could break

in upon my reverie on nature. Suddenly, the marsh seems malevolent, dark

with a darkness I’ve never felt here, the phragmites nodding by the dock

as if to say, what did you think? Sudden pellets of snow are unendurable. I duck 

into my collar, complicit, for home, the carcass lying broken as the indigo dusk.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Tuesday Poem--The Prophecy of Simeon

This is my last Christian poem, in honor of the season

Stooped on an ashen staff, a malarial beard 

in a wheeling helix of wings, her prophet groped 

the temple’s stonework, crab-like, a wandering liquid 

jasper eye alight in the chiaroscuro. Hope 

rattled his blind heart’s gourd. As sacrifice flensed 

from forked pomegranate, drizzling fat and entrails, 

a breath of clove lifted the curtained incense 

at its corner by a finger. The longed-for vision, unveiled, 

was a radiant girl offering her weighted sleeves. 

Angels fanned his ancient eyelids back. 

Joy and lamentation rung his ribbed ogive, 

plunging in its double sword: Passionweek, whose chink 

of light unrolled an era like a road; 

the Child, directing his age toward and away from God.