by L o u i s e B i a l i k
special thanks to Dr Ken Lincoln
Looking to Robert Frost's line, "Like a piece of ice on a hot stove, the poem must ride on its
own melting," it is evident that heat participates in a natural relationship with Poetry. While Poetry is
tempered by soul and emotion, its heat may change from
intense red to warm blue depending on environment and conditions.
Thus a poem can behave like ice and be of a natural, organic, liquid
consciousness, or perhaps watery thought aspiring to solidify when leaving a
Poet's soul for some frozen new sheet of paper (or new word document file for that matter).
While a poem, like ice, may exist in various
forms-- chiseled, cubed, crushed, sloshy-- such depends on the mood of the Poet who in every
respect is a Refrigerator storing his condensation of ideas. His volatile ideas are
hot with different sorts of heat, and the atmosphere of his poems may also yield certain
condensations, to be stored like frozen foods in static state until another person comes along to ignite
with reading. Once read, those volatiles are reheated, and the Poet's soul
emits energy to "let the poem ride along its own melting." Thus, if poems can behave akin to ice, and a Poet is a Refrigerator of the sort, where does this condenser energy come from? There are different ways to power a refrigeration unit -- abstractly electrical like a modern Westinghouse appliance, or by pure organic means of windmills, watermills... solar panels.
While a Poet as a Refrigerator may create poems like an ice machine, his mood is influenced and
dependent upon his immediate surrounding. Therefore, a poem cannot be looked at without keeping
in mind of the atmosphere it was created from. Seeing that a Poet is like a Refrigerator, and that
there are two ways to power a Poetry Machine --abstractly or organically-- one must question the
heat permeated upon a Poet which reflects his writing atmosphere and mood. If a refrigerator is run
from two base states, abstract or organic, there are then two base energies: electric and fire. Of
these two base energies, there is one common emission: heat, or rather, light.
As light is The Force that which stimulates the Green Fuse to flower, and if a Poet as an
ice machine needs energy to run, then it can be deduced that up until the introduction of modern
appliances, a Poet's ice was produced by organic means and therefore of a raw energy influenced
by solar and fire heats, or rather, the result of sitting beside a burning flame late at night or while
enjoying the sun's rays. Such luminescence inspired the fire based 19th Century Poetry of Blake,
Donne, Shelley, Keats, and Coleridge. Meanwhile, what can be said of 20th Century Poetry is that
language and form has dramatically shifted for an era where most Poets sit underneath electric
lights during the day, and as a consequence, experience a psychological trauma since Poetry desires
to be written under the influence of Nature's organic lights.
Poetry's desire to be written under fire/solar influence is made evident when taking a look at the
behaviors and reactions of 20th century Poets (Schwartz, Crane, Welch, Sexton, Jarrel, Kerouac,
Lowell, Berryman, Plath) who wrote under the influence of synthetic drugs and alcohol, electric
typewriters, and tungsten lamps. Much machinery, too, was going on, has been going on with
telephones, televisions, teleports and all this extra noise leaps from the static background and
infiltrates human psyche like invisible parasites. The consequence of synthetic incandescence and
experience of unwanted mind pollution can cause unhappiness, suicide, or accidental death by the
combination of depression and addiction.
Perhaps it is an ambitious proclamation to state or suggest that it's the lighting situation that killed
so many of America's great contemporary poets, but as I write from an intuitive place, this is a
moment of discovery for me, and there may be the chance that later down the road I will recant or
modify my present views, but this is not a disclaimer or excuse. For the present, I stand by the
view that light is a contributing factor to a Poet's mental and artistic health. I have felt the strong
influence of light affect my own writing when noticing how my mood changed according to the
light's changes. For example, when I wrote beside a fireplace, with a fountain pen bleeding upon
good quality paper, I wanted to honor that moment and felt cautious about writing something corny
because I feared being wasteful of the good utilities. However, I become a different kind of writing
creature when strung out on coffee in front of my laptop with all the houselights on. In fact, I feel
every right to be loose and risk-taking. As a result, we get a poem such as follows:
Horse Play Schema
. . . . .
. . . . .The Three Horsemen:
. . . . .Tarot Study of Miss Plath in pursuit of Mr Lowell
. . . . . whilst preparing for Mr Hughes to forget her father
. . . . .X Swords . . . . . . . .. . . . The student lies examined upon a sheet of ink
. . . . .IX Cups . . . . . . . . . . .. . . of black sky - a happy wish, a fulfillment, a sigh
. . . . .VI Pentacles . . . . . . . . . and underneath, the hoarding of smallish lies
. . . . .Knight Pentacles . ... . . .which Cautiously pass whether intuited or sketched
. . . . .IX Batons . . . . . . . . . . .. Words may never prepare one's Worth for battle
. . . . .VI Swords . . . . . . . . . . . there is always departure - retreat! - surrender
. . . . .X Batons . . . . . . .. . . . . . Yet in my house, I will carry what I can
. . . . .V Pentacles . . . . . . . . . .. tho Destitute you see me, I no Orphan am
. . . . .Knight Cups . . . . . . .. . . Lo, Great white horse of Dream, mine own, rush charged
. . . . .Knight Batons . . . .. . .. . and flushed orange, blurt Keen, Assured, Disarmed
The poem took ten minutes to melt. And this was a poem I wrote over a month ago and haven't
thought of since. As I now write over what I previously wrote, I discover that what I wrote under
the influence of electronics doesn't mean much to my heart. In fact, it's very difficult to go back
and bring current something old with newness to find a consistent voice. Yet, because I felt
something the first time around, I ought to honor that old feeling and let it remain untouched as I
am not one to favor Pound's self-censorship au condensare, for I have that 'protective parent' sense
that sometimes in the act of deleting lines, Truth is excised. This is probably what happened in
Eliot's Waste Land... but then too, Waste Land is a damn good poem.
Returning to the Horse Play Schema poem, I felt inspired to experiment with electric chance as we
had been looking at Sylvia Plath to understand Emily Dickinson. So I drew out some old cards,
shuffled, and posited the question - "I Sylvia, am a star pupil?" The answer, laid out at the left
margin, is translated at the right -- We could say that this a Gestalian/Jungian experiment. What
does it reflect? A student desiring competence. My relationship with Sylvia is that I admire her art
but feel betrayed by her suicide. If there is anything attractive about her that I'd wish for myself, it
would be her command of language and confidence, but then too, even these attributes were shoddy
shields fending fragile fears. So I prefer to be clumsy and nervous if down the road, after
exposure, practice and patience, I'll someday write sans hesitation.
As for the poem, I think this tarot formula worked nicely as it achieved, two pseudo-heroic
quatrains (a(b)bba, aabb) with single couplet. Each line is an abbreviation of a card's content which
when placed in past, present, future context creates a story board with active metaphors. The first
and second lines are 'run-ons' enjambing smoothly, taking on ironic effect. Ironic when the
disenchanted subject evokes the white horse to Muse her and telling of my own private foolery.
To amplify internal rhymes, I capitalised words-- this arrived intuitively as we've been reading
Emily who was prone to Big Cased Letters for word-boostering. Also, "sheet of ink of black sky"
is another Emily reference - "Sheet of Place" where "sheet" is not just an expanse of sky but a
piece of paper bled upon by an overzealous student (my Plath trope). And then too is the innuendo
of "words" and "worth".
As for images and meaning-- it's rather curious how three Knights came into the spread. Knights in
readings are messengers, writers and artists, miniature mentors who, like Mentor, lead Telemachus
to find his father, Odysseus. Considering Sylvia's Electra complex, it's spooky how this came up.
The word "orphan" came to me because it's about Denial. The subject here rejects her condition as
a last ditch to declare independence but all Poets are Orphans of Orpheus. They are abandoned
children like Wm Blake's chimney sweepers questing to find Father God and be told "You're OK."
The metaphor continues outside the poem for me. It opens up sudden visions to see that perhaps
Poets write to restore Eden by rebuilding God's Temple out of Alphabets, not bricks.
The 3 Horsemen are also Apocalyptic and fairy talish, they arrive at the scene in Sylvia's past, her
present, and future in the way that Grimms huntsmen travel in 3s to warn off young maidens to not
stray from the path. But this telling is only in the margin only. According to the events on the left
margin, Sylvia has never been left unguided, yet her persona speaks from the voice of one buried
under a wish, the 9 Cups. Swords in this reading are pens. I could invent more arguments since
readings, like poems, can be translated into anything if one makes the effort. Come to think of it,
let's mutate this poem to make better use of the symbols in the left margin:
. . . . .X Swords . . . . . . . .. . . . So the student lies examined upon a sheet of ink,
. . . . .IX Cups . . . . . . . . . . .. . . soaked like blackened sponge? My wish fulfillment
. . . . .VI Pentacles . . . . . . . . .card gone 'Sunder, is but cheated lies
. . . . .Knight Pentacles . ... . . .Cautiously glossed under Horsemen's eyes
. . . . .IX Batons . . . . . . . . . . ..Words can never prepare one's Worth for battle
. . . . .VI Swords . . . . . . . . . . .there is always departure - retreat! - surrender
. . . . .X Batons . . . . . . .. . . . . .Yet at my pace, sticks like vowels I carry to unplunder
. . . . .V Pentacles . . . . . . . . . ..tho oddly orphaned I seem, - I manage to manoeuvre
. . . . .Knight Cups . . . . . . .. . .For a white horse of Dream, mine own, will charge
. . . . .Knight Batons . . . .. . .. .flushed orange, Wrought Keen, to assure one no harm
This revision has an energetic "So there!" tone while the original feels passive. Although there's
clearer definition of the images on the left, I prefer the first draft because it feels more honest.
Honesty is what makes poems 'good Poems' - What then about manipulation? Manipulation is an
art of chiseling whereas heart-spoken Poems are divined gems. Then too, the conscious effort to
craft words by ordering, reordering, editing, revising is another kind of truthful work. Does this
mean cut verse versus shaggy verse is verse made worse? No, just terse!
In wrapping up on this tarot poem, I asked myself, what was it that caused me to lose interest in
Sylvia? Answer: Sexton. When I got to know Anne, I wanted to know less of Sylvia/Anne's
unhealthy fascination with Death. For my own survival, I shelved them both. However, after
reading Ted's Birthday Letters, I could forgive Sylvia somewhat. I will say it's much easier for me
to forgive Sylvia than Anne. Oh bluther, Poets can
seem so sick yet are more to be sympathised with than punished.
On matters of punishment and Poetry, what is punishable? Are there any laws to Poetry? There are
rules to most forms whether Sonnet, Imagist, or Free. Why then if no laws exist do Poets suffer? It
is once again a question of light and heat, of electricity versus fire, and the natural versus the
synthetic. But before any of such, there is a deeper, mythological pain since Poetry is about having
an encounter with Chaos and entering Dis-order for re-establishing grace with God in Eden. It is
also about being in the Dis-ness of Earth's "Hell On Earth" which is no Disneyland light show.
And so long as we're talking about Heaven, according to the Book of Genesis, God told Adam to
stay away from His Tree of Good and Bad because it had fruit that would Doom him. "Doom"
may sound lousy but "doom" is a "wyrding" a"fating" which means "blessing" And like wine, the
Doom can infect mind or enliven soul. Doom is a "certain slant of light" which radiates positive
and negative energies and is a matter of metabolising the right dose. If, Poets, like antennae are
tuned-in, installed with radial Noumena/Mana/JuJu/MoJo, there can be madness when personal
sensitivities are thrown off kilter by over-exposure or under-exposure to Beauty's radiation.
Writing Poetry is like capturing electricity in mason jars. It is a process of reassembling shards of
broken letters. It is a battle with The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower. Words
are synapses which shoot alphabets in dark ravines, illuminating consciousness but for brief
instants. Words are constructs. A Poet's pain is about being zapped by the Force, internalizing
disorder as the exchanged property or Tax paid to behold Beauty in Her loveliest of Forms -
Poetry. Madness is a symptom of over-exposure or under-exposure. Disorder is an imbalance, and
when a Poet is in pain, Dis is present. Why disorder? Disorder is a compliment to God and to
Nature. That which does not naturally fit on Earth or can be expressed in language are constructs
Heaven Sent and therefore too extraterrestrial for the human mind to process alone. However, with
some calmness, a Poet may filter through these constructs, translate meaning and achieve Harmony
for Self and for Humanity. As Shelley said, "Poets are the Legislators of The World."
Now about that Tree
God's fruit, especially forbidden, is alluring. A Poet is a Promethian-Adam fire liar of the sort. He
claims to offer a sacrifice yet profits from the fruits of his labour. When realizing that he's cheated
God out of His divine signature, the egoist-poet-painter turns yellow and experiences depression.
It's a terrible feeling to be so elevated in Paradise then plunged to Earth. The falling is some kind
of voluntary Self Fracture for penance i.e. 'See God, see? I flew too close to Your Beauty and my
syntactic wings melted and now I'm burning, and ah, I'll never do it again. Please send the birds to
eat at my liver. I really want to make amends to you. Sorry... Sorry!' - Such ascensions are Manic
while descensions are Depressive and stimulate suicidal fantasies as if to play out conflict for
Suicidal fantasies, I think, are subconscious efforts to humble oneself before God. Such fantasies
are a backwards way to experience humility when really Divine Intent prefers one to enjoy life. My
feeling is that somewhere along the Judeo-Christian infection of the world, religious institutions felt
threatened and turned to organised crime by capitalising on dark fear, making believers out of God-fearing people when fear maintains a plentiful resource of tithe. Yet Poetry as a natural light
survives because it is filled with Truth which is unstoppable and no darkness can weaken its light.
It is what Pound coloured "unkillable" and "sturdy," and keeps the Poets fed from golden apples.
. . . . . Where is Poetry lifted? From the Tree of Poems Poet-Tree
. . . . . The Tree, an unpolished book, and the Poeme, a fruit of Paradise -
. . . . . Poem = Poeme = Pomme = Apple
. . . . . Poetry = les Poemmes des Yeux de Dieu = the Apple of God's Eyes
. . . . . Whose Apple? Adam's!
. . . . .
. . . . . Now about that naming business
What happened with this naming business? Well, for starters, it's all arbitrary to say What
Happened "3,000 years ago," but one thing true is that the Tree's fruit probably wasn't an apple
but a pomegranet since apples don't grow in the Sumerian desert. Even the Christian Bible
(St Joseph's) agrees with this apple-fig(-pomegranet) inconsistency. The St Joseph Christian Edition
says, 'it was indeed a fig.' So why are we misnaming pomegranet-figs with apples?
Man's essential self needs purpose for fulfillment. The metaphor of creationism creates purpose. On
Earth, man's instinct is introduce order by naming things. What's in a name? Worth, zest,
enchantment. My name is special because it is mine. Someone else named me. When my mother
married my Armenian father, "Louise" transformed from Hellenic "warrior" to Armenian "light" -
"Luys". Next to my first name is my grandfather's surname which is from a Hebrew Poet, Chaim
Bialik, and means "white" in Polish. The two side by side become "white light" and makes me feel
somewhat fortunate. So a name may offer esteem.
One of my favourite pass times is to give names to animals. There were many in France. With all
the lap dogs at my leisure, I rewarded the Great Force by naming pooches in trains, cafes, villages.
It was Darwinian to do so. To name is to claim, and in claiming there is security, a friend, a safe
place, and the light of Poetry. Naming firstly brings order upon a disordered planet which conceals
fear under congeniality to avoid being bitten by the unnamed or unfamiliar, and the reason why we
really smile -- I flash my teeth to show you that I have the means to bite, then over time, my smile
presupposes a greeting. Coyotees and chimps don't flash their teeth to say 'Howdy' but do so to
protect themselves. The need for brandishing dissipates once language is introduced for expressing
the most important words known to man: Don't, No, and Yes. Secondly, as we evolve with
language, we can manage to experience higher forms of dialogue expressed in the arts and sciences,
to establish Departments of Humanities in the Universities and study its origin and intent to learn
that language is but complex word constructs which civilize the Neanderthal in us all.
And now it's time for a good story: Once upon a time, I named a neighborhood cat, "Friendly," as
I felt a special love for her and wanted to become her mama. So I bought her a flea collar, inked
her name and put my phone number on it, then let her out, thinking she'd have more joy now that
she was adopted. A month later, her collar changed and had a different number and name - Mi Mi.
This irked me, so I phoned the neighbor, intending to reclaim Friendly's devotion, but after
chatting with my neighbor, we laughed at our ridiculous pursuit to possess a cat who refused to
care where she made her allegiance. In the end, Friendly MiMi Cat had many bowls and names,
and through many series of collar changes, new neighbors were introduced and new friends made.
Since we've talked about names, let's talk about titles. What are titles for? Titles behave like
bullets summarizing theme, emotion, ideas, to be extreme shorthand chorusing content in a cluster.
Poems on the other hand are like the extended-mix versions of titles. In Schwartz's "I Am Cherry
Alive The Little Girl Sang" there is a big hint of what to look for from the title to observe a happy
child who totemically names herself, invoking joy. Yet Delmore's Girl felt sad for her adults had
torn down their totems. They forgot how to have fun with their words and names. As Delmore was
an electric Prosperian Poet, dwelling in the memory of fire lit Washington Heights, battling with
Bellevue, subways, gloomy pubs, electric based dwellings, he forgot what he knew and bid adieu.
Had he hung on to his Girl she would have guided him out of Plato's Cave. Then too, it's difficult
to lead the drunk out of Dis. Delmore's problem may have been having too much Ariel in his
Prosperian Chi, and stopped looking to see Beauty Universal.
Poets desire to honor Beauty Universal. Yet children of Adam have been ejected out of Eden and
God doesn't answer the phone. Therefore Eden transforms into an internalization, and God, a
Voice from Within. Depending on one's lucidity and ability to transliterate the primoridal Yawp
called 'insights of conscience,' or 'soul illuminations,' there are various degrees of health reflected
in illness which tempers the DNA of a Poet's blood, be it Prosperian (type-A/Fire based), Arielian
(type-B/Electric based) or blended (type-AB/Artificial fire). Non-Poets are type-O receivers,
listeners, borrowers and are the majority.
Returning to the tarot poem, I took a risk and let chance form a story around Sylvia's history as an
unconscious Jungian experiment. Cards were a natural approach because she played with ouijas and
divined poems from seashells. I imagine that much of her inspiration was organically stimulated by
an imagination so potent that both Boogie Men and Mnemosyne were more than real to her-- they
were her foster parents. How could a green name like Sylvia compete with the ephemeral light of
Aurelia or empirical power of Otto? By becoming their mutant hybrid. Sylvia is very much like the
figure Ariel in Shakespeare's comedy, Tempest, hunting for her father Otto (Prospero) since she
was cheated by his premature death. Therefore, to my sense or prejudice, Slyvia took revenge upon
her father by destroying her mother, and when her mother not available, destroyed herself in her
. . . . . No more shorthand! Death to shorthand! Death to all simplistic forms of literacy!
. . . . . The World will be solely comprised of Latin,
. . . . . Prufrock, Sappho, Villanelle, Auden, Yeats, and...
. . . . . and... what good are all these wondrous powers
. . . . . without a fool to reflect my garden lovelies?
To make the destruction worthwhile Sylvia needed an audience -- MEN, an audience to mirror what
amazing feats of suffering she could accomplish in herself and for others. But she was quite a
trickster because she was a WINNER, earning prizes from Browne, Mdmselle, Eliot's home, even
Hughes-- You'd have to wonder what was it to make her chuck all that away. Why abandon the
best? Because things are things and sometimes a thing can't eliminate a bad feeling. Sylvia would
like to trick us into thinking that Death was exactly what she wanted. But why did she feel so bad? I
can't step inside to know. All I have are traces and this isn't enough when I'm just a bystander. She
was indeed clever, yet to be wholly clever, she needed to steal the fire from her Gods -- men in
Daddy's intellectual form. When she met Lowell, there was an infatuation so strong that she armed
herself with Thesarus and religiously consulted it to prepare for when he'd come 'Tommyhawking'
polysyllabically (according to Dido Merwin). A little older, Sylvia was self-assured enough to draw
blood in a kiss when meeting her future husband, and esteemed her art to be more manipulation than
inspiration. Such attitude is akin to the Prosperian who concerns himself with being precisely smart.
And yet, Sylvia was no Prosperian Poet. She was and will remain, forever Arielian.
What is a Prosperian Poet, what is an Arielian Poet? It is a flashing communicade between myself
and my lovely poet friend, Stephen Yenser. Somehow, somewhere we got to talking about the
temperament of Poets and how Poets seemed to be fixed into two categories. Those who survive and
those who suicide. And someone was reading about archetypes and then "Prospero" and "Ariel"
were introduced to the table. None of us, I think, ever got around to defining the types on paper but
I have thought about this off an on for five or so years, and now will attempt a diagram:
=suicide . . . . . . ED=early death
. ... . . . . . . . . .
G. Stein fits outside around the borders. She is Unique.
PROSPERIAN Type A
Calm Blue Water
T S Eliot
Delmore Schwartz S
Samuel Coleridge ED
Dylan Thomas S
BLENDED Type AB
Lucid Green Earth
Thich Nhat Hahn
D H Lawrence
Wm Carlos Wms
John Stuart Mill
Henry D. Thoreau
Rainer Marie Rilke
ARIELIAN Type B
Firey Red Fire
Dante Sylvia Plath S
Anne Sexton S
Randall Jarrell S
John Berryman S
Percy Shelley ED
Lew Welch S
Jack Kerouac S
Chris Marlowe ED
While halfway succeeding in threading this optional essay with explorations of ice and
fire, I now leave the confusing Arielian/Prosperian/Naming portion for a more
personally terrifying moment: my most recent poems.
O sure, I useta be angree with Ye, America
but when everything I loved, or needed
was taken away, my warm home and little dog, too
gone, I understood E.B.'s Art Of Losing as a favor
even though I could barely cipher my own crying
with the earth breaking
Under my bed
and the offices that hunted my last dime
(borrowed from a friend), the art of losing came easy
And saved me from losing my mind
Like all things great or small,
losing is no difficulty at all
Or worth getting too hung up on,
over, or even obsessed
things are things after all
And no thing, institution or incorporation
is a thing to trust or call Great Parent,
University Animal Kingdom
It took Jerusalem
And an old man
To teach me
"No land is Holy, Sister"
Not even the University Research Library of Hugh G Dick
Can hold its name against money, Chuckie Baby
survey where it all began:
O the University! O the University!
What is my Manifesto?
What is Not my manifesto.
Static-dyslexic and hungry born
my baby world whirred a Vorticist's plume
With child eyes, I strained to read through radiation
of Johnson, Nam, Nixon and Moon Men
and how to apply logic in sentences
brief, non-analytical, absorbed, but felt
in the absence of Dorothy's weeping Tin Man
though apparently parentless in the seventies
when every adult was hippyspock and baby lovin'
according to my first true father, Lewis Welch
who took a tour of the inner forest and never returned
(May he rest in peace if he is indeed not Sasquatch),
the world I saw began from Spam,
and there I spun on a Big Wheel of baby dreams
dreaming for the Ultimate Library
that someday, Underdog would swoop me away
To call me Librarian Lu Lu, and say, "I love you. I love you."
My manifesto is like all the rest-- Exquisite
Corpse Bretonic Surrealist
Harlem-Renaissance-Est und zee
Zen Buddhist 13 Blackbirds
13 Precepts Suturist that
could very well be said to be Palimpsest
slapped under Palimpsest
So I look to the Eye to read the Pravda
of benevolent Realisme in Rosellini and Dziga
And know what thou wilt according to the Law
if Law be known or the known ever realized
And this has nothing to do with the multitude of pseudosciences
founded in the Masonic HermeticQuabbalisticRoscicrucian jibberjabber
But for the Green Force that flows through the Green Fuse
of the Green World in this Unreal Civitas (thank you T.S.)
So my mind paints and is saved by paintings
Littering the concrete grafitti of imagination
Spliced every now and then, a Gertrude Stein nonce
And married with the real
if real be this, if real be this
What is my Manifesto?
My manifesto is not sliced bread
Sliced white bread of unpolysaturated fats
soluable in diet-Pepsi at the drive-thru,
any drive-thru, 24 hours
it freaked me out when I had to buy baguettes for the first time
and asked the bread lady, "Avez-vous pain... coupe en tranch?"
Which made her laugh and say, "amuseant,"
and send me off crying in fear of everything
All my life, I had been afraid of Bread Ladies In Waiting
All my life, bread was sliced, sealed in seran,
never never questioned
No interaction between baker and buyer
just pre-sliced, pre-buttered, pre-heated miricales
And so I learned to believe in Peanut Butter
Jiffy's, Peter Pan, Skippy, Laura Scudders
the nuts that taught me Wonderbread was miracle flour
And so I dreamed to spread Pan upon Wonderpain
To fulfil my American purpose
To consume and be consumed by white fluff
then I learned the world of pain
which hardens in a day
but crumbs well for swans
in Lac Leman, in Lac Leman
"Cras Amet!" My she-dog whelped
in the sacred hour of Parnassus
She secreted starshine for the Valley of my mind
in an olden golden cave oozing with must and mold,
and I embraced her as Heavenly Aegis, Isis, Mnemosyne
for what Kusnacht could not teach Her, Hilda trained me
along the vacant marinas of Versoix, "Cras Amet! Cras Amet!
Let those who have not loved today, love tomorrow--"
And so I waited out the days and became expert at Xs
In the sacred hour of our Pompeii-Parnassus
I learned the sacred art of reading, and crossing,
And took vow to Truth, then She with starshine
made Christmas from darkness, and Memory
lessoned forgetfulness to find New Beauty ,
in Lac Leman where wind and wear were kind
avec unbent alphabet, I wandered lost through Purgatoire,
rue du Fer et rue de Rive pour patience, dipped in Paquis,
in Leman and Calisto, climbed Masada, floated Dead Sea
for patience and mercy, and there along the Via Della Rosa
retrieved memory of little red book, Da's abandoned choruses;
All this with broken banjo and baby dreams,
never answers, save for reminders
that to trust was to experience
the undressed Christ in us
and be blessed no less
The next poem is an imaginary reaction of Hilda Doolittle's older brother, Gilbert,
telling Ezra Pound off for abandoning his sister in London. While Pound was writing
Canto 1, in 1917, there was a war going on. This was also the time when H.D.
miscarried a child, which coincided with the deaths of her brother and father. It was a
time when Pound felt inspired to invoke the Odyssey to trope his guilty feelings for not
contributing to the war effort:
. . .. . . . . .Canto Can't One
. . .. . . . . .Bowled out of the swarty, arm-deep pit ladden with pitch
. . .. . . . . .sprinkled he then his holocaust of barley, wine and ox for sheep,
. . .. . . . . .o'er my soul-less ash for Circe's console. What man,
. . .. . . . . .Coward cheateth me with ox for sheep? No Name!
. . .. . . . . .Beloved Hilda who wrote by firelight until dawn rose, my twin,
. . .. . . . . .hewn prose for such promise and parted from our father's foam
. . .. . . . . .for a word which you gave ad infinitum
. . .. . . . . .ad infinitum, venerandum, hum tee dum
. . .. . . . . .Lest the popular poplar maenad's marrow strewed her soody roots
. . .. . . . . .kindly kindling kindred kunstmen who chewed, dragged and clobbered
. . .. . . . . .the sturdiest systems of stems for the most wretched of lexicologists
. . .. . . . . .for whose gifts we hath receiveth, severed at prefix, at base root
. . .. . . . . .in the name of Mercy let those least loved, love, cras amet
. . .. . . . . .you went went went!
. . .. . . . . .I knew you, in a ring of poem, in a ring of bone stripped from Minotaur
. . .. . . . . .and human thigh. Mercury made us insane with his purpled cosmology,
. . .. . . . . .O but could we return to Bethlehem and sit by the fireside
. . .. . . . . .the necessity for blood and forgiveness would not make us
. . .. . . . . .take such disparate measures, lost cousin, for who so loveth,
. . .. . . . . .leadeth, cras amet, know you not
. . .. . . . . .the effect of this ill affair, ill star
. . .. . . . . .who cutteth my darling Dryad,
. . .. . . . . .limb by limb, line by line au condensare
. . .. . . . . .and flung her branches to Avernus for Shaksepeare
. . .. . . . . .is an ill effect unspoken but known. What man, Ezra,
. . .. . . . . .calls to me now with arm in ash for absolution?
. . .. . . . . .Three hundred million men and yet you go on
. . .. . . . . .imitating Ulysses in a Kensington café?
. . .. . . . . .My Fagels to your Divus is an update to this hubris
. . .. . . . . .Erase me then in twenty-four books and six-hundred lies
. . .. . . . . .and mend me seaweed-set to sea; wreaths of oxen consolation
. . .. . . . . .in this spirited world do not appeal to me.
Lastly is a meditation on Robert Frost's 'ice melting on a hot stove,' married to Wallace
. . .. . . . . .
. . .. . . . . . Ice Box
. . .. . . . . .My ice cube slid singularly along a shelf of steel
. . .. . . . . .Streamed in possibilities, imprinting imagination
. . .. . . . . .(Until the back burner blew)
. . .. . . . . .Then dreams of possibilities dared to stream
. . .. . . . . .Exported in pools of singularity
. . .. . . . . .(Until the other burner blew)
. . .. . . . . .Then I knew, I knew the ice cube slid
. . .. . . . . .Along a shelf of steel, it did-- the watershed of imagination
. . .. . . . . .Melted upon a solitary ride and there found wet my soul inside