Friday, May 18, 2018

Fairy Tales (May 18, 2018)


The first time
      I went to the tree
             was to knock on wood.

No one answered.
      The second time I knocked, 
             the tree, wild in the wind,

leaned toward me.
      No bad luck arrived.
             I went back and knocked again

to tell the tree
       my good fortune
              was not forgotten.

Chiseling a nest hole
       in dead wood,
              a woodpecker drills a downed log.

The rapid blows of its beak
      hammer me awake
             each night for a week.

Beneath the bark
       nymphs live
              like hidden charms

people leave
        in drawers or cupboards
               for protection.

I believe in tree spirits
       who embed their souls
              in this wood.

They are not immortal

but their lives, 
       says Hesiod,
               are ten times

that of the phoenix,
       who outlives nine
              ravens, who outlive

three glorious stags,
       who outlive four
              crows, who outlive

nine generations of aged men.

Beyond the shelter-
       belts of farmsteads,
               found deep

in poplar woods
       and birch thickets,
             a flicker assaults a tree

as nymphs
       retreat into the tunneled
              ruts of the trunk.

The bird chips away
       without distraction.
              Its showy

red patch,
       a splash of blood,
                catches my eye.

       wing buds
                of an immature insect

are like the rising
       nipples of a
               young girl.

The temptation
      to slide a finger
             over the small mounds...

Fly away!

The nymphs are free,
       changed forever
               as they brush

the pond's scalloped edge.
      What part of me they take away
            will settle some day.

Deep in dying wood.
         I will be there
               when you knock.

The Mermaids

The spell is a mouth’s
perilous-o as they dark circle the boats in
their most resplendent pliable armor.

The concept fish aligning with girl
or love with death
to bring down men at sea, temptation

confused into offering,
the mismatch of like plus unlike
really likes, straight to rock bottom.

No equation has ever been this badass.
It’s the men who will enter the spell
so far into exhaustion as weather, as waves,

the tide pulling toward if, letting go then
over the whale road in the company of
the dolphin, the only other animal, I’m told,

who can do it solely for pleasure. It.
You know what I mean. The lower half
aglitter, the top half brainy as beautiful

is sometimes, murderous lovelies, their plotting
and resolve and why not
get these guys good, the lechers.

To see at all in the whirling, to hear
what anyone might
in wind roar and faint whistle

don’t worry about girls shrewd
as whimsy, legend-tough
to the core. Don’t. But it’s

their spell too, isn’t it? Locked there.
Aligned with singing, dazzle
razor-blackened green. Not that they

miss what human is like or know any end
to waters half born to, from where
they look up.

Men in boats, so sick of the journey.
Men gone stupid with blue,
with vast, with gazing over and away

the whole time until same to same-old to
now they’re mean. After that, small.
Out there, the expanse. In here,

the expanse. The men look down. Aching
lure that hides its hook steely sweet

to o my god, little fool’s breath
triumphant, all the way under and am I
not deserving?

Fairy-tale Logic

Fairy tales are full of impossible tasks:
Gather the chin hairs of a man-eating goat,
Or cross a sulphuric lake in a leaky boat,
Select the prince from a row of identical masks,
Tiptoe up to a dragon where it basks
And snatch its bone; count dust specks, mote by mote,
Or learn the phone directory by rote.
Always it’s impossible what someone asks—

You have to fight magic with magic. You have to believe
That you have something impossible up your sleeve,
The language of snakes, perhaps, an invisible cloak,
An army of ants at your beck, or a lethal joke,
The will to do whatever must be done:
Marry a monster. Hand over your firstborn son.

By a route obscure and lonely,   
Haunted by ill angels only, 
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT,   
On a black throne reigns upright, 
I have reached these lands but newly   
From an ultimate dim Thule— 
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime, 
       Out of SPACE—Out of TIME

Bottomless vales and boundless floods,   
And chasms, and caves, and Titan woods,   
With forms that no man can discover   
For the tears that drip all over;   
Mountains toppling evermore   
Into seas without a shore;   
Seas that restlessly aspire,   
Surging, unto skies of fire;   
Lakes that endlessly outspread   
Their lone waters—lone and dead,—   
Their still waters—still and chilly   
With the snows of the lolling lily. 

By the lakes that thus outspread 
Their lone waters, lone and dead,— 
Their sad waters, sad and chilly 
With the snows of the lolling lily,— 
By the mountains—near the river   
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever,—   
By the grey woods,—by the swamp   
Where the toad and the newt encamp,—   
By the dismal tarns and pools 
   Where dwell the Ghouls,—   
By each spot the most unholy—   
In each nook most melancholy,—   
There the traveller meets, aghast,   
Sheeted Memories of the Past—   
Shrouded forms that start and sigh   
As they pass the wanderer by—   
White-robed forms of friends long given,   
In agony, to the Earth—and Heaven. 

For the heart whose woes are legion   
’T is a peaceful, soothing region—   
For the spirit that walks in shadow   
’T is—oh, ’t is an Eldorado! 
But the traveller, travelling through it,   
May not—dare not openly view it;   
Never its mysteries are exposed   
To the weak human eye unclosed;   
So wills its King, who hath forbid   
The uplifting of the fring'd lid;   
And thus the sad Soul that here passes   
Beholds it but through darkened glasses. 

By a route obscure and lonely,   
Haunted by ill angels only, 
Where an Eidolon, named NIGHT
On a black throne reigns upright,   
I have wandered home but newly   
From this ultimate dim Thule.

The Stars and the Moon

In Legends of the Jews, Lewis Ginzberg writes that an Egyptian princess hung a tapestry woven with diamonds and pearls above King Solomon’s bed. When the king wanted to rise, he thought he saw stars and, believing it was night, slept on.

Scaling ladders with buckets of white enamel,
I painted the stars and the moon on my windowpanes   
to hold back days and nights. I yanked the telephone
and stopped the wooden clock. The weeks a lightning stroke,   
desire turned to love. With my blue diamond,
I sliced minutes in half and made days vanish,
fooling the hours.

                           I became so skillful   
at firmaments that miracles occurred:
a bearded comet moved across the room   
breeding no omens, tearing no major kingdoms   
into small provinces, but there it was,   
reminding us that rock may spin and flare,   
lifting the senses, burning into sight.

You eased pale hands away; I saw your shoulders   
recede through doorways, watched your image fail   
with your famished smile. I left our room
with dream-filled eyes, and standing in the sun,   
I gazed at bricks and glass and saw, suddenly,   
flashing in stony light, the stars and the moon.

No comments:

Post a Comment