High Windows

This is the job
that finally
they gave me:
in spring, in autumn
to sweep up the bodies
of finches
around the bases
of the crystal-windowed
towers.

When I used to sleep
on the streets,
it was similar: one of us
died, the body
would be picked up
but as long as we lived,
never.

It was as though
there were someone somewhere
who said: Let them live.
Let them be
always. Let them
alone. Let us have them
with us
as they are
forever.

All One Limit

No word desolate enough
comes to me. No word that cries through the page
the way this light drizzle cries through the fledgling
green of May trees. The way the word of the sun,
diffused, impossible to find precisely, cries
through the glowing dun of an overcast
rounded from limit to limit. All one limit:
the sky screwed down on the earth like a bottle top
of chalky plastic. The grey underneath me,
divulged in the drains from its tomb of slush
by spring, and raised by desolation
to the sky, as the new sky. No word
desolate as your being elsewhere and the fear,
almost knowledge, that you could never
be happy with me here.

Naked to All Interpretation

There is a speaking in tongues by the dead,
like the anaesthetic babble
of a patient held down in death-likeness by his drugs:
geyser of vituperation and sentiment, names
of lost dogs and lovers—faces
melting together in a fire. And what is mixed there…
the listeners, pausing with sponge, clamp,
bisturi, and laser scalpel, can’t make it out.
The voice of the dead through another
head, another voice—a widow
doddering, rocking her body, in the cemetery
where her lover festers. The voice of the dead,
the poem naked to all interpretation,
a muttering humming with no one now
to speak for it. Its author, its husband gone, the one
who raised it from the stony beach of sounds.
Its shepherd gone, leaving it
wandering idly around. A thread stretching
with knots of rage and homesick lamentation
through all ears, mouths, and streets.

Silence and Song

In paintings a divinity lives,
an aspect and presence of divinity:
the silence. Gratefully the body
drinks it through the eyes.
They see it’s a member of the body
beyond the skin—missing member, how long
missed: without it long the body dies.
Quiet water. Empty shelter
waiting, far off across a plain,
like towers, or just a ruined wall,
and the vast early evening that encloses them,
far off and long before the tired traveler, drawing near,
can hear the bees swarm in the lavender fields
and cattle lowing near the falls. Divine
silence of the poem, silence it gathers
and becomes as it comes to be known:
in its moment of being known, it turns
to a painting where the world
is gathered in the form of a ship
coming into harbor far beneath us
from the mouth of sunset. The silent
poem: the moment of repose
before the mind, changing, throws the verses
down into strangeness. Then their silent god, once more
invisible, has to go back
to singing to be heard again.

Stéphane Mallarmé: Another Fan

for Mademoiselle Mallarmé

O dreamer, so that I
May plunge in that pathless thing,
Pure delight, by a subtle lie
Learn to hold in your hand my wing.

A freshness of night new-fallen
Comes to you at each beat,
Imprisoned, that makes the horizon
Delicately retreat.

Vertigo! Look how space
Trembles like a great kiss
Mad to be born for no one who is,
Unable to bloom or be at peace.

Do you feel a paradise so uncouth
That a smile shut in a sepulchre
Sets out from the corner of your mouth
Along all its unanimous jointure?