A mountainous and mystic brute
No rein can curb, no arrow shoot,
Upon whose doomed deformed back
I sweep the planets’ scorching track.

Old is the elf, and wise, men say,
His hair grows green as ours grows grey;
He mocks the stars with myriad hands,
High as that swinging forest stands.

But though in pigmy wanderings dull
I scour the deserts of his skull,
I never find the face, eyes, teeth,
Lowering or laughing underneath.

Benjamin Banneker Helps to Build a City

In a morning coat,
hands locked behind your back,
you walk gravely along the lines in your head.
These others stand with you,
squinting the city into place,
yet cannot see what you see,
what you would see
—a vision of these paths,
laid out like a star,
or like a body,
the seed vibrating within itself,
breaking into the open,
dancing up to stop at the end of the universe.
I say your vision goes as far as this,
the egg of the world,
where everything remains, and moves,

The Evening-Watch: A Dialogue


Farewell! I go to sleep; but when
The day-star springs, I’ ll wake again.


Go, sleep in peace; and when thou liest
Unnumber’ d in thy dust, when all this frame
Is but one dram, and what thou now descriest
In sev’ ral parts shall want a name,
Then may his peace be with thee, and each dust
Writ in his book, who ne’ er betray’ d man’ s trust!

The Star

Whatever ’ tis, whose beauty here below
Attracts thee thus and makes thee stream and flow,
And wind and curl, and wink and smile,
Shifting thy gate and guile;

Though thy close commerce nought at all imbars
My present search, for eagles eye not stars,
And still the lesser by the best
And highest good is blest;

On rain washed paper dried, ink

On rain washed paper dried, ink
still blurs. But all words
are stains. The paper’ s rippled
lunar, mountain and crater,

and seas on the moon, misnomer
of plains that looked like
water once, no-end-to-it shadows,
fractal to fractal. The telescope’ s eye

fooled the eye. From there, does
earth rise and set? Or a thrush,
would it sing its trouble backward? —
the most private tremor first, then

Moon Missing

I was so worried the hickory I recognized
had died from salt burn in the last hurricane
I may have passed by vervain and apple haw
like they didn’ t matter, but this spring
it put out seven shoots from its base.
Still, the oldest trick is the moon missing,
then the “new” moon appears,
though we know it’ s the old one, and we pretend
to be taken in like the mother or baby
behind the bath towel.
Really it’ s the moon winking,
being the stone that holds stones and now footprints.

Various Portents

Various stars. Various kings.
Various sunsets, signs, cursory insights.
Many minute attentions, many knowledgeable watchers,
Much cold, much overbearing darkness.

Various long midwinter Glooms.
Various Solitary and Terrible Stars.
Many Frosty Nights, many previously Unseen Sky-flowers.
Many people setting out (some of them kings) all clutching at stars.

Moon Festival

Lovers holding pits in their mouths
make vows and delight in each other
till the underwater infant
periscopes his parents
and is born

an uninvited guest knocks at my
door, determined to go deep
into the interior of things

the trees applaud

wait a minute, the full moon
and this plan are making me nervous
my hand fluttering
over the obscure implications of the letter
let me sit in the dark
a while longer, like
sitting on a friend's heart


Follow where all is. / Follow the transfused. / Follow what is still and what is still-attracting.

That light / That beauty / That love / That, that is massy-borne and rising up, like a drifting star.

Like stars lift. / Like lifting stars. / Like the lifting of stars, I rose. I rise.

Rose. Rose. Like a thing beyond words: satiated.

Let lie in the ravage. / Let lie in what is ravaged-wrought.

Why fear what hasn’ t become?

I beckon, like light. / Like a star, I will beckon. / You will oblige. / You will lend the want. You will eclipse my blinding.

The Lights at Carney’s Point

O white little lights at Carney’ s Point,
You shine so clear o’ er the Delaware;
When the moon rides high in the silver sky,
Then you gleam, white gems on the Delaware.
Diamond circlet on a full white throat,
You laugh your rays on a questioning boat;
Is it peace you dream in your flashing gleam,
O’ er the quiet flow of the Delaware?