How difficult it is to say goodbye
to scourge. For years we were obsessed with you,
your complex glycoproteins and your sly,
haphazard reproduction, your restraint
in your resistance, how you bathed so slight
yet fierce in our most intimate secretions.
We will remember you for generations;
electron micrographs of you seem quaint
already, in the moment of our victory.
How difficult it is to claim one’ s right
to living honestly. The honesty
you taught was nothing quite as true
How difficult it is to say goodbye
Blood on the night soil man en route to the country prison
Blood on the sullen chair, the one that holds you with its pleasure
Blood inside the quartz, the beauty watch, the eye of the guard
Blood on the slope of names & the tattoos hidden
Blood on the Virgin, behind the veils,
Behind — in the moon angel's gold oracle hair
What blood is this, is it the blood of the worker rat?
Is it the blood of the clone governor, the city maid?
Why does it course in s's & z's?
One morn I left him in his bed;
A moment after some one said,
‘Your child is dying – he is dead.’
We made him ready for his rest,
Flowers in his hair, and on his breast
His little hands together prest.
We sailed by night across the sea;
So, floating from the world were we,
Apart from sympathy, we Three.
The wild sea moaned, the black clouds spread
Moving shadows on its bed,
But one of us lay midship dead.
I saw his coffin sliding down
The yellow sand in yonder town,
Where I put on my sorrow’ s crown.
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
Why speak of hate, when I do bleed for love?
Not hate, my love, but Love doth bite my tongue
Till I taste stuff that makes my rhyming rough
So flatter I my fever for the one
For whom I inly mourn, though seem to shun.
A rose is arrows is eros, so what
If I confuse the shade that I’ ve become
With winedark substance in a lover’ s cup?
But stop my tonguely wound, I’ ve bled enough.
If I be fair, or false, or freaked with fear
If I my tongue in lockèd box immure
Blame not me, for I am sick with love.
Grieve not that winter masks the yet quick earth,
Nor still that summer walks the hills no more;
That fickle spring has doffed the plaid she wore
To swathe herself in napkins till rebirth.
These buddings, flowerings, are nothing worth;
This ermine cloud stretched firm across the lakes
Will presently be shattered into flakes;
Then, starveling world, be subject to my mirth.
Her house is empty and her heart is old,
And filled with shades and echoes that deceive
No one save her, for still she tries to weave
With blind bent fingers, nets that cannot hold.
Once all men’ s arms rose up to her, ‘tis told,
And hovered like white birds for her caress:
A crown she could have had to bind each tress
Of hair, and her sweet arms the Witches’ Gold.
He started with the tune his mother had hummed
in Ohio, nostalgia he’ d carried for years,
and by Sunday afternoon he had the words.
A triumph, already; he whistled the banjo’ s part.
(Himself a sympathizer from the North,
called copperhead, called traitor by his own kin.)
Something lively, some git-up-and-git they’ d wanted
and didn’ t he deliver —
Miss Susan got seven encores the first night.
That gave them their tune, their Negro walk-around —
I am asking something gone
return: at least one night, her face
a girl’ s, just twenty, and
to be married in a month,
holding the dress’ s hem to her lips
as places are called. And I,
come along too late to know her
trembling, parting the curtain —
let me hear her now
perched on the ladder, recite
am I pretty enough...?”
When Emily marries, ladies in hats
drown out the proper vows
— it’ s what the play requires;
the everyday over the sacred. Even the set