The Lost Follower

As I have known them passionate and fine, The gold for which they leave the golden line Of lyric is a golden light divine, Never the gold of darkness from a mine. The spirit plays us strange religious pranks To whatsoever god we owe the thanks. No one has ever failed the poet ranks To link a chain of money-metal banks. The loss to song, the danger of defection Is always in the opposite direction. Some turn in sheer, in Shelleyan dejection To try if one more popular election Will give us by...

Our Hold On The Planet

It didn't flash and roar. It didn't lose its temper at our demand And blow a gale. It didn't misunderstand And give us more than our spokesman bargained for And just because we owned to a wish for rain, Send us a flood and bid us be damned and drown. It gently threw us a glittering shower down. And when we had taken that into the roots of grain, It threw us another and then another still, Till the spongy soil again was natal wet. We may doubt the just proportion of good to...

The Fear Of

If you should rise from Nowhere up to Somewhere, From being No one up to being Someone, Be sure to keep repeating to yourself Whose mercy to you rather than to others Won't bear too critical examination. Stay unassuming. If for lack of license You should be tempted to make up for it Beware of coming too much to the surface And using for apparel what was meant To be the curtain of the inmost soul.

The Quest Of The Purplefringed

I felt the chill of the meadow underfoot, But the sun overhead And snatches of verse and song of scenes like this I sung or said. I skirted the margin alders for miles and miles In a sweeping line. The day was the day by every flower that blooms, But I saw no sign. Yet further I went to be before the scythe, For the grass was high Till I saw the path where the slender fox had come And gone panting by. Then at last and following him I found In the very hour When the color flushed to the petals...

No Holy Wars For Them

States strong enough to do good are hut few. Their number would seem limited to three. Good is a thing that they, the great, can do, But puny little states can only be. And being good for these means standing by To watch a war in nominal alliance, And when it's over watch the world's supply Get parceled out among the winning giants. God, have You taken cognizance of this And what on this is Your divine position That nations like the Cuban and the Swiss Can never hope to wage a Global Mission....

Build Soil

The one you had the talk with, you remember, Hard times have struck me and I'm on the move. I've had to give my interval farm up For interest, and I've bought a mountain farm For nothing down, all-out-doors of a place, All woods and pasture only fit for sheep. But sheep is what I'm going into next. At thirty cents a bushel. Give me sheep. I know wool's down to seven cents a pound. But I don't calculate to sell my wool. I didn't my potatoes. I consumed them....

An Unstamped Letter In Our Rural Letter

Last night your watchdog barked all night, There, pointed like the pip of spades, The young spruce made a suite of glades Went streaking molten down the west. Now quivered toward each other, lipped That men have thought about in vain. The same sign Heaven showed your guest. Each knows his own discernment best. Things must have happened to you, yes,

The Black Cottage

We chanced in passing by that afternoon To catch it in a sort of special picture Among tar-banded ancient cherry trees, Set well back from the road in rank lodged grass, The little cottage we were speaking of, A front with just a door between two windows, Fresh painted by the shower a velvet black. We paused, the minister and I, to look. He made as if to hold it at arm's length Or put the leaves aside that framed it in. Pretty, he said. Come in. No one will care. The path was a vague parting in...

Too Anxious For Rivers

Look down the long valley and there stands a mountain That someone has said is the end of the world. Then what of this river that having arisen Must find where to pour itself into and empty I never saw so much swift water run cloudless. Oh, I have been often too anxious for rivers To leave it to them to get out of their valleys. The truth is the river flows into the canyon Of As sooner or later we have to cease somewhere. No place to get lost like too far in the distance. It may be a mercy the...

The Whitetailed Hornet

The white-tailed hornet lives in a balloon That floats against the ceiling of the woodshed. The exit he comes out at like a bullet Is like the pupil of a pointed gun. And having power to change his aim in flight, He comes out more unerring than a bullet. Verse could be written on the certainty With which he penetrates my best defense Of whirling hands and arms about the head To stab me in the sneeze-nerve of a nostril. Such is the instinct of it I allow. Yet how about the insect certainty That...

One More Brevity

I opened the door so my last look Should be taken outside a house and book. Before I gave up seeing and slept I said I would see how Sirius kept His watchdog eye on what remained To be gone into if not explained. But scarcely was my door ajar, When past the leg I thrust for bar Slipped in to be my problem guest, Not a heavenly dog made manifest, But an earthly dog of the carriage breed Who, having failed of the modern speed, Now asked asylum and I was stirred To be the one so dog-preferred. He...

Some Science Fiction

The chance is the remotest Of its going much longer unnoticed That I'm not keeping pace With the headlong human race. And some of them may mind My staying back behind To take life at a walk In philosophic talk Though as yet they only smile At how slow I do a mile, With tolerant reproach For me as an Old Slow Coach. But I know them what they are As they get more nuclear And more bigoted in reliance On the gospel of modern science, For them my loitering around At less than the speed of sound Or...

Why Wait For Science

Sarcastic Science, she would like to know, In her complacent ministry of fear, How we propose to get away from here When she has made things so we have to go Or be wiped out. Will she be asked to show Us how by rocket we may hope to steer To some star off there, say, a half light-year Through temperature of absolute zero Why wait for Science to supply the how When any amateur can tell it now The way to go away should be the same As fifty million years ago we came If anyone remembers how that...

The Planners

If anything should put an end to This, Im thinking the unborn would never miss What they had never had of vital bliss. No burst of nuclear phenomenon That put an end to what was going on Could make much difference to the dead and gone. Only a few of those even in whose day It happened would have very much to say. And anyone might ask them who were they. Who would they be The guild of social planners With the intention blazoned on their banners Of getting one more chance to change our manners...

Something For Hope

At the present rate it must come to pass, And that right soon, that the meadowsweet And steeple bush, not good to eat, Will have crowded out the edible grass. Then all there is to do is wait For maple, birch, and spruce to push Through meadowsweet and steeple bush And crowd them out at a similar rate. No plow among these rocks would pay. So busy yourself with other things While the trees put on their wooden rings And with long-sleeved branches hold their sway. Then cut down the trees when...

There Are Roughly Zones

We sit indoors and talk of the cold outside. And every gust that gathers strength and heaves Is a threat to the house. But the house has long been tried. We think of the tree. If it never again has leaves, We'll know, we say, that this was the night it died. 5 It is very far north, we admit, to have brought the peach. What comes over a man, is it soul or mind That to no limits and bounds he can stay confined You would say his ambition was to extend the reach Clear to the Arctic of every living...

In The Clearing

(New York Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962) The contents of In the Clearing was preceded, as an introductory element, by an excerpt from the poem Kitty Hawk (being lines 219-224 and 246-257, set without any indication of a break between the two segments and having one textual variation Is for Was in line 254). The book had two titled units Cluster of Faith (the five poems Accidentally on Purpose through that beginning Forgive, O Lord) and Quandary (being the last ten poems of the volume)....

Haec Fabula Docet

A Blindman by the name of La Fontaine, Came tap-tap-tapping down the village street, Now just ahead of him was seen to yawn A trench where water pipes were laying on. The Blindman might have found it with his ferrule, But someone overanxious at his peril Not only warned him with a loud command But ran against him with a staying hand. Enraged at what he could but think officious, The Blindman missed him with a blow so vicious And plunged himself head foremost in the trench Where with a glee no...

The Milky Way Is A Cowpath

On wings too stiff to flap We started to exult In having left the map On journey the penult. But since we got nowhere, Like small boys we got mad And let go at the air With everything we had. Incorrigible Quidnuncs, We would see what would come Of pelting heaven with chunks Of crude uranium. At last in self-collapse We owned up to our wife The Milky Way perhaps Was woman's way of life. Our un-outwitted spouse Replied she had as soon Believe it was the cow's That overshot the moon. The parabolic...

Pod Of The Milkweed

Calling all butterflies of every race From source unknown but from no special place They ever will return to all their lives, Because unlike the bees they have no hives, The milkweed brings up to my very door The theme of wanton waste in peace and war And so it seems a flower s coming out That should if not be talked then sung about. The countless wings that from the infinite Make such a noiseless tumult over it Do no doubt with their color compensate For what the drab weed lacks of the ornate....

The Strong Are Saying Nothing

The soil now gets a rumpling soft and damp, And small regard to the future of any weed. The final flat of the hoe's approval stamp Is reserved for the bed of a few selected seed. There is seldom more than a man to a harrowed piece. 5 Men work alone, their lots plowed far apart, One stringing a chain of seed in an open crease, And another stumbling after a halting cart. To the fresh and black of the squares of early mold The leafless bloom of a plum is fresh and white 10 Though there's more than...

The Bonfire

Oh, let's go up the hill and scare ourselves, As reckless as the best of them tonight, By setting fire to all the brush we piled With pitchy hands to wait for rain or snow. Oh, let's not wait for rain to make it safe. The pile is ours we dragged it bough on bough Down dark converging paths between the pines. Let's not care what we do with it tonight. Divide it No But burn it as one pile The way we piled it. And let's be the talk Of people brought to windows by a light Thrown from somewhere...

Awishing Well

If but it were, he said, said he, And one thing more that may not be, This world were good enough for me. Some quaint dissatisfaction ate him. The one thing more I wish there were. (I don't care how the world gets by.) Like splashing phosphorescent paint, That ought to make the Sunday Press. But that's not like me. On much less From childhood has my heart been set. I wish I may, I wish I might When clever people ask me where I get a poem, I despair. I'm apt...

On A Bird Singing In Its Sleep

A bird half wakened in the lunar noon Sang halfway through its little inborn tune. Partly because it sang but once all night And that from no especial bush's height, Partly because it sang ventriloquist And had the inspiration to desist Almost before the prick of hostile ears, It ventured less in peril than appears. It could not have come down to us so far, Through the interstices of things ajar On the long bead chain of repeated birth, To be a bird while we are men on earth, If singing out of...

From Plane To Plane

Neither of them was better than the other. They both were hired. And though Pike had the advantag< Of having hoed and mowed for fifty years, Dick had of being fresh and full of college. Your trouble is not sticking to the subject, Pike said with temper. And Dick longed to say, Your trouble is bucolic lack of logic, But all he did say was, What is the subject It's whether these professions really work. Now take the Doctor They were giving corn A final going over with the hoe Before they turned...

Brook In The City

The farmhouse lingers, though averse to square With the new city street it has to wear A number in. But what about the brook That held the house as in an elbow-crook I ask as one who knew the brook, its strength 5 And impulse, having dipped a finger length And made it leap my knuckle, having tossed A flower to try its currents where they crossed. The meadow grass could be cemented down From growing under pavements of a town 10 The apple trees be sent to hearthstone flame. Is water wood to serve...

The Bearer Of Evil Tidings

The bearer of evil tidings, When he was halfway there, Remembered that evil tidings Were a dangerous thing to bear. So when he came to the parting Where one road led to the throne And one went off to the mountains And into the wild unknown, He took the one to the mountains. He ran through the Vale of Cashmere, He ran through the rhododendrons Till he came to the land of Pamir. And there in a precipice valley A girl of his age he met Took him home to her bower, Or he might be running yet. She...

An Empty Threat

There wasn't always Hudson's Bay And the fur trade, I can just see my tent pegged, And me on the floor, Cross-legged, And a trapper looking in at the door With furs to sell. And between what he doesn't know And won't tell About where Henry Hudson's gone, I can't say he's much help But we get on. Except always John-Joe, My French Indian Esquimaux, And he's off setting traps In one himself perhaps. Give a headshake Over so much bay Thrown away In snow and mist That doesn't exist, Don't ask Joe...

The Planet Venus

A dated popular-science medley on a mysterious light recently observed in the western sky at evening My unexpected knocking at the door Started chairs thundering on the kitchen floor, Knives and forks ringing on the supper plates, Voices conflicting like the candidates. A mighty farmer flung the house door wide, He and a lot of children came outside, And there on an equality we stood. Thats the time knocking at a door did good. I stopped to compliment you on this star You get the beauty of from...

They Were Welcome To Their Belief

Care may have thought it was care. They were welcome to their belief, The overimportant pair. No, it took all the snows that clung 5 To the low roof over his bed, Beginning when he was young, To induce the one snow on his head. But whenever the roof came white The head in the dark below 10 Was a shade less the color of night, A shade more the color of snow. Grief may have thought it was grief. Care may have thought it was care. But neither one was the thief...

The Lovely Shall Be Choosers

The Voice said, Hurl her down The Voices, How7 far down Seven levels of the world. How much time have we She would refuse love safe with wealth and honor The lovely shall be choosers, shall they Then let them choose Then we shall let her choose Take up the task beyond her choosing. Invisible hands crowded on her shoulder In readiness to weigh upon her. But she stood straight still, In broad round earrings, gold and jet with pearls, 15 And broad round suchlike brooch, Her cheeks high-colored,...

Masque Of Reason

A man sits leaning hack against a palm. His wife lies hy him looking at the sky. man. i said the incense tree's on fire again. 5 wife. You mean the Burning Bush wife. I shouldn't be surprised. wife. There's a strange light on everything today. man. The myrrh tree gives it. Smell the rosin burning The ornaments the Greek artificers 10 The Star of Bethlehem, the pomegranates, i The birds, seem all on fire with Paradise. And hark, the gold enameled nightingales...

Masque Of Mercy

The Keepers wife Pulls down the window curtain on the door And locks the door. One customer, locked in, Stays talking with the Keeper at a showcase. The Keepers wife has hardly turned away 5 Before the doors so violently tried It makes her move as if to reinforce it. jesse bel. You can't come in (Knock, knock) The store is closed paul. Late, late, too late, you cannot enter now. jesse bel. We can't be always selling people things. 10 He doesn't go. keeper. You needn't...