Shake out your dragon streamers; autumn the snows
with balefire, link, or demon thurible;
strike-up the horrors of the horn and gong;
shiver my citadels with incantation;
and do all this in fear of me: with cause.
You have not seen me: pugs or slides, perhaps;
entrails and skins of the mouse-hare my food;
and you have heard me - or the blizzard? - crying
along the cols: but have not seen me. How
should I, your darkness made external, guilt
made flesh, old panic in my unman's mask,
submit myself a mirror to your hatred?
II: Adam (i)
As connoisseur of the impossible,
myself to choose and name the trees forbidden,
I would have nothing in this garden altered.
A dead leaf to be pruned (or the whole suffers),
a live to bend away (and the fruit ripens);
a cherishing (eidolon of possession);
even a plaque (as: Malus Caritatis):
these I permit. But o dilecta mea,
the spoiling foxes bite at apples also;
I cannot guard against their hungering.
How to be sure (no mirrors in the leaves)
the mask that I present you is not vulpine?
III: Adam (ii)
Bird in my stony garden, single flower,
dove I shall die of, rose be ruined by,
do I avenge already my unmaking?
Touches and words that spelt-out love: to you
are these a braille that ends in pain or pity,
a vexing as from fever-bird or mynah?
Knowing you native to the march of sadness,
I could forgive myself in your forgiving,
were this vast hand of shadow not my own
that clutches me.
Sweet plumage I shall never
silken again, wine-petals not breathe-in,
commend my ashes to your patroness.
I am not ready for the autumn (weather,
be faithless to this fallacy; St. Luke,
you shall see burned a yard of maiden wax).
But calendar and falling leaf and glass
wear the one image - happy enough did all
affections fade in the same season: how
if weathered stubble yearns for daffodils?
Turn, then, this planet penguin-over-walrus:
australe speculum. Or (since who has magic?)
cross-fold the star-map to a fair projection,
sowing the photograph and not the field,
peruking soon-bald almanacs with poems.
Fifteen, I needed no recipient
for amorous poems, nor a real object:
at most the briefly-and-far-seen beauty of strangers,
or some green Lilith only a new-learnt body.
The empty canvas and the unfleshed air
I limned and featured by the power and wish.
Fifty, the wish and power dislocated,
my portrait-gallery closed unlit, and poems
torn out of me like mandrakes: oh, the aurora
suckled in vain, is very thin and cold;
I need the cottage of the flesh, its lamplight,
its warmth of little walls, and supper waiting.
Do not, among the foxed autumnal trees,
wish for the lamb and hare, the parrot-green:
plays are as proud in tarnished theatres
as in the fancy's gilt and jewel-fires.
Too manifold the dancing bells of March;
I beat the steady music of the sparse
ungardens of October. Love him-real,
in his chrysanthemum and rowan years,
that winter must inherit, and the ice.
Oh let him understand his shortening light
is yet sufficient for the ends of peace;
his cold-roofed evening, cradle to your sleep.
VII: Last Supper
Male spiders must not be too early slain. (W. Empson)
Your elder sister, with a swallow's flight
already in her fury, the willow-slayer,
suppered her king-deceiver upon flesh:
his last meal, human; psalm her, nightingale.
The paschal coven, breaking lamb for Lamb,
drinking the scattered lintel-blood, consuming
(as He consumed) the Man soon to be Fish,
could never eat again their present symbol.
I have spun poems out of time and flesh,
webs I would have you lie on; if I come
offering these, they also are my seed:
allow my love, then: sup not yet, Arachne.
VIII: The Muse
The true terrors of Muses - flesh that kills
by single contact; purpose unreadable
before the final revelation; mouth
by nature fastened upon all - not these
I think to learn from you. But even if these,
I gladly abandon guard: how else be sure
I see you in the full-moon's danger?
that I have learned already; but not from you.
But not from you. Yet. Then I ask you this:
eating me, eat me gently; dismissing me,
dismiss me kindly; for I do not need
pain to confirm in me the nature of darkness.
IX: Writing on Glass
I grave in diamond upon looking-glasses
(across my own, my name; on yours, my poems).
The white script overlays our living features,
reads in their absence, holds till the mirror breaks.
Windows I dare not ruin with graffiti
- not my own, even; and your panes look outwards
wider and oftener. By this frosty weather,
from the cold still I write on them in crystals;
how rarely from within, and then on breath.
Keep, love, the weather cold - giving me honour
that through the unvapoured looping path your vision
may yet be clearer than through shrouded glass.
X: The Cheque-book
Opening my account, I took their pamphlet
of twenty-four cheques all presentable
if I could earn or were I given; all
not limiting, yet, the powers of my credit.
On eight my writing was illegible;
one I forgot to sign, and one misdated;
one spoiled and threw away; too many squandered;
with four, perhaps, drew currency enough
to keep from starving; only two, I think,
were stolen and repudiated. One
was not presented.
Down to my last I come;
but, being overdrawn, how can I pay you?
XI: Four Rooms
First was a window: Xanadu and Y Brasil
beyond it, rainbow-real continents;
custom and old hope statured like the ant.
Second, a gift of boughs: being in secret
quieter than a doll's-house, happy as grass,
dark as the calling odours of the moth.
And third, a city gate thrown wide: the gentle
invader needing no destruction, trust
of the hearth and flesh disarming as the sunlight.
Fourth was an altar to the sound of bells:
an only two, untouched; but on that altar
custom and old hope staring, still alive.
XII: Lazarus (i)
Lazarus, fainting at the rich man's doorstep,
saw the delights that epicure commanded
(as: phoenix-breast, the tongues of paradise-birds,
kebab of Colchis flamed on dragons' quills,
the flesh of unicorns) - and saw great panniers
pouting with broken meats: what Dives cannot,
servant or beggar shall not, swallow-up.
But anger, no; and hatred, no; nor envy:
the pauper understood the prodigal -
that some wealth may be squandered but may not
be shared; the very crumbs acquiring voice
in protest against glory delegated.
XIII: Lazarus (ii)
I cannot wish the Dives from whose banquet
myself am jalousied, the parabolic
envy, despair, and flame: why should he feel them?
- or I attempt the Heights of Abraham?
He shall have all the water that he will,
after his human sacrament. For I,
crouched in the portico of the waste-panniers,
taking my comfort from the tongues of dogs,
reserve two prides he is not rich enough
to purchase: I can live in lack of all
he is fed with; and it is I who celebrate
(vicarious poet) his mere happiness.
Should have been window, have instead been prism:
love is a white beam; I have scattered it.
Should have unjewelled; but kept on my opals:
love is the clear skin; I wore necklaces.
Should have breathed air, but was amazed with perfume:
love is to live-by; I have made it strange.
You have breathed into me, and that air is pure:
my poems add the groin and offered incense.
I have had your sigil on my heart all night:
the gift has entered me as tender gold.
Oh my impossible and lovely glass,
I should be drunken, or give you pure water.