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WARREN, Robert Penn

Bearded Oaks

The oaks, how subtle and marine,

Bearded, and all the layered light

Above them swims; and thus the scene,

Recessed, awaits the positive night.

So, waiting, we in the grass now lie

Beneath the languorous tread of light:

The grassed, kelp-like, satisfy

The nameless motions of the air.

Upon the floor of light, and time,

Unmurmuring, of polyp made,

We rest; we are, as light withdraws,

Twin atolls on a shelf of shade.

Ages to our construction went,

Dim architecture, hour by hour:

And violence, forgot now, lent

The present stillness all its power.

The storm of noon above us rolled,

Of light the fury, furious gold,

The long drag troubling us, the depth:

Dark is unrocking, unrippling, still.

Passion and slaughter, ruth, decay

descend, minutely whispering down,

Silted down swaying streams, to lay

Foundation for our voicelessness.

All our debate is voiceless here,

As all our rage, the rage of stone;

If hope is hopeless, then fearless is fear,

And history is thus undone.

Our feet once wrought the hollow street

With echo when the lamps were dead

All windows, once our headlight glare

Disturbed the doe that, leaping fled.

I do not love you less that now

The caged heart makes iron stroke,

Or less that all that light once gave

The graduate dark should now revoke.

We live in time so little time

And we learn all so painfully,

That we may spare this hour's term

To practice for eternity.


You will have to wait. Until it. Until The last owl hoot has quavered to a

Vibrant silence and you realize thre is no breathing Beside you, and dark curdles toward dawn. Until

Drouth breaks, too late to save the corn, But not too late for flood, and the dog-fox, stranded

On a sudden islet, barks in hysteria in the alder-brake.

Until the doctor enters the waiting room, and His expression betrays all, and you wish He'd take his God-damned hand off your shoulder. Until

The woman you have lived with all the years Says, without rancor, that life is the way life is, and she

Had never loved you, had believed the lie only for the sake of the children.

Until you become uncertain of French irregular verbs And by a strange coincidence begin to take Catholic instruction from Monsignor O'Malley, who chews a hangnail. Until

You realize, truly, that our Saviour died for us all, And as tears gather in your eyes, you burst out laughing,

For the joke is certainly on Him, considering What we are. Until

You pick the last alibi off, like a scab, and Admire the inwardness, as beautiful as inflamed flesh

Or summer sunrise. Until you

Remember, suprisingly, that common men have done good deeds. Until it

Grows on that, at least, God

Has allowed us the grandeur of certain utterances.

Tell me a story

Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood

By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard

The great geese hoot northward.

I could not see them, there being no moon

And the stars sparse. I heard them.

I did not know what was happening in my heart.

It was the season before the elderberry blooms,

Therefore they were going north.

The sound was passing northward.

San Francisco Night Windows

So hangs the hour like fruit fullblown and sweet,

Our strict and desperate avatar,

Despite that antique westward gulls lament

Over enormous waters which retreat

Weary unto the white and sensual star.

Accept these images for what they are--

Out of the past a fragile element

Of substance into accident.

I would speak honestly and of a full heart;

I would speak surely for the tale is short,

And the soul's remorseless catalogue

Assumes its quick and piteous sum.

Think you, hungry is the city in the fog

Where now the darkened piles resume

Their framed and frozen prayer

Articulate and shafted in the stone

Against the void and absolute air.

If so the frantic breath could be forgiven,

And the deep blood subdued before it is gone

In a savage paternoster to the stone,

Then might we all be shriven.