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My hands have not touched pleasure since your hands, -

No, -- nor my lips freed laughter since 'farewell',

And with the day, distance again expands

Voiceless between us, as an uncoiled shell.

Yet, love endures, though starving and alone.

A dove's wings clung about my heart each night

With surging gentleness, and the blue stone

Set in the tryst-ring has but worn more bright.

The Broken Tower

The bell-rope that gathers God at dawn

Dispatches me as though I dropped down the knell

Of a spent day - to wander the cathedral lawn

From pit to crucifix, feet chill on steps from hell.

Have you not heard, have you not seen that corps

Of shadows in the tower, whose shoulders sway

Antiphonal carillons launched before

The stars are caught and hived in the sun's ray?

The bells, I say, the bells break down their tower;

And swing I know not where. Their tongues engrave

Membrane through marrow, my long-scattered score

Of broken intervals… And I, their sexton slave!

Oval encyclicals in canyons heaping

The impasse high with choir. Banked voices slain!

Pagodas, campaniles with reveilles out leaping-

O terraced echoes prostrate on the plain!…

And so it was I entered the broken world

To trace the visionary company of love, its voice

An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)

But not for long to hold each desperate choice.

My word I poured. But was it cognate, scored

Of that tribunal monarch of the air

Whose thigh embronzes earth, strikes crystal Word

In wounds pledged once to hope - cleft to despair?

The steep encroachments of my blood left me

No answer (could blood hold such a lofty tower

As flings the question true?) -or is it she

Whose sweet mortality stirs latent power?-

And through whose pulse I hear, counting the strokes

My veins recall and add, revived and sure

The angelus of wars my chest evokes:

What I hold healed, original now, and pure…

And builds, within, a tower that is not stone

(Not stone can jacket heaven) - but slip

Of pebbles, - visible wings of silence sown

In azure circles, widening as they dip

The matrix of the heart, lift down the eye

That shrines the quiet lake and swells a tower…

The commodious, tall decorum of that sky

Unseals her earth, and lifts love in its shower.


Forgetfulness is like a song
That, freed from beat and measure, wanders.
Forgetfulness is like a bird whose wings are reconciled,
Outspread and motionless, —
A bird that coasts the wind unwearyingly.

Forgetfulness is rain at night,
Or an old house in a forest, — or a child.
Forgetfulness is white, — white as a blasted tree,
And it may stun the sybil into prophecy,
Or bury the Gods.

I can remember much forgetfulness.

My Grandmother's Love Letters

There are no stars tonight

But those of memory.

Yet how much room for memory there is

In the loose girdle of soft rain.

There is even room enough

For the letters of my mother's mother,


That have been pressed so long

Into a corner of the roof

That they are brown and soft,

And liable to melt as snow.

Over the greatness of such space

Steps must be gentle.

It is all hung by an invisible white hair.

It tremble as birch limbs webbing the air.

And I ask myself:

"Are your fingers long enough to play

Old keys that are but echoes:

Is the silence strong enough

To carry back the music to its source

And back to you again

As though to her?"

Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand

Through much of what she would not understand;

And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof

With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.

To Brooklyn Bridge

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest

The seagull's wings shall dip and pivot him,

Shedding white rings of tumult, building high

Over the chained bay waters Liberty—

Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes

As apparitional as sails that cross

Some page of figures to be filed away;

—Till elevators drop us from our day . . .

I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights

With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene

Never disclosed, but hastened to again,

Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;

And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced

As though the sun took step of thee, yet left

Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,—

Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!

Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft

A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,

Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,

A jest falls from the speechless caravan.

Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,

A rip-tooth of the sky's acetylene;

All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .

Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.

And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,

Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow

Of anonymity time cannot raise:

Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,

(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)

Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge,

Prayer of pariah, and the lover's cry,—

Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift

Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,

Beading thy path—condense eternity:

And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;

Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.

The City's fiery parcels all undone,

Already snow submerges an iron year . . .

O Sleepless as the river under thee,

Vaulting the sea, the prairies' dreaming sod,

Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend

And of the curveship lend a myth to God.…..
Through the bound cable strands, the arching path

Upward, veering with light, the flight of strings–

Taut miles of shuttling moonlight syncopate

The whispered rush, telepathy of wires.

Up the index of night, granite and steel –

Transparent meshes – fleckless the gleaming staves –

Sibylline voices flicker, waveringly stream

As though a god were issue of the strings….
Bridge, lifting night to cycloramic crest

Of deepest day – O Choir, translating time

Into what multitudinous Verb the suns

And synergy of waters ever fuse, recast

In myriad syllables, – Psalm of Cathay!

O Love, thy white, pervasive Paradigm…!
Migrations that must needs void memory,

Inventions that cobblestone the heart, –

Unspeakable Thou Bridge to Thee, O Love.

Thy pardon for this history, whitest Flower,

O Answerer of all, – Anemone, –

Now while thy petals spend the suns about us, hold –

(O Thou whose radiance doth inherit me)

Atlantis, – hold thy floating singer late!
So to thine Everpresence, beyond time,

Like spears ensanguined of one tolling star

That bleeds infinity – the orphic strings

Sidereal phalanxes, leap and converge!

- One Song, one Bridge of Fire! Is it Cathay,

Now pity steeps the grass and rainbows ring

The serpent with the eagles in the leaves…?

Whispers antiphonal in azure swing.

Voyages II

--And yet this great wink of eternity,

Of rimless floods, unfettered leewardings,

Samite sheeted and processioned where

Her undinal vast belly moonward bends,

Laughing the wrapt inflections of our love;

Take this Sea, whose diapason knells

On scrolls of silver snowy sentences,

The sceptred terror of whose sessions rends

As her demeanors motion well or ill,

All but the pieties of lovers’ hands.

And onward, as bells off San Salvador

Salute the crocus lustres of the stars,

In these poinsettia meadows of her tides,--

Adagios of islands, O my Prodigal,

Complete the dark confessions her veins spell.

Mark how her turning shoulders wind the hours,

And hasten while her penniless rich palms

Pass superscription of bent foam and wave,--

Hasten, while they are true,--sleep, death, desire,

Close round one instant in one floating flower.

Bind us in time, O Seasons clear, and awe.

O minstrel galleons of Carib fire,

Bequeath us to no earthly shore until

Is answered in the vortex of our grave

The seal’s wide spindrift gaze toward paradise.