Here is a sampling from my 78-sonnet sequence, The Desert Is for Wooing: Sonnets from the Exile, which I began on February 21st, 2016, and completed on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14th, 2016. Our Lady of Glastonbury is patroness of my poetry, to whom I am so grateful.
By a Fugitive Light
On the Second Sunday of Lent, 2016
“And it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe.”
A tower kept me, so I stayed, to look
Upon the drama of a world unbooked.
“O watchman bound, three years and more behold
The exile lordly glory lets unfold,
To say a word on absence and on shame,
On warfare, loveless cold, and on a flame
That shudders, yet survives in trembling ray,
Upwelling that heart there, and here at play,
A dew of light, this slight array, despite
The sharp dismay of what seems endless night.”
Then came to me the world enscrolled, wherein
By sorrow, I see wisdom, love begin.
So did the cherub wheels forsake our stain,
Or darkly by a candle life remain?
“There is a world elsewhere.”
I asked, “Should you take all that you propose,
What would be left of me for you to thrall?”
Yet they came anyway, to overthrow,
With clamoring of exile. I recall
The chisels gouging my once honored name
Off stelae. They were thorough. And I spat.
I howled, “I banish you!” But they remained.
Withershins from Rome, I ended up, and sat.
This loneliness has had me for its food;
What I have held most dear is being bled.
You say to scan a motion through dark wood,
Inertial frames and cloaked force must be read.
Please give me eyes to see this strange effect:
A falling body plumbs but Thy hanged depths.
Sundays with Anaximander
This zero hour, drawn up in arms, began
Before today’s alarms. It was perhaps
When for the pines, You primed a caravan.
They sang of Beulah land; they fought collapse.
That was my church, was baptized there. It burned,
Returning to the limitless. Thus time
Its levy makes. But music stayed, and spurned
Night: “we’ll understand it all, by and by.”
Aunt Mildred had prepared pot roast. The sweet,
Sweet tea, in plastic pitchers went around.
The eighth day dawned, it dawns, and with it fleets
All days since chaos was by Spirit drowned.
The throne awaits, the river and the trees,
For us to fall, to rise, and be received.
To an Unknown Love
It took me forty years lashed to the mast
To fathom that the tune was not for me—
No female charm to swallow up my past,
No warmth, no bourne, no partnered ecstasy.
O Mother Mary, womanless days screech.
Such marred machinery opaques your care.
Would you my heart and some hers heart come teach
How finally to bow, to stay, to bear?
Unworthy am I, I well know, but grace
Is what I seek—a touch, a tender eye,
To raise my head again, my self displace,
Our love so patient, kind, to make shame die.
Lady, you sing the song now beckoning me—
May I hope another joins the melody?
For my father
How cold it must have been those three dozen sorties;
How loud, within the belly of the dragon;
How quiet, floating down a thousand stories;
And colder, when your friend was strafed and slackened.
It ruined you. You couldn’t drink enough
To exorcise the gelid cacophony.
You fathered freedom, though, and, in that, us,
Crushed the rage that slaughtered Jews so savagely.
Still, I can’t keep a father. They all go.
Joseph, David’s son, could you foster me?
Of my unquiet bapa, too, take custody?
And ward my children’s own unpatroned woe?
Would that the festal, gliding, glinting ranks
Drop soundless fire upon these orphaned banks.
The Republic on the Glassy Sea (Easter, 2016)
O Angel of America, how tides
The Sunday news upon this continent?
The song of dignity the times divide,
From Christic archē to each countenance.
On Cadillac, I see ancient light emerge;
Afresh, the nation wakes arcadian.
Can we be new again? Can hope converge
With classic virtue, arcing radiance?
The modern needs tradition to progress,
And yet Enlightened minds relinquish books,
Extinguish pilgrim faith, and politesse.
Even ardency to forge have we forsook.
A liberty that serves, creates, and prays—
O Angel, have we cast it all away?
No rising but in falling, none at all—
Vulnerability the sole capacity.
This we forgot: our freedom is installed
That we may spend ourselves audaciously.
The King of all there is has made it known:
The halt repatriation of world’s power
Occurs but through the reconciling throes
Of unrequited love’s most gallant hour.
O citizen, would you republic keep?
Let’s advocate without partisanship.
The dead and with the downtrod let us weep,
And pioneer a fasting stewardship.
True lofty romance fruits in solidarity,
And stakes its treasure to embrace posterity.
Yeats saw what his beloved would dismiss:
Poetry, not insurrection, renovates.
The middle terms are love and politics,
Which premise Dante’s course to elevate.
We must be people of deliberation—
Nihilistic action cannot reach conclusion.
Wonder, friendship, taste, grace: such constellations
Could wake elites, and us, from strong illusion.
What’s needed? Spiritual force republicans—
Not furies of resentment and despair,
From pain that’s surely there, but peregrines
That range the crests and falls of life with flair.
The wings of Spirit vortex, vertex from above
An edifice of thinking, thanking, and of love.
Ambiguous, still, Pax American
Has aegised progress, thwarted tyrannies.
Yet Sallust knew, the high republican
Morality fails with hegemony.
Righteous Cato wards the mountain we must climb,
For holiness and liberty aren’t two.
Christ died to make men free. Redeem the time:
Frack saeculum; fill all with azured dew.
So I to self, to you. This polity
Is charged to us: let’s make it new, encore.
Suave Angel, manner us to comity,
Transmit, from orders higher, heaven’s more.
What is democracy that can’t impart
Aristocracy to every mind and heart?
The lamp of freedom once went westering
And spanned in dawn these hemispheric lands.
Angel, have you horned the fire, sequestering?
When will it come, dropping slow from your hands?
The worlding engines of our cities, plains
Like inland seas of bloom, and mountainous
Ambitions fine and fell: such scope us veins—
Our ministry should yield more bounteously.
Sad Watcher, helpless you must feel as we
Flee wisdom’s legacy of arts, fine prose,
Philosophy, cosmic liturgy. Self enemy
We are, inapt. Plead Him Who saves His foes.
Atlantic dreams of golden ages linger;
Pacific make us, everyone a singer.
Great Pan Is Dead
“The shepherds on the lawn,/Or ere the point of dawn,/Sat simply chatting in a rustic row;/Full little thought they then,/That the mighty Pan/Was kindly come to live with them below…”
—Milton, “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity”
“Sing, refugee, of all that comes to be.”
We’re straitened for the pressing out of song,
But in the eternal solitudes of love we plead,
“Now, future!”—slow its kerning, brooding world-long.
We don’t begin with fruit, but end with it,
So genesis was always bound to wait
Upon apocalypse. I want to sit
Beneath the evergreens, and harp, and play
Till evening with my kids, my shield uphung
On gummy boughs, the lightning bugs so bright
In quantum constellation, you’d think they’d sprung
From smoldering celestial timber, as flights
Of shaken, drowsy embers. Suffering makes us light;
So, we exist, in gardens still invisible,
And dirge the leaping God, the All, who’s ever
Been the singer, the truth of things thought mythical.
By mystic chords, He piers with sun the world’s endeavor.
A backwards-streaming dawn the final womb:
Which side the night, this gloaming of the tomb?
The Seraph in the Wilderness
On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
pues así llegué a saber
que toda la dicha humana,
en fin, pasa como sueño.
For thus I’ve come to know
That all of human bliss,
In the end, passes like a dream.
—Calderón, Life is a Dream
I asked for faith and came the dark instead,
With furies to howl away my gist and marrow—
Children, name, utility, caress, and bed:
In repression’s tower this Sigismund’s been barrowed.
I was supposed to turn it into song,
But the abandonment has been prolonged.
What is real? Love? Justice? Mercy? Providence?
What of this seraph fire within my veins?
Only God Who bleeds in us still warrants confidence;
The rest is nada, what refuses to remain.
Transfixed by us, Christ dwells as covert food—
Take…eat…my body...blood…covenant…for you—
The very savor, substance of reality:
If words will mean again, must mean like these;
If touch will come again, as Pentecostal breeze.
A single mourning dove escorts our plight, and coos:
A lover courts by night, and in the desert woos.
The following poems come from the second manuscript I have completed, entitled Relic Radiation: Poems in Protology.
Fenway Fields the Threefold God
“[Mission] includes the eternal procession, with the addition of a temporal effect.” —Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae I, q. 43, a. 2, ad 3
“And a path and a way shall be there, and it shall be called the holy way…, and this shall be unto you a straight way, so that fools shall not err therein.” —Isaiah 35:8
In autumn clarity of wind and light
descending from the Irish and heroic heights
of patria and poetry
blazoned on O’Reilly’s monument
(a Boston pilot used to bid men write),
my six kids and I made journey
along the Fens.
From salt to fresh, from blight to pleasure site,
rose this wending way to ends
only those who persevere may apprehend.
I. Blowing from Paradise
begins all things.
Solar generation spirates in cascades over gradient-weirs.
between girth and pole
between heat of heaven
and the fears of earth
A lightly stepping God, Who bends the panicles
of this superbic grass, phragmites—
to make hosanna
and bake the manna:
from cynical to cenacle,
love must fan gracilities.
We watched Shekinah toy with visibility
south from the Boylston Street bridge—
Richardsonian Romanesque, of course,
in Worcester pink granite: Boston massiness to crown
the Emerald Necklace.
We see the cosmic dove, Who seeks for love
Who sees the Muddy River flowing from the throne above.
et omnes ad quos pervenit aqua ista
holy homeward ways and vistas
But gulled by rhythms gainsaying
love as that which leads astray,
dullard man still tries to wash away his baptism.
So, upon this thinking reed, the wind must play,
to charm us, vanquish need for schism and decay.
II. The Slowing of Light
The light is inefficient
like a child.
Neither ever goes in straight lines
in the weightless glory of eternity
in a vacuum
Living motion is in refraction
which vitalizes human space and humble air.
My kids explored the tunnels in the reedbrake,
trails eagerly cut by youth pursuing
new worlds in which to drink and copulate.
The stalks were serviceable as bō
and hanbō. Aspirant Avengers posed and sparred,
while the gentler actors sought instead to featherdust
the ground itself with quietly deposed seed heads.
The kids attended squirrels next: bidding them
to eat the nuts they cast at them, though all around
the acorns were so large and thick, I quipped,
“This is how they built the pyramids.”
(They didn’t laugh a bit.)
Light proceeds from light, to drape and drip
in downward flight from key of c.
There’s no defeating relativity.
The leaves between the sun and us, they danced electrum
phasing in and out another spectrum.
To gloss a matted world
to magnify this once and future humus
cues us by a slowing glory
to the munus and the trueness
of a song’s primeval glow
which goes by longest detour
this breadth of story
and strong allures through death to newness.
III. Sub Rosa
“Ridiculous the waste sad time/Stretching before and after.”
—T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton
We took that passage to the garden,
but what had been, no longer was.
The primal love.
Which persists by only pardon.
The wind and light, they open time and space.
Thus possibility becomes within reality.
This, so flesh might come to be,
and love have visibility, and heft, and place,
and the play of finding ways through surfaces
The rise of life depends on absolute initiative,
which is always first divinity.
But every start requires a woman’s heart,
for the interval of history is a derivative
of widest femininity.
Without surrounding khôra:
no polis, mobile form, or drama.
We entered the Kelleher Rose Garden,
veiled by a hedge of yew,
blowing ever new,
There was cultivation,
blossoming of civilization.
There were these children.
There was a man.
But there was no woman.
No giddy trembling fumbling searching,
along the outside for the inside,
that undergirds all rising and converging.
No new and urgent world of merging.
It is not good for man to be alone.
Or lose the hope of home.
Now the rose is staked upon a cross,
as progress goes by constant loss—
and embodiment of form must be propounded
by virtue of a twisted crown.
Attar drips when things of matter
relinquish, and are battered to the ground.
Eternal Woman, disconsolate,
do you mourn our droning moments
IV. To the Victor
“I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” —Revelation 2:4
“If the only thing that tells is father time/Then sacrifice is the mutha sublime.” —Prince, “The Sacrifice of Victor”
Are there eternal, cryptic postulates
behind the waste of ages,
or is providence a thing approximate?
I hold my tongue for this is all Your doing.
I loose my tongue for this is all Your doing.
Even the perfect love of God wants more
than calm eternity.
Love needs time, and to caress:
to be measure of these moving bodies,
these tongues, their songs,
with their sensual fluorescing
and strongly yielding blessing.
If lovers’ voices fade in savoring
their loves, in saying with their silent tongues
what must be said through moistness, the quavering
has from God’s giving goodness, fullness, sprung,
and leads us to rejoicing.
Love is gift before it’s choice,
which we must endeavor to receive.
Our gardens of delight emerge from desert
and from sea,
so night can either be when love deserts
or when it brings on ecstasy.
The flower and the fruit are innovations,
emanations of the sexual revelation.
That is, the aching of affinity
from waking of the two (the female and the male)
was long prepared on evolutionary scale
and in the rhythms of the Trinity.
The bloom is paradise both gained and lost,
the origin Courbet so truthfully displayed
but also Schiele’s shriveling, exhausted
efflorescence of a nihilist dismay.
We left the Kelleher, and headed back
to Boylston through the Victory Gardens.
When common will defies a sly attack,
a thriving fills the center from the margins.
I held the latest fruit of all the ages’
groaning, my Cecilia, music’s memory,
who has only known the lonely stages
of marriage in a ruinous trajectory.
To hold another is the dearest yearning—
though massing protons in my muscles burn,
I would rather hold till earth had done with turning.
The conatus of entelechy
is the secret of the Trinity:
oneself recurring to another
in infinite sanguinity.
We’ve come a ways, my children,
and you my unknown lover,
and all you precedent and present pilgrims.
There is in back of every step in pain
a limitless immutability
perseverant love may ascertain,
immutable in choosing co-futility,
an utterer of intimacies in word and breath,
to draw us even from our daily death,
so subtle-prodigal—we usually miss
the signs and styles of their paternal tenderness.
This fathering-forth of motion and mobility,
of oceans and virility,
of notions and docility,
retains no vestige of a private self.
His vortices of wind and light impel
a storm of life to quell the one called history.
We see the Muddy River slowly wend
from the throne-room of Jerusalem,
rimmed by the flower and fruit that love commends.
Here’s to beginnings and to ends,
within the holy longing to extend.
You must not make a promise to a child
That can’t be guaranteed, unless you say
The sun will rise tomorrow, for beguiled
In that, you would be pardoned anyway.
Not even love can easily evade
A need for ceteris paribus provision:
The light we’re counting on goes retrograde
So often, romance can seem like long division.
We flicker up ex nihilo, and out
Ad nihilum, and seize half-visible
Assurances of hope to hush the doubt
That summing one and one is risible.
Each time we fall in love we know, we know,
Forever has withdrawn us from decaying
Probabilities, preparing us a home
Sufficient to withstand the dissipating.
So often, though, our prophecy that here’s
A lasting love proves false. You turn around,
And find you both have slid into the fears
Of nothingness which nullity propounds.
With years, therefore, comes either jaundiced eye
Or escalated feeling for the real—
Passion must by suffering be verified,
As well the providence of fortune’s wheel.
The energies released by our collision
In this accelerating universe,
My darling, demonstrate our common mission.
It’s proved we’ve been eternally rehearsed,
That you have always been my precondition.
The Passionate God versus Privatized Love: A Manifesto
On Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
For all victims of domestic violence
Unhappy souls enforce unhappiness
On others, even women bruised by hands
Assumed to be the ones that would protect,
Even children of neglect and ridicule.
The simulacrum of normality
Is our so necessary Maginot,
We offer daily human sacrifice
To make it go. Like inconvenient babies
Or the trade in flesh, we relegate to hell
The battered heart and body knelled by blows
In verberant horizonings of death.
This seems to us but simple righteousness,
The cost of doing business in a world
Where hope accedes to force, and all success
Entails enabling of the bully’s course.
A few eggs broken for the omelette of
Potemkin-village life, religion, homes,
And marriages: a little thing, our inner
Robespierre and Lenin say, a fated hand.
—Da, comrade children, loyal christian woman?
Conspirators of modern love, unite!
For love commodified and privatized!
A home’s a castle, no? And romance, as
We know, can only be between possessive
Subjectivities. No commerce reaching
Towards a universal intimacy
Is tolerable. Intone totalities,
Domestic segregations of the soul!
What though the nuclear energies become
In casual brutalities of long
Familiarity? Let’s call it normal.
Is not contempt but love’s own preterite?
The cosmopolitans of eros and
Of solidarity are too ideal;
There is no question that they’re charlatans.
—Thus speak and think and act convention’s grim
Police, the atheists and pharisees
Of love’s strange parody as atom-anomie.
My God, the filth of it, the stench and retch
Of it! It’s simply pagan cruelty,
Psychosis trimmed in Stockholm sympathy.
The worldly and religious come together
To maintain this gulag archipelago:
It’s we who supervise our inmate fellows!
As gallant advocates of every victim,
With angels and with children, let us sing
Instead the true identity of love,
The being-sacrificed, not sacrificing.
Ecce Amor, conquering all by passion!
A passion for the heavens and tomorrow,
A passion to accompany each sorrow;
A passion to embrace the transcendental,
With wondering mind and open heart still seeking;
A passion to be flanked by Other-destiny;
A passion to be more by being
Vulnerable to all that is not me.
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
“I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.”
You splattered inkblots cross our broken minds,
To sober Ahabs for the Möbius
Recurrences that wind the streams of time.
Your meaning is both veiled and copious.
You spoke of El Dorado and the fonts
Of youth, of banquets and great seams of truth.
You spoke the dreams that every dreamer haunts,
To strike it rich and have what all would choose.
You spoke of unassuming revolution,
Of trading bread for all the stones we get,
Of grateful mercy as our constitution
And lostness as community’s rosette.
But only when I knew myself to be
The pharisee, did all begin to clear.
I had to die to feel the density
Of life within another atmosphere.
I’d traced a sinking arc since taking on
Determination of what’s right or not,
The curse of being my own pantheon.
Your justice made of me an astronaut.
The Kingdom is a growing thing, which grows
Like Yggdrasil through everyone who sings,
And shoots with stars to chime the palindrome
Of time: love starts and ends and bears all things.
The deathless word of love leaps down the skies
To die, and rend the dying of the dead.
You fix me with your deadshot hands and eyes,
And speak a spinning bullet at my head.
The following poems come from the manuscript I am currently working on, entitled Precessions of Desire: Poems.
The Twisting Hour
On the occasion of my 44th birthday
qui può esser tormento, ma non morte.
Here may be torment, but not death.
—Dante, Purgatorio XXVII.21
Such fires of ancient revolution breeze
Upon my face! I see the start of sex
And hope and faith beneath a thin chemise
And in the apple air. But still time’s vexed
Into obscurities of being-there
Like innards spilled by daggers of pretext.
The guts contain compassion, though, so care
Ensues extorted hara-kiri sighs
Of losing home, our Ur, false Eden, where
I had a life that reeked of compromise.
Yet it was home, and there were kids and ease
Of passage through the days, while mesmerized.
This double sight of paradise diseases
Me: the orbitals of future intimacy
Are wobbled by inertias that would seize us,
Bind us to the power plays that casually
Steep lotus leaves under a carcass clock,
In iron rhythms mocking casualties.
I see the future of a primal plot,
But only through the cataract of cracked
Ribs and hacked heart, somebody’s afterthought.
This wooded mountain hides its scanty tracks
More subtly than the forestry around Lake
Ouachita, where I, foolhardy, inexact,
Not twelve years old, embarked, ignoring shade’s
Crescendo. How did I escape despite
The full opacity in which I traipsed?
So might I hope that there be some of life
Ahead of me. Such things I feel I see:
The streaming gown of timely, timeless wife,
A whisper on this hill of jubilee.
[a translation of Paul Celan’s “Tenebrae”]
Near are we, Lord,
near and manipulable.
Manipulated already, Lord,
clawed into each other, as though
the body of each of us were
your body, Lord.
pray to us,
we are near.
Oblique we went there,
we went there to bow
towards cavity and crater.
To the watering hole we went, Lord.
It was blood, it was
what you shed, Lord.
It threw your image into our eyes, Lord.
Eyes and mouth stand so open and empty, Lord.
We have drunk, Lord.
The blood, and the image that was in the blood, Lord.
We are near.