Flight into Reality

Original Text: 

Rosemarie Rowley, Hot Cinquefoil Star ([Dublin:] Rowan Tree Press, 2002): 9-105.

Dedicated to the memory of my best friend Georgina, (1942-74)
and to her husband Alex Burns and their children

Nulles laides amours ne belles prison

           -Lord Herbert of Cherbury
     In the Egyptian legend, Isis was the sister of Osiris. The cult of Osiris was distinguished by the expenditure of powerful emotion. Initially, Osiris was a king who ruled over Egypt in an idyllic order. This was broken by Seth, his wicked brother, who dared Osiris to lie in a coffin. The chest was then thrown into the Nile. All sources agree that Seth tore up Osiris' body and scattered the pieces. Isis seeks her husband's body, who is her mystical brother, and eventually finds all the parts save one-the organ of generation-and with the help of her sister Nephytys puts him together again. She is unable to bring him fully back to life. There was in Egypt, surrounded by desert, great anxiety that the earth be fruitful, and in the story of Isis's search for her husband's body this anxiety is given coherence and meaning.

When Alexander conquered Egypt to found the city which was named after him, there came together Greek thought models and Egyptian practice, which gave birth to alchemy. Precious texts were lost at the Library of Alexandria in 46 BC when Julius Caesar set fire to the city. Thus we will never know the inner truth that informs the myths and the great pyramids of Egypt. Christianity incorporated mythic elements of the early religions while the rational Greek mode of thought developed alchemy into science. With the Enlightenment, and the elevation of reason, came the final blow to the inner order in which religion and the earlier esoteric forms had sought a correspondence. With the acceptance of verification through entirely objective means, an inner lack of wholeness became the hallmark of our civilisation. A modern Isis finds herself on the same search as her precursor in Egypt almost five thousand years ago.

-----------------

CANTO 1
Mai non t'appresento natura o arte
Piacer, quanta le belle membra inch'io
Rinchiusa fui, e sono in terra sparte.

           Dante Purgatorio Canto XXXI
1I climbed up a hill in Tuscany
2Where illuminati set my seal in time
3To wonder at the spirit I set free.
4I didn't know mendacity, nor crime-
5I was the innocent at Heaven's gate
6Beholding beauty, sacred and sublime.
7My boyfriend with the powers couldn't wait
8Until he was exhausted intimate
9And took from me the goblet of my fate,
10And as he couldn't then penetrate
11The mystery of my body, he grew jealous
12And spent his lust on me to perpetrate
13Not the purity of wholeness in a zealous
14Love in tune with Nature and with conscience,
16Which split philosophy and science-
17Discourse which was pallid substitute
18For my mystical experience.
19My commune with nature was made destitute
20This fragment of the wildness of my speech
21Is history's reckoning to its broken root.
22The maid is waiting by the manor's reach:
23Betrayed twice over, she ran around the town
24Naked in the truth she had to teach,
25And liberty is palsied in her gown,
27Her love has gone, the gutter shows a crown
28Rolling in mire, a headless twin to win her-
29The centuries, a broken necklace in her hand
31In the bad-lands of myth, like canned
32Music making her dance bizarre, meet
33No wings, find feeling has been banned.
34Her true love is not able to greet
35Her when he comes, instead
36A mossy paradigm under fleeing feet:
37In the locker photo near her bed,
38She keeps his secret, unsayable name
39As the townspeople put curses on his head,
40And she is left, as if alone, in shame.
41They tell him lies, lies everywhere the same

-----------------

CANTO 2
The City is of Night, perchance of Death,
But certainly of Night.

           James Thomson The City of Dreadful Night
42The radios scream it must be raw to reach,
43But my heart's a feather, it's not made of paste.
44My lover was a lover, love's law to teach.
45."Romance!." cries the vendor of the paper waste:
46Romance is the bread that's sold by chunk,
48A hero in chains like an honest punk
49Bursts into manhood, not allowed to feel-
50Life is doled out in slices, hunk by hunk.
51I dreamed of him last night, it was a steal
54My own dream gone to sail the ocean raw
55Of eternity-he left me, his wife and sister:
57Of promise, to wake him with the glister
58Of my tear, to re-member, to call him to life
59For a proper leavetaking. The Twister
60Stole an expensive myth-I, his wife
61And he remembered me not. With outstretched arms
62I comb this world of the dead, so rife
63With the unravelling of my charms,
64Who told black lies, I had been untrue?
65My love, you went to death with false alarms
66But I will find you, so I can be beside you
67You sail in your eternal boat without my truth
68I loved you, and I did not betray you-
69I was faithful, lover of my youth!
70Among these hopeless faces I might find
72Is guide to your spirit. I'm blind
73With the constant search in rubble and cement
74Broken alleys, broken bottles, the unkind
75Spirits throw down their litter to dement
76The possible, they want to deny the brood,
77Railing and grating will not relent
79A green tide, a seasonal faithful lurch,
80For your body is a temple of the good
81Now I remember, your body was a church!
82A broken chancel lodges in my heart
83In the broken glass underfoot, I search
84The way of nature, the whole inside a part,
85And each part has its spin in history,
86The earth itself the sun god's loving dart
87His eye the universe and full of mystery!
88Even these walking wounded hopeless dreamers
90But in love's absence they're all screamers
91In a dry silent land, and wasted
92Living corpses who are their own redeemers;
93Worse than that their rationale is pasted
94Not with ointment, but with blood, the spirit
95Of the living dead upon their heart has feasted,
97Devouring endless widowhood in boredom-
99Spirit's dead, and all living is a whoredom!
100My husband gone without a proper funeral,
101A dead city remnant of his heirdom,
102A citadel where love is corporeal,
103The holy centre's gone, the world a shroud
104A culture fossilised, supposedly liberal,
105A winding sheet to re-collect this crowd!
107Eternity lay behind us-I vowed
109Upon these walls the wording of our splendour
111Art set down so the gods can wonder-
112That I win your soul back for this last farewell
113To put the proper seal on what was rent asunder
114And write the truth, as I know, in speedwell
115Ink and lotus flowering, belling
117The truth, our love did not begin by telling:
118For before I met you, as virgin deflowered
119In a lunar landscape, so my sad welling
120Into womanhood, now with love empowered
121I feel this pilgrimage just like my thirst,
122For my heart with meteoric stones is showered!
123When you held me in your arms, you were the first.
124For this you're dead and it was my father's curse!

-----------------

CANTO 3
Well, honour is the subject of my story
I cannot tell what you and other men
Think of this life, but for my single self
I had as lief not be as live to be
In awe of such a thing as I myself.

           William Shakespeare Julius Caesar I.2
125There is a pearl of water, that is wife
126That whitens laws and shops cold syllogism
127And grammar of love is wound with strife:
128Like knotted plaited hair it is a blossom
129Of ordered wealth for viewing and for use
131And sister-wife carries in her loose
132Garment an amulet to revive the dream.
133A girl neophyte to the classics can peruse
134In vain the lineaments of her scheme,
135Failing to find her true love's form-galling-
136(Not in the library or the football team!)
137Her boy. His dark raven curls falling
138Into the lake where he disappeared
139To tap memory while his sister's calling
140Out to him in dreams. It was weird
141The way she caught him in the alcove's lamp
142And of the wall made a tiered
143Wedding cake for her record's amp
144In which the symbol swords announced
145The demise of love, the outlaw, and the camp.
147As a ball between players, which she, sole
148Goddess, overcame and trounced,
149But the schoolgirl vision sees him whole
150And does not even notice his will to dismember-
151Through her life, gradually, a flaky soul
152Whose chips are her own, will ask her to remember
153As each dishevelled dream hits the rocks,
154That she had loved this god, a dry ember
155Now of her most rapt being. She washes socks
156And scours the pub, shakes the pillow
157But he doesn't fall out. Instead, he blocks
158Up the chimney where a burning willow
159Sends smoky signals he is in particle
161Where a bishop's protests were branded with the sickle
162In this small American town manufacturing bomb
163To turn the world to ash and icicle-
165Stranger and sadder than brokenness, the sap
166Of a torn tree, a bleeding willow's maelstrom
167In a desert of shame and guilt. Her lap
168Holds the one between-their child-
169Her apron forms the useful pap
170Yet this girl refused the role. Wild
171As the last lament of Isis, poured
172Honey on her throat and men beguiled
173While she loved only one. He, hoard,
174Where image was the god, the all, the Lord.

-----------------

CANTO 4
Come ye forth
Fallen fiends of heavenly birth
That have forgot your Ancient love
And driven away my trembling Dove
For you shall bow before her feet;
You shall lick the dust for meat;
And though you cannot Love, but Hate,
Shall be beggars at Love's Gate.

           William Blake The Everlasting Gospel
175Dawn. City of the dead. Graffiti
176Scrawled on grey cement tell the legend
178Without her consort. For a white second
179Pregnant, she is held among the giving
181As a wreath at the funeral of the living-
182But they're shut in, hopeless, wry-eyed
183In your artist's scrawl, write misgiving;
184The only release, death. Dry eyed
185Born into a broken myth, an onion
187As the happy somnambulist is disproven
188In the marks on his skin, now worn
190And the delivery vans blow the horn
191Frozen nursery rhymes render to the deaf-
193How can he be punished, who left her bereft
194Left her stretched, as if a preying bird
195Had fed on her heart, and her spirit cleft?
196Her true love writing in hieroglyphic word
197Teeming creation mastered the stylus grip
199His cosmic humour, and his astral trip,
200One eyed king in the country of the blind,
201Is he hiding in a comic strip
202Or pop song, this stripling? But to find
203Putrefaction, where living dead
204Die from pride of a bacon rind
205When supper refused? Who has bled
206Inwardly through the ages, word-bound
207Orisons in millennia who led
208Sister search for his corn body, round
209As the men who walk now, chipped
210Into portions like each raw piece found
211While he dismembered and his sister shipped
212On the banks of the Nile, searching
213For trace and fragment, and her heart tripped
214Each time a red corner showed, and she lurching
215In reddish sands for the real story-
216Her soul failed at melody, at churching.
217Still, in the wincing fragments of the whole glory
218Of the song that trembled on the still river
219And when she heard chords darken, saw the gory
220Field and seeping hut, their sundering, and the quiver
221Of herself alone in the almost ochre
223Took hold of her, and lamentation. Some joker,
224He who jerked his wet dream of existence
225Into fullness, tore her apart and woke her
226To the separation of the night and the persistence
227Of division and the eternal other
228Where one must choose love, or else subsistence,
229And on that choosing, die for love of brother!
230So wept, and she a fragment found
231At each tear, and as a new-made mother
232Is enraptured in creation's love and sound
233She sang a song to Osiris, her true formed
234And only love, her half, her round
235And in her vestigial tear an image firmed
236Which remains now in the dream of every girl
237Who first sees her true love. Confirmed
238By pop song and the dancing whirl
239Of a young imagination in a famine,
240He has the immortality of a pearl,
242To mirror microscopically the web of life,
243He is pearl, shell-pearl, and her man.
244."I wept tears, the shape of my eye. I, his wife
245And he remembered me not, yet his nod
246Was my eye, and truth and I were life!."
248True love, first, only and last,
249He would be a fraction of a god-
250For her God was broken on a cross and past
252That was not filled with pain, so cast
253Each mode into the day of eternal
255In tingeing with the miraculous the kernel
256Of truth, which lay broken into scintillating pieces;
257So the lovers' beauty drew the pieces in
258Each golden fragment was a coin for Jesus,
259Or Jesus's poor: to keep earth clean, to pin
260A glance on healing, and beauty
261Sealed up the magic jar of sin.
262Such pennies shall be given as a duty
263To kick the Devil, and to pester him forever
264Until he disappears from the cutey
265Pie notions of evil, his dust must never
266Touch us, he took down the tree
267The fruit, and love and God did sever.
268In the act of creating there was me
269Born, and you. And we are since apart
271Under the stone he is rolling from his heart,
272Inscribed by Lucifer who once loved light
273And stole from Egypt their good destiny:
274Geography and astronomy, a test of sight
275Never inscribed on stone, and still he lurks
276To render into ashes the alchemy of light
277The arches of ages, and God's works.
278Until such time as he can be rolled
279Up, and made to do without his perks
280Let him be sealed up, and as is told
281He will be cast into fire, forever burnt
282Giving God energy for what is foretold.
283So, the light-bearer loved night and sunburnt
284The hopes of young girls, and the icon
285Of love had to be painfully unlearnt.
286Love in action is when he has his bike on,
287The will to romance can make good turn ill;
289Dissonance, an addict's desire, in the mill-
290Race of being a sojourner is pert
291Postponing of the inclination of the will
292To latch on to sensuous pleasure in the hurt
293Of being ground to nothing in an also-ran
294Drama of sex, not love: curt
295Like a doorbell summons and the tables then
296Laid, and forgotten, a hasty meal
297Leaving objects strewn outside the pen
298Of domestic cage desiring what must be real.
299We never can desire what others can desire,
300We can never fully accept what they feel,
301And so it ends when love dies in the fire
302And dreams a butchery of what is becoming,
303Because others fasten on the widow's pyre
304Of burnt up useless love, in that summing
305Up there greens a dream of honour,
306Away from the useless history, the coming
307Of those who hate women as lover,
308Who can only imprint their lust on broken
309Daydreams, and stamp the seal of summer
310In a hidden cache where sentiment is token
311To take away a father's curse, a lyric
312Fresh as her stress, unspoken:
313As before her first kiss a rainbow empiric
314-al lit the page, put flesh on love's emotion
316Dance of the first explosion and commotion
317The billionth, billionth, billionth second before matter
318Formed in the universe, and frozen action
319Whose epitaph was beauty, and honour the latter
321Spirit was. Before fusion and the batter
322Of time and space stretched galaxies to thin
324Fizzling on existence like discarded skin
325Of God's first protracted impulse and reels
326Of love in His fishing rod and net
328So this moment before love began. Yet
329There was honour, resplendent, pure and bright
330Before even the mind began to get
331Drunk with pain. Forget, beget, plain get, the blight
332Of her father's curse a harpoon to inertia, the task
333Of naming separation, discrimination, in dark night.
334Still honour stood fast, in time, in galaxies to bask
335With all the soul's intention upon God
336To tear from the soul's demeanour the mask
337Of material being, to be a shining rod
338Where goodness is measure, sole
339Impulse, measure itself, and pod
340To hold the deeds in, like the whole
341Green case where peas bed down together
342Separate, heads in a bed, yet whole;
343As the certainty when the feather
344Was weighed against the heart, a universe-
346Of imagining, but love, then, to disburse
347Throughout the ages infinite largesse.
348Between will and creation, came a curse
349To fall upon the plans. Yet his caress
350Was sent to mend separation, and the night
351That followed day, a love to bless
352Unite division between seen and sight,
353Man and woman, ugliness and beauty
354To bring to creation a unity in right;
355But such love depends on chance, is no duty
356And when we see our partners, we may choose
357To love or leave them, mask our sooty
358No. We may embrace, or choose the blues-
359Be dissident, seek husband, wife, whether
360To pour into one person our aspiration's cues.
361In the hanging shadow of this tether,
362The preference for the real glitters,
363Constantly homeless, a desert tribe, rather
364Like a sacred story whose bitters
367Who burn the texts and cry a bogus
368Holiness, who shirk the real encounter,
369Are more interested in gesture than in focus.
370The curse of her father an old counter
371Flip side madonna, B side whore,
372Dropped into darkness, who would count her:
373A physical being where matter was the core?
374Sweet form by the candle, true self by the door.

-----------------

CANTO 5
Poi cerchiaro una pianta dispogliata
Di giore e d'alatre fronda in ciascum ramo.

           Dante Purgatorio Canto XXXII
375An eye of the all-god appeared on the tree,
376An eye of the all-god appeared on the date-palm,
377A powerful god was going to be.
378A powerful one, who might subdue like calm
379A powerful one, he raged until he was burnt
380Yet supreme, his eye kind as a balm.
381He created Time that darkness might be learnt
382Slowly, he curbed the dark demons
383While angels cheered the heart with referent.
384Light grew like an orange, paled like a lemon,
385Good as a midge's belief in my mouth
386His tongue blessed the real, the tough, the leaven.
387."I am the spirit eternal, North and South
388East and West, I make air to breathe and sing
389My soul is creator of the world, a youth
390Loved by the other is my mystery and my ring.
391I create order by thinking that I live-
392Evil is underfoot, I do not see a thing:
393Only the whole, and my order can give
394Law to the world, to shape reality
395Out of my mouth come images that sieve
396The shape of genius it is good to see,
397The shape of goodness that there is no separation,
398The shape that makes perfect love of you and me.
399There is no evil in the heart:
400No matter how small the flock
401I, the Lord, will care for each part;
402But in troubled times such faith will rock,
403Be destroyed by those who do not understand:
404Bad men lived, and I cursed not their stock!
405I would have destroyed the heirs by my hand,
406But my own seed! How I wept to see
407The evil of my own making the world bland.
408I wept, for such sickening perfidy
409A whole generation came to harm, bidden
410The real nature of things to break harmony.
412The men of violence had a wish to kill,
413So goodness became secret, became hidden,
414The constant shifts concealing in the mill
415Precious stones, waiting for bright water
416When the banks will crumble, stopping ill.."
417And the tongues of heaven crying, ."O daughter
418Down the ages we have seen you dark,
419The real story we would hear, so laughter
420Can break free again, from the bark
421Of the hounds of hell, free from the abominable
423Into a golden age now past imaginable.
424We who have chopped our lives into token,
425Is it possible that this daily, interminable
426Calling away of our images, to broken
427Dreams, is the brick housing of our spirit
428The real pain is that we live in the unspoken,
429Forever finding fragments only which inspirit
430Us, who search in the ruin of our past,
431Yet each finding asks the question, we inherit
432What? We are heirs to plaster cast,
433Plastic molding, moving statue, neon crib,
434At each electric dawn we are enthusiast,
435By sunset realise we're built upon a fib:
437Through which we stumble blindly, to ad-lib.
438But imagine that every day is like an air-drop,
439Creation in a grain of sand a rhyme-
440The whole day a god! Religion non-stop!
441Each movement of the eyelid a mime!
442And every action a sacred ritual.
443No one would ever dare to talk of time
444Passing, but each word weighed and spiritual,
445And in each name hidden the secret soul,
446A holy name for all that is habitual-
447Like the babe imagines the world entirely whole!
448Each casual sound charged with meaning,
449Mother a goddess, father no token role!
450Each breath significance, no mask demeaning,
451Putting the whole spirit into creation,
452Making each though a very greening,
453The secular world a poor outmoded station:
454Each person a mystery without name,
456Reeling through space like a weird computer game,
457Or rampant satellite with nodes a quiver,
458The centre's missing, the feelings just the same.
459So kids press buttons. But they never shiver
461Their elders have sold them down the river
462Like Osiris long ago was sold by Seth
463Two brothers who became each other's rival:
464The soap opera of the Egyptian jet set.
466At puberty, no child for her predicted
467Naturally concerned about survival,
468She felt her father, the god, had derelicted
469Duty, so that she should not bring forth.
470He dreaded being supplanted, was afflicted:
471So rained his curse on her-henceforth
472She would be barren to the end-odd.
474The god of wisdom, and the moon god,
475Challenged him to chess, and won this:
478Five extra days to the solar year,
479Five days of silver for a golden kiss,
480Five extra days, and the showy spear,
481The absolute crown, the universe, was shattered.
482The mother's eye began to shape like a tear.
483She kept her silence, none of this mattered,
484The secret mime behind the veil still held,
485And not an ounce of holiness was scattered:
486But five splendid beings the god beheld.
487He got older, he dribbled at the mouth-
488Isis and Osiris longed to wed
489And have a child, but could not do without
491Fashioned a cobra to warn of drought,
492So when Ra saw the cobra not a whittle
493He cared, so hurt with the wound of the snake,
494."Tell me your secret name, for marital
495Purpose, I need to transfer the take.
496I'll breathe it to no-one,
497There's differ between the real and the fake.."
498Down the ages fake children fool no-one
499But real girls often go amiss
500Looking for their true love, someone
501 Who will be lover and brother, who will kiss
502Away modernity and the illusion of the human,
503Who will take them through the window, to miss
504The cosy domestic life imprinted on the besom,
505The quiet coupling that is a quiet pain-
506The life that's dead to everything save the blossom
507That promises the spirit eternal life again;
508But search too hard beneath the balcony,
509The wolf may find her first, in the dark rain,
510And in her chordless virgin euphony
511Try to kill her before she meets her hope,
512Before she can cast away the litany
513Of fresh dreams, knitted like a rope,
514To help her over the balcony, into the realm
515Where down below, he's dead from too much dope.
516From the beginning, life is such a game.
517Bound to lose. Her mother was the same.

-----------------

CANTO 6
Love bade me welcome yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.

           George Herbert "Love"
518Those evenings by the dim lamp of the street,
520And dreamt a future husbanded and neat.
521The gangly arms of boys were not around her
523The gloss on happiness could still confound her,
524For in the family's transcript from their race,
525A hidden beauty lay inside the dream
526Of aspiration. There was distance in her face:
527A possibility that could hurt the scheme.
528A frozen virgin by the window pane,
529A dent in 'perhaps' to blur the 'seem'.
530Her childhood gifts of quickness, and a brain
531Provided she did not use it, quite a farce,
532Making her life troubled in the main.
533No matter if she were the smartest in the class,
534The nuns made her wait last to take her prize
535-An honours student made for a pass-
536In case she might be vain, the size
537And fount of every sin was pride,
538As the Devil is the father of all lies.
539Reared with music, her father's side
540Were bards, and prophets with truths to tell
541In a country were faith had never died.
543Consigned outside the lavatory where each boy
544Could stick his tongue out at her. Spell
545Words she might, yet she was their toy;
546To the fixed notions she must be sacrificed
547So learning must be painful, not a joy.
548She stood there, and eternity spliced
549At the centre was her soul:
550She was with God, and she had diced
551Against the formless shadow of the whole
552World, and in its transient state
553She felt the terror of the flesh roll
554Against each protruding tongue, and hate
555Poised itself on the windowsill of her heart,
556Begging to be admitted and be accounted fate,
557To vindicate a child. Truth an art
558She would not let it be, but instead
559Refused the poison of the liar's dart.
560But there was one little boy who said
561No. In her dreams he wore a kilt
562And cuddled her when she was sad in bed:
563She would dream each night that he would lilt
565With songs like this her heart would never wilt
566But kept her going through the dark ages, leapt
567Like a giddy phantom over the abyss
568That was her youth, when she often wept
569For ideals reduced to rubble, and a kiss
570Of lust could turn her heart to ash,
571An insect king atop the anthill bliss.
572And yet, her emblematic hero-no rash
573And token admiration-but daring to say no
574Gave her the hope that truth was no lash,
575But beauty, too. And she would grimly sew
576Her squares of cotton, token stitches
577Like elephants' teeth-booty long ago
578Made domestic. And the wild ditches
579Rife with blossom. She herself kept
581With the past. Then how she wept,
582For her treasures on the clothes line
583One night in a fairy gale were swept
585On pitched domesticity gone awry,
586While other girls showed neat squares-nine
587Stitches in a row, ironed like a cry
588Of suppressed rage, where the latches
589Of information left many a why,
590And neat thread bitten off. Her patches
591Left unanswered questions at the hem:
592The farmyard where the hen scratches
593For food was closed forever from them.
594Ladies not to shrink from washing up
595Would be frozen in the requiem
596That was history's verdict on their coming up
597To flower in mid-century. They'd be wives
598Trained to use their talents for the sup
599History could pour on their heads. Quiet lives
600For their ruler, undoubtedly male. In a few
601Of these girl-children, though, the dream revives.
602In church, Mother pinned her to the pew
603With rough nails. Four red crescents
604And the cross remaindered by the churchyard yew.
605Throughout all this, remaining quiescent
606Praying for the souls on the brass plaque,
607Enjoying purgatory and the incandescent
608And kindly rage of God. Mother's back
609Bent in her new coat. It was 'forty-seven
611Of love as a giant man in heaven
612Empty and sick of what he gorged upon,
613Envious in the threshold of being riven
614Between earth and hell, still a pawn
615Between spirit and matter-the eternal tussle
616Of daisy, and grass, and sunlight on the lawn-
617A summer's day where filaments can rustle
618Like angel's wings beating out a hymn
619And their flight in the magic and puzzle
620Of being. So Mother's fists, the rim
621Of a physical whole abandoned
623A prayer-book with light. A marshland
624Of exotic blooms grew inviolate
625And their lush beauties would be hard to husband.
626Her young swelling breasts reprobate
627Her mother called the nurse, it must be cancer
629The nurse smiled gently with the proper answer:
630."Normal development.", and her smile benign
631Lit up the darkness. A Spanish dancer
632Making colourful dresses swirl upon the line
633In motion, yet stillness had possibility
636On the verge of adolescence, limbs quite sleek,
638But Mother forced the door open so she could peek
639At the showing forth of what to her was least
640The putting on of womanhood, as if in meek
641Acquiescence to Nature's purpose and her feast
642Mother still felt the whole thing was vicious,
643Tearing women between the angel and the beast.
645Sleight of mind drew picture so repugnant,
646There was no meeting point between delicious
648Which nightmare furnishes as she. Unnourishing
649Yet she, became she, and what was tender, poignant,
650In spirit, mind and body hoped for flourishing
651But soul was condemned to hunger amid sweetmeat:
653And so she sought the dark, ever sweet
654Through a glass, a young man not so coy
655Whose black hair made her grind her feet
656Inside her shoes, oh he was such a joy,
657A waif, born in freedom's evanescence
658And she would dream she's love this boy,
659Until time threw a figurative essence,
660A Greek vase with real flowers entwined
661In their hair and in their heart's incandescence.
664With a thick spoon of mistrust the lined
665Calls of the popular song. And a blur
666Like a flame warmed by two hands
667Left civilisation like a tamed cur
668Inside the walls of culture, and bit the bonds
669Of love and friendship till they were a snare.
670Songs were forgotten. In the native lands
671Maybe a snatch of melody, like a hair
672Unloosed from a headband, would lightly fall
673Into the spaces where once lived a prayer.
674How can a dream of despair be all?
675Lighting is cigarette in the dark,
678-definite refusal to acknowledge
679That learning was anything but the bark
680Of mad dogs in the abyss, and that College
681Conferred respectability on the fake
682Conferred authority upon the spoilage:
683She would have gone with him, gone under
684The hill like the dancers in the song
685And he refused to take her. Torn asunder
686Her faith in him misplaced and she was wrong
687Both to love learning and despise its use,
688Especially to think, that for her the gong
689And knell of history would let loose
690A chime of freedom in this underworld,
691When repetition of chilled fate was the ruse
692By which the gods defeated innocence, and hurled
693Into the blood and thunder of the race.
694A flag to show that destiny unfurled
695On grim silence. And face to face
696The words dropped, crumbs at a feast
697Inedible, and poisoned with a trace
698Of hope. All would turn bitter
699Her least twinge of liberty, palsied, still
700In the ravening maw of the great beast
701Who swallowed the universe like a pill,
702Before the babe could stutter now: ."I hope,."
703Choking before he brought to birth: ."I will.."
705Quenched by definition in his class,
706Boxed, strait-jacketed, couldn't cope
707With the social strata. He couldn't pass
708Examinations as she did, but could only feel,
709Like a wish disappearing in a well, a lass
710As lithe as he in body, and he could peel
711The layer of education off her like a shroud
712And dance. (At her father's wedding feast the reel
713Had sealed up magic in the stamping heel.) Proud
714He couldn't bend to undo her enchanter,
715Instead, he held her gently while the loud
716Music told him he was king. The banter
717Of centuries' untruth sealed his lips. Measured
720Perfection like a fly in amber
721A single dance expression, and leisured
723Of straitened maidenhood the faulty tower
724He would not scale, and would only clamber
726The intimation that the past was reborn
727When she was handed to the ancient dower
728Of grace in servitude, what he could only scorn.
729Since he too was bound in space and time,
730The living out of love would be forlorn,
731So he rejected her. Her crime-
732Intelligence. And her love for rhyme.

-----------------

CANTO 7
Il faut de la religion pour la religion, de la
morale pour la morale, comme de l'art pour
l'art: le beau ne peut être la voie ni de l'utile
ni du bien, ni du saint; il ne conduit qu'a
lui-même.

           Victor Cousin-lecture at the Sorbonne (1918) on truth, beauty and the good
733So, spurned and virginal, she bounded off to greet
735That she should meet him showed that fate was neat.
736He offered explanation, and she was free
737Of love, perdition and the gargoyle hope:
738Instead of hope, endless cups of tea.
740Of history was a shrewd conniver,
741Trying for conversion, he would grope
743He scorned honest effort and a job,
746Off the inquisitors at the Gates of Doom,
747Poetry was the matter of the mob
748And in his Credo there wasn't any room
749For individual vision, nor personal feeling-
750They were woven in the capitalist loom
751And if she mentioned love, he hit the ceiling.
753Where discourse of this kind was peeling
755Where plants wilted and were soon forgotten,
756And carried like shrapnel buried in the head
757From which regular nightmares were begotten.
758And day turned into night, and year to year,
759And still they argued till the core was rotten:
760The last egg thrown at an orchestra, fear
761Remaining to fill a vast emporium:
762A wasted youth that finally cost dear.
763They had their last real argument in the Forum
765And were roped in to make a quorum
766On the question-what is love's doubt
767But that authenticity doesn't exist?
768-a rapier thrust that ran in and out.
770And she shouted and she ran away to the dark
771Alley where real lovers kissed.
772She came upon jazz music-as a lark
773Might greet a nightingale in hell,
774She entered in: here she might find her mark.
775Here all lovers gathered, before the bell
776Could summon them from paradise and show
777The world the bliss which they could scarcely tell.
779Here was a place she might be herself
780Vestige of her first love would row
782Of history glittered with evil brain:
784Inheritance in exile, and this stranger to the main
785Formation of her being, asked her to dance awhile.
786He was agreeable, tanned, and very sane.
787He danced with her, and beamed his toothy smile
788He asked her if she'd like to have a Coke,
789And spoke about the flooding of the Nile.
790Concerned, a gentleman, and afraid to poke
791An elbow in the wrong place, he showed respect
792Expressing laughter when she told a joke.
793He gently said that she should reflect
794Carefully before travelling home solo:
795He had a car, which she might like to inspect-
796White and shiny, the maker's metal logo
799He understood, nodded: an imaginary line
800Lay between them as they rode the night.
801She remarked on the pale quiet moonshine
802That was nothing in his face. It was all right.
803He was a gentleman, all she could ask,
804Given as she was to ravages and blight.
805Then, as she looked, she perceived a mask
806In the murky reflection of the glass:
807-a speedy exit then became her task.
808He sensed fear, and put his foot down on the gas.
809The countryside loomed like a mad raven;
810Clawing the rope of truth to find it pass
812Outside a deserted house. There was no one
813Not even a ghost of what was home and haven.
814It was the place of rape. There was no gun
815But the final clicking of the lock
816Which said, ."the sooner over, sooner done;
817And what will happen will forever mock
818Your dreams of loving and joy,
820You with the idea of bliss. A toy,
821Trifle, thing-your inside, and your trust
822Violated for ever. Don't be coy-
823You asked for it. You are a woman, must
824Know how things are. If you hurt,
825If you say you're wounded by my lust,
826-I don't even want you. I'll be curt
827This half an hour of painful sex
828Will prove woman is just a piece of dirt,
829And I am here to show you that you vex
830Me, and all men, with your pretension.
833Destroyed at the centre of your being,
834You might enjoy it but for the tension
835Of your being degraded. Now you're seeing
836It all happen like a strange inversion.
837Your love of beauty a fleeing force
838But subject to my perversion.."
839Finally he crumpled to a tissue
840As if he had proven his assertion.
841He drove her to the Marxist,

-----------------

CANTO 8
The brazen throat of war had ceased to roar,
All now was turned to jollity and game
To luxury and riot, feast and dance.

           Milton Paradise Lost XI. 713
843To be in pain is to feel a different
844Metaphor for the seeking of one's dream
846So cracks the heart, and Irish blessings seem
848Running downstream like a faulty beam
849Cracked from a cathedral, and in the gloom
850Of the middle ages and the sanctuary bell
851Tolls a truth where women have no room
852So, brought up in father's shadow, who can tell
853If paradise is meant for girls and daughters,
854When so many feel they're a present he must sell
855To the highest bidder, so the dark waters
856Close around her head like a barque forbidden,
858And subterranean, she comes bidden
859To erotic fantasy like a plague of guests,
861A rape is her fault. Those pests
863Those blood wounds on her head-crests
865She was his to master and possess,
867Now she belongs to no-one, and a caress
868From her is the prerogative of many
869And what she has left to give no one can bless
870The next time she meets a man she'll be more canny,
871She won't look for a broken god between his eyes
872Even if he starts to act quite zany,
873Her gaze will dart away, and a disguise
874Of hardened liberation will be her attraction.
875She chooses no disguise, she can't tell lies,
876And in her life account book makes subtraction,
877Leaves out like a black hole solemn gifts
878Of self to self, honour, and abstraction.
879And so in her heart there grows a rift
881Hers and not hers becomes a place where lifts
882To the soul take place, for a kind of healing.
883Romance, capitalist romance, is the chief bait
884And from shop to shop, soon she's reeling
885From lecture hall to launderette, consumed with hate:
886The most ideal child in the school becomes
887The plaything of the furies and the fates.
888She gets a buzz from scalding desert bums
889Who mix up love and commerce, profit and work,
890Soon her life with material rhetoric hums
891And she does not, she finds, shirk
892From tea, or love in the afternoon,
893Her self absent. As if her soul can lurk
894Among cheap volumes of a reckless swoon,
895Where librarians issue volumes on a kiss
897Lies, lies. Marxists speak of postponed bliss-
898Jargon, a currency to shape the world
899Until every truth was a dumb and broken hiss.
900The story nestles with her makeshift herald,
901As a bird, headless, seeks to gather ruin.
902The rhetoric span while her cries whirled
903In the air like tongueless feathers. To win
904An absentee landlady with a pen
905Is easy when false prophets pay to spin
906And hate starts at home. Here's a den
908And new beginning a diviner for a fen
909Of stagnant waters though life was holy:
910She was a vessel for her life's mission's sake,
911And she could feel the hurt of not being wholly
912Human, just as the foetus swims in dark lake
913Of amniotic fluid, and was blind
914To the registry office, the wedding with no cake,
915Flowers, nor prayers-a borrowed ring. Not a kind
916Thought passed between the unfortunate pair,
917As spinster became matron, and the book was signed.
918A pub like a long hall in the West End, the snare
919Closing in, a horrible noose. A peck
920From the vulture, and a missing prayer.
921And so, the craft of herself is now a wreck,
922Spread-eagled on the future she has truck
923With all the notions that a soul can speck
924Before she yields herself to cosmic muck
925She must refuse her honeymoon, try to wedge
926Herself between the squandering and the luck
927Of a divided goal. He had the edge
929And had thrown the mother off a window ledge
930Back in the USA. And he could bolster
931Her in her eye's defiance, firmly fix
932Death on her like a six-gun holster.
933At the wedding feast, his cautious licks
934At the cake would make it thin, and he fatter-
935In the rented room, there was a crucifix
937Of all the Marxist's scorn and use.
938She left the feast because she felt the patter
939Of raindrops on the skylight to fuse
940Into a dance with the bandsman-a troubadour.
941He brought her to the sea, so she would lose
944And returned to the hotel as to a corridor
945Of pain. They passed by a hot-dog stand
946And she ate a sausage and it hurt
947The rubbery meat was a physical band
948That mocked her being. She threw it in the dirt
949Watched a dog devour it and felt sick-
950Eat or be eaten, the world's command was curt.
951And when he asked her to take her pick-
952A life with music, or a ceaseless natter-
953Was there a choice? She left behind real quick
954Her groom at the wake of spirit and matter.
955In the hotel there were waiters buzzing.
957And a new sound invented, here a dozen
960The mood of the generation, and his beard
961And curls a prophecy of rage,
962As if the Bible could be writ without the Word,
963So had she, as if he'd left a page
965The name for the nameless hurt each age
966Tries to pin on its artists, and despite tome
967On tome, the libraries of official truth,
968The miles of books, the authority from Rome,
970Which isn't spoken but is felt by youth.

-----------------

CANTO 9
The atrocious crime of being young I shall neither
attempt to palliate or deny.

           William Pitt, Earl of Chatham
971Being young is understood by Indians who followed
972Mother Nature as goddess and friend,
973Letting good fall into the everyday hallowed
974By intimate secret ritual, who can bend
975Back the dark as he is in the streets' guts,
976The virgin's paramour whose love will never end?
978In big kitchens who nourish the world,
979Past the familiar, into the ruts
980And lane-ways of the intricate wood,
981Where the pastures of clover are forsaken
982For sweet drenching darkness and dry mud
983And countless leaves reaching the taken
984Fall, and falling into infinity as rotten
985As the material barn where their shaken
986History stops and cannot pass like cotton
987Seed into the testicles and generate new life-
989To the future, unremembered to the past strife;
990Sweet and infinite with the need of their existence;
991The ground below them is anguished and rife
992With insects who burrow with persistence
993Into the neat order of chaos and construe
994A meaning for their life's fall, an assistance
995To the stone philosopher who will spew
996Out of his brain a web of words
997Most being ."I.", and sometimes, ."you.".
998He is as closed to the transmission of surds
999As those leaves falling in a concrete well,
1001But stiffens his ear to misspell
1002The aural transcript of Nature's way,
1004So her cardboard groom, love gone astray
1005Had left meaning out of the parlour game
1006Had levitated, because there was nothing else to say.
1007Hope was gone, and her auspicious name,
1008A navel cord torn out, would give her trouble,
1009She was the wild, who had become the tame,
1010Would she ever find her double?
1011What twin spirit would love her with delight
1012Be glad to consume this dream's rubble?
1013So she spun out existence like a night
1014Invading her soul in peerless squalor,
1015And she gave in because she had lost the fight
1016To begin with. Put to the pin of her collar,
1017Virginity's demise proof of her corruption,
1018One sin too many, and no matter that the dollar
1019Fluctuated on the stock exchange, wealth's eruption
1020On the carcass of society, that was no sin
1021In the ownership of people, the irruption
1022Into slavery, the buying and selling in
1023Of women to men in matrimony,
1024There was virtue, and virtue's prudent skin.
1025But outside the state of compulsory honey
1026There was no redemption, blessing or boon,
1027There is no value save the power of money:
1028Married, but having passed no honeymoon
1029Where was her real self, just to recover
1030Her lost soul, lost self, that still tune
1031In all the songs would be accounted for, discover
1032Male supremacy, stopping the power of women.
1033She found herself completely out of cover
1034Craving affirmation, love in a famine
1035As food to the starved. If she was OK
1036In bed, she was a true feminine specimen.
1037But who would win her in an ideal's bouquet,
1040What impeccable lover be allowed to shove
1042Whom she would call her only turtle dove?
1044Who had been dishonoured by a clerk
1045Betrayed to the consortium she was no diviner
1046Of accident than that horrid jerk
1047Who proved by force she was desirable
1048By the genus, man. Earned his trademark
1049And thereby showed that she was reducible
1050To a body, who could view the motions
1051Even making the wind and rain impenetrable.
1052And so for thirteen moons, the salty oceans
1053Heaved in answer to her silenced cries
1054Pain more of pebbles, and the notions
1055The man had, that he could win the sighs
1056Of the trees, the sun's charioteering in the sky
1057The moon turned to stone with his lies,
1058And the music was a three-chord why.
1059She lost early friends, deep in sensation,
1060She blocked off dream with a loveless tie.
1061Mute save in the explosion of condensation
1062On the window pane which showed the heaving heart
1063You could say she envisaged compensation,
1064He was human, she was human, part
1065Of the whole of humanity which should be knit
1066Their limitation was a form of art,
1067And art that reduces art, a life to wit
1068Upon, the dance and dancer gone berserk
1069In a ritual that was denial of the bit-
1070Part of romance-personal love a jerk
1071Of the kneecap denying common good,
1072And setting choral angels out to work
1073In the factory of immediate returns for blood.
1074Payment was like crimson blobs in light
1075Revolving for not being what they should,
1076So angels wept blood tears, a sight
1077God the Son nailed on the cross envisaged
1078When he saw the chalice of the human blight.
1079So angels turned their back on two marriaged
1080Only by skin and moon, owning no fear
1081Are angels scabs, and love sacrilegious?
1082Have words reality? At last no tear
1083Disfigured her as she strove the thing to finish
1084Her heart had been deadened for over a year-
1085And why should I another sad tale embellish
1086With aught but words, when life itself is stopped,
1087As cry is torn when cry is but a blemish
1089To meet a spermatozoa it should not:
1090Tempt the genes to mend a foolish slop
1091Of passion on lives' overkill, and spot
1093And block a human being because of a knot
1094Where there was no legal existence? Stardust
1095Cringed in the heavens at the murder of a lie
1096That was not matter. Death is a form of trust,
1098No matter that the wrenching of a man
1099Can be predicted by astrology in the sky,
1100So when the child is unborn, the planets scan
1101Horizons for a speck of life, disappearing, mute
1102As the stars falling in the silver pan
1103And shoals of asteroids, that comets shoot
1104Only to discover what they miss is love,
1105And children can't get born without a root
1106Of tenderness, caring, a creation-centred shove
1107Of gravity at the nipple of the world
1108A leaf in the mouth, and the flying dove.
1109When she left, his rage finally curled.

-----------------

CANTO 10
The first casualty of war is truth.

           Hiram Johnston-speech in US senate 1917
1111How often longing, and her dream, a band
1112Around her head, tears begged, shed us, let us go
1113Scorched without rain like a desert land
1114A stubbled cheek he could plough and sow
1115In her heart plantation's wildest grief
1116Of human loss, her bitter task to know
1117Death. Death of one's child a loss, a leaf
1118Of a person never to be tree or wood
1119So she, that her head in a brief
1120Second signed a death warrant. Mood
1121Rose with the sun each day to damn the earth
1122Destruction rained upon her, like the hood
1123Of the eagle faces the abyss. A dearth
1125On creation. And survival,
1126Birth of oneself. For with this marriage
1127Came shock. Still, refusing to the day
1128Its joys, its flowers, to finally discourage
1129All celebration. Her heroes gone away-
1131Ethic. Scandal in the press. Who would pay
1132Informer's blood to redden the Mississippi?
1133Who would befoul blue river with rag of war?
1134Who would call peace lovers part of a recipe
1135For national disaster? And the slur and scar
1136Of this innovative generation never faded.
1138Fields grew green again. But secret agents raided
1139Private intimacies for scandals about drugs-
1140Public interest was avid, then jaded.
1142Off a child's terror at a rifle?
1143The pain haunts still. And all the hugs
1144Children give, each sweet arresting trifle
1145Of human love, of course
1146End in a cry that will not stifle
1147Human cruelty. Every risk in love, and worse
1148Nightmare is part of loving one another
1150The betrayals of lovers, all the bother
1151Of unrequited passion, pale to less
1152Than a mouth in that child's scream ."Mother."!
1153And then, I am lacking. When I confess
1154That I am the child, the scream, the killer
1155Such tangled pain is not for me to bless
1157Of forgetfulness, wreathe my head,
1158In the act's interval, life is just a filler-
1159A song in disarray can mean a thing
1160Beyond believing, a sweet inheritance
1161To puzzle out the secret of the ring
1162Of life and death, and love's munificence
1163In denying to all but the most detached
1164An understanding of its last admittance
1165Into the community of hope. Watched
1166By the vestal virgin of incompetence
1167Trusting in Nature's blueprints hatched
1168From the first explosion's transmittance
1169Of quintillions of atoms ready for the dance
1170The human offer to creation is a pittance
1171For the lease we call life, and every chance
1172Attends a history of a feeling
1173And every hope's a dust upon the lance
1174Of opportunity, or moving ceiling
1175Where death can wait, a figure in a balcony
1176Tossed on the human mob, and keeling
1177Over in the dance of life. Like alimony
1178Paid to the divorced-on a marble slab
1179He has the inscription and the testimony
1180And how he lusts at life. Like angels grab
1181Back the curtains of the world on Mondays
1183And touch, after the ecstatic Sundays
1185Go to the Zoo, and sip upon a sundae-
1186But they are angels, and they won't rush in
1187And they often sit on shoulders, and they weep
1188They turn their faces away at a sin.
1190But we don't hear, we carry on with fervour
1191And a rustle at our elbow, a creep
1192Across the doorway. No human observer
1193Can match with scientific test the loss
1194Of an angel's presence on the favour
1195Of Holy Grace. A dialogue with the Boss
1196Reveals a show, mutely suffering
1197We are imaged in the figure on the Cross
1198And our materialist dream buffering
1201In itself the pennies of the whole
1202As they thud in the brass box with a clatter
1203Fleeting golden moments in the role
1204Of truth, and jailed because in matter
1205There's no transference save in energy
1206-Who is going to set the coins to splatter
1209A burst of flame, a raving liturgy?
1210A free expression in the right transcendence
1211Where object, subject, matter and mind and spirit
1212Are as one in a single splendid instance?
1213But history is slow progress. To inherit
1214The past is the burden of the dreamer
1215Who must disrobe at noon: the merit
1217Where one dissects the passions of the race
1219Considered unsuitable for mortals-to face
1220Head on, one's moral limitation
1221Is in the interest of a story's pace-
1222The moral fibre and heartbeat of the nation
1223Fixed in the culpability of an image
1224A goddess face in a woman of poor station
1225At the barricades. Her lost lineage
1226Shows the inversion of a once proud people
1228To defend the gold tongue and the iron steeple
1229The bell with iron clappers never mute
1231Energy, source, and female power, to boot.
1232But who has seen a figure on the cross
1233With breasts and belly, and a flower's root?
1234So write upon this page without a gloss
1235Only an angel understands the toss.

-----------------

CANTO 11
Set me as a seale upon thy heart
As a seal upon thine arme
For love is as strong as death
Jealousy as cruel as the grave.

           The Song of Solomon
1236The broken chancel of her karma did not fade:
1237She left the pad with its instant passion,
1239It would finish the materialist off in his fashion:
1240She hopped onto a fresh landing, went to college
1241Found mind food in conversation, just a ration.
1242The second day spat out the germ of knowledge.
1243It flowered into a sheaf of poems, the owner
1245His name, and number. Though he was a loner,
1246His verses read like smiles in deepest night,
1247A bird singing in the city said he'd 'phone her
1249Beneath the arches, their heads were put together
1250The old broken arches of the centuries' blight.
1251Now their heads were weighed against a feather,
1252They went to the cinema, where they viewed a rape
1253Two choristers who couldn't stand the weather
1254Of violent fact. They could no longer gape,
1255And outside told each other the whole story
1257How long they had been separate, the gory
1258Trail of hurt that dreams were put on sale,
1259Their cities that were devoid of glory,
1260So, like silver, their words fell into the pail
1261Of their rapt attention, sitting on the stair
1262Outside the cinema. A loud wail
1263Inside, the villain binding in his lair
1265She remembered she could no longer dare
1269They spoke in silences that held the hints
1270Of agony they knew-no easy guess,
1271And it cost them-new to love-what must evince
1272Signs of recognition so they would bless
1273The diligence of the Creation for the declension
1274To human pain when life is such a mess.
1275For him, the years of suicidal intention
1276In New York slums like a fallen king were fenced
1277Into a life of poverty with no subvention-
1278The treasure hunt in books of lives intense,
1279The unselective philosophy when the truth,
1281And they gave away their precious youth,
1282Perusing legend for a clue of honour,
1283Debased and cynical and without ruth
1284Everyone they talked to full of rancour-
1286Rather than be big business anchor.
1287To be honest in a century when the soul
1288Had no existence save in illuminated script,
1289To love beauty, when everyone denied the whole,
1290The miraculous shimmer in the shape to shift,
1291The luminous centre at what could not be heard.
1292At the banks they rarely caught the drift
1293But dirtied beautiful rivers so the bird
1294Of history sank below the tide to kill
1295Any possible becoming of the word.
1296They walked as dreamers into the beautiful day
1297The hours passed and they were making hay.

-----------------

CANTO 12
In the land of Egypt where we sat by the fleshpots
And when we did eat bread to the full.

           Exodus 16.3
1298Now, nothing could separate the pair:
1299A blissful night together, when for ever
1300They were bound in one mystical prayer
1301As their skins touched, as if never
1302Again thread be boundary, or field
1303Be mapped and still not sever
1304The golden rain that fell. They wheeled
1305Together in a sacred dance, his first
1306Faith in woman restored, and healed.
1307Who would think that next, a thirst
1308From a patriarchal opposition would betray
1309This night of tender loving, and burst
1310The skin of romance as a pecking jay
1311Worries ripe fruit until he engorges
1312The autumn's blessings in a single day?
1313Even a minute of complete love enrages
1314Serpents and devils and raging queens
1315Who in each encounter, masquerade forges
1316A hole in their balcony of dreams,
1317Leaving prejudice on the windowsill, like crumbs
1318For stranger to finger as they hide their fears.
1320Of life, who despise talking, and feast
1321On the offering snatched away by thumbs
1322Of the agile boy whose laughter is creased
1323In the ridicule of angel's heart-stopped
1324Blithe encounters when devil's tricks have ceased-
1325But to spoil a young love! Here is cropped
1326Just after sowing time, to burn
1327Its credentials, its flower head lopped
1328By diligent cunning, planted lies, to turn
1329A young man's heart to cinder.
1330First, get him away from the cairn
1331Of pebbles he has strewn around her tender
1332Breasts, where their sweet scents
1333Were mingled. And the breath of slander
1334To disturb the lovers, like the unpaid rents
1335Of the basement apartment pounding on the walls,
1336Make them rise with guilt. Their clothes like tents
1337Confining the rash hang-ups to the calls
1338Of love and endearment, swopping places,
1339They surface in the sacred hall of halls,
1340Amid graffiti, tins, and traces
1341Of drunks, pungent, inarticulate
1342At the unspoken promises, and graces
1344With the time they have been given-
1345Aeons and eternity never to obliterate
1346Every last vestige of one another. Riven
1347No more, their breath in their fire.
1348They are one, they cannot in their oblivion
1349Ever go back to being separate, but higher
1350Than earth's visible choirs they sing
1351Quietly of love, and self on the funeral pyre.
1352The motor bike outside, a chariot whose wing
1353Needs kicking to start the motion, she, astride,
1354Asks him to wait until she starts the thing.
1355She sits, pert, on the saddle, her skirts wide,
1356Hitched up and out of the wheel's way. She broods
1357Quietly on his past. Have angels lied?
1358Don't look back, but quietness is a mood
1359That begs the past, stay! If I am alone
1360Time is not consonant with good.
1361She brings her bike to life, why should she moan
1363A good-looking exterior out to her on loan
1364On the contempt of the crowd, a silver lining
1365Which jealousy always has, she is their equal
1366Her man loves her, and she's not resigning.
1367."Don't look back, our love must have its sequel
1368For the mob at my elbow, their dart must be of rue
1369A destiny will be lost among those dreadful people
1370Or is it your voice, speaking of the Zoo?
1371Therefore, my past, I call you! I felt blue
1372Among the animals, and talked of me and you
1373But I'm woman! And we nearer, too,
1374Than animals, to angels. On the bike
1375I'll survey the scene again, to find clue
1377Of arm and shoulder pressing, there! there!
1378Woman or man, is it love or is it like?."
1379."This feeling is so strong, what do I care?
1381Can the universe enter in, do I dare
1382Put myself into the world, not like a cat
1383Playing with a ball of wool, but a man
1384Who finds his half missing, and that
1385His all he has searched for. If I can
1386Look into her eyes once more, I'll be sure.
1387But how the past beckons. If I ran
1388Straight on to this bike, would I endure
1390A world well lost for love. A cure.
1391I'll jump-reflection makes me blind.."
1392The bike moves. He is left behind.

-----------------

CANTO 13
All progress is based on a universal innate
desire on the part of every organism to
live beyond its income.

           Samuel Butler Notebooks "Life"
1393Catastrophe did not at first strike her.
1394A sense of missing something far out
1395As she rode on through the beckoning psyche
1396Of the morning, and the sun shone out!
1397Her frail wrist brushed her forehead, she was swept
1398On with the traffic, and policeman's shout,
1399And through the lights, she could not have leapt
1400From her saddle, as with a carnival of noise
1401She led the traffic for two miles, and wept.
1404Endured the whistling and the shouts of boys,
1405And entering in, through the darkened porch,
1406Saw before the altar, a groom, a bride
1408And brushed her tears away. She could not hide
1409Now, her sense of doom and despair,
1410A crown of thorns on her head, stitch in her side;
1411And the space around her like a vanished fair
1412Where joy had disappeared and the scene
1413Condensed, in essential and eternal pain-
1414A transfiguration of what might have been
1415Became the epitaph of pain and sorrow,
1416Their living love transformed into a mean
1417Parody where religion and love borrow
1418From stuffed reality a foothold on tomorrow.

-----------------

CANTO 14
I opened to my beloved, but my beloved
had withdrawn himself and was gone:
My soule failed when he spake;
I sought him but could not find him:
I called him, but he gave me no answere.

           The Song of Solomon
1419She was not ready for fate. Back into rain
1420Now falling, she ran, leapt upon the saddle,
1423A lone fisherman, to strain the night's passion,
1426No sign of him netting daytime's truth,
1427He wasn't on the pavement, in a session
1429Harking at the bus-stop for the beat
1430In traffic of passing skin and ruth.
1431He had gone. Her acrobatic feat
1433Of fate, so destiny could clamp the meat
1434In the trap to accommodate and use
1436To eat the fare of romance. Give their views.
1439In the deepest waters, where no light
1442Would be lost for love, in a river?
1443Man-made, by a mortgaged city,
1444With banks and tower-blocks and railways too,
1445Did they look forward with reptilian pity,
1446Or close pitiless eyes to the Zoo
1447Where her lover had gone, perhaps
1448Asking the original dumb animals who
1449Probably were more faithful than the chaps
1450Bustling around in suits and loving women
1451Instead of mating yearly, taking naps
1452All the rest of the time? Who saw her comin'
1454Dismounting, and pretending to be humming?
1455Truth was, she felt bitter-sweet
1456With mood and madness, meaning and moon,
1457Drunken as a rainbow sorrow on a beat
1458Of wilful forgetting, her everlasting noon,
1459Anxiety, that their love was over soon.

-----------------

CANTO 15
What is honour? A word.
What is that word, honour? Air.
'Tis insensible, then. Yea, to the dead
But will it not live with the living? No.

           William Shakespeare 1 Henry IV V.1
1460In the recesses of the bar, the mean
1463Inhaling of the fetid air. They dipped
1464The day's newsprint into the squalor of mind,
1466Until the daylight raised the blind
1468Where scorn and impudence can find
1469Dull fiction. Internecine wars between
1470Themselves and the shabby suits they wore,
1471The elbows shining and the pant seats mean.
1472They looked forward to the core
1473Of the spectacle, young love being destroyed.
1474When they saw her, there was a roar.
1475In the seamy recesses despair was buoyed
1476On alcoholic bets of poison liquor-
1477Their dimmer on so hope could be annoyed.
1478So squander feeling in this ticker

-----------------

CANTO 16
His honour rooted in dishonour stood
And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.

           Alfred Lord Tennyson Lancelot & Elaine 871
1480It seemed as if the secrets they had shared
1482He looked at her, too desperately cared.
1483."You are the first, and the only girl
1484I have ever loved. And yet you went,
1485Making me feel I was a foolish churl.."
1486The crowd looked on, amused at his keen vent,
1487Their boring day transformed into a game.
1488She knew the conversation should be spent
1489Somewhere quite else, but so deep her shame,
1491To deny her love, why it was just the same.
1492How to explain she must go to the clinic,
1493For dangerous to love it was, if love they must,
1494Yet rational planning made her feel a cynic?
1495And so right there love crumbled into dust
1496Before the paraphernalia, a wizardry fated
1497To programme passion, turn it to plotted lust.
1498How explain she'd been with one she hated
1499Had wedged herself hopelessly in type,
1500A granite child of probability, sated
1501On hunger that was nothing but a hype?
1502Now, before true love, they felt their loss,
1503The years behind so empty, how to wipe
1504Away the tawdry past and so emboss
1505On their hearts the solemn pledge a monk
1506Feels in his nightly sacrifice to the cross?
1507Silence. So he turned to her: ."I'm drunk!
1508You left me, you rode into the sunset,
1511Of my broken dreams, where the castle
1512Crumbled, and you deserted, circumspect.
1514Of words to suture live my head
1515And heart. This almighty hassle-
1516Life was easier then, in the bed
1518Cold. For five friends dead
1520A grave watery, and echoing, a feeling
1521Which manipulates the living in a sham
1522Advertising of life's extras, like a healing
1523That came with love. But this death
1524And five-fold dead!." Here he is, reeling
1525From pub to alcoholic taxi, where the breath
1526Of ancient ritual is flayed to a drop
1527Of cold moisture on the window. Seth
1528Expiring on the plains of reason, can hop
1529Over an old grave and a sacred vow
1530And he sees in nationhood a sop
1531To people's dreams, rather as the cow
1532Worshipped in twilight plain could be in youth
1534To find in drunken embrace, a truth,
1535A twist of notes in a fingered pocket
1536Nightmares in taxis, and a sleuth
1537Host to interesting theories, rocket
1538Off offending daydream, palatial lusts
1539Take off, like the eye within its socket
1540Flies on the unsuitable love object, crusts
1541Of admiration banquet where the dawn
1542Chorus sets a poem a-flutter with musts.
1543Such a youth, a blade of grass in a lawn
1544Of broken glass. A beautiful form
1545That yet seeks to break his image, pawn
1547Queen for a lad, servant for a master,
1548Whatever your fantasy, he's the norm.
1549But as they sat on the bench, the castor
1550Wheels of the drunks' table slid and glided
1551Now, shaking like reluctant pastor
1552Whose submission to the divine will elided
1553Self, ego, ambition, whole lives' aim,
1554Sheep shorn whom the mob derided,
1555He bowed his head. Simplicity. The same
1556Head had lain blissful on her breast,
1557And in a tender moment breathed her name,
1558Now asks for severance. The test
1559That fate so cruelly set has proven
1560Circumstance would undo lovers, of the best
1562To accident, and counting its cost
1564Of witches brooded on infidelity, and tossed
1565Indiscretion before the lovers, a tourniquet
1566Ill-made and bursting heart embossed
1567For throwing to the mob, an ill-made bouquet
1568Of faithless flowers, and indiscriminate affection,
1570But she could only say his name, perfection.
1571He turned pale, and denied the power of love,
1572The past too heavy in a predilection
1573To deny the flight of the dove.
1574A thorn in his ringless hand, hard to fit.
1575No challenge to the known. Should she shove
1576Recent excavated feelings, spit
1577Out passionate words which now were hollow
1578Before his personhood? Better split.
1579Why demean herself and stay? Would she wallow
1580In entreaties, imploring a second if.
1581Her fault, the motor bike a shallow
1582Interpreter of space before they had a tiff.

-----------------

CANTO 17
His flight was madness: when our actions do not
Our fears do make us traitors.

           William Shakespeare Macbeth II.3
1584The idea of a possible world where peek the given
1586Enfolding the hair, like a cherished leaven
1587To all imaginings, and desiring lift
1588To Paradise, but remaining until now
1589In a seamless garment where no rift
1590Occurs. But he, in the breaking, would least allow
1591He has been broken. In that breaking
1592Now complete, self wrenched away, any how.
1593Despite the adjusted tears in her aching
1594Heart, the parting was irrevocable,
1595Fated, ordained in their forsaking
1596Of each other. He ran, as if unaccountable
1597To the door. ."If,." he shouted, ."you felt
1598Like leaving on your motorbike-understandable!
1600Weighed against my heart, did not make compact,
1601If the morning sun crept in and dealt
1602Me a strange look, do you suspect
1603Me after my wordless star
1604Rested in you, inviolate, perfect?
1606With the greatest joy I have ever known,
1607Simply because we were not what we are?
1608Go then, go then. And betray the grown
1609Woman in you. You feel so free, so free
1610Riding away on your bike on loan
1611From your domestic self. You left me,
1613Outside the magic mound where children see
1614Forever the Pied Piper of their rambling
1615Natures, and dance for charity
1616Forbidden their futures. Is it worth gambling
1617For the music of the pipes, posterity
1618Is music that is revved up,
1619To throw the same glance backward, for clarity?."
1620."I heard only the honking of horns. Fed up
1621With the screeching cacophony, I tried to stop
1622But was carried forward, nearly threw up
1623With the stink and fumes, emissions. A cop
1625Feeling like a sorcerer's dancing mop,
1626Waiting for the magic word to load on
1627My anxiety, jerk me to a halt.
1628In the escapade, there was no code on
1629Which I could rely. Was it my fault
1630I was new to the bike, quite afraid?-
1631The makers' instructions needed a pinch of salt
1632I'm not an automaton. But the unpaid
1633Motor bike sent into reverse
1634Last night, when we two laid
1636Language made easy. Confident
1637We could be different, we were not worse
1638Than those who make public commitment
1639And behind closed doors carry on charade.
1640We were the fullness of ourselves, indifferent
1641To the sweet honeyed tracts of trade
1642Brandished in magazines in bright illustration-
1643The surface only, and the smooth tirade.
1644What matter if I, the soul of a nation,

-----------------

CANTO 18
The watchmen that went about the citie, found me
they smote me, they wounded me
the keepers of the walles to away my vaile from me

           The Song of Solomon
1646Yet, as she looked askance, at the handsome
1647Tearful face, she saw a shadow fall.
1648An aged poet loomed, trying the air to sweeten
1649With his incongruous shadow, greyer than a pall.
1650His ashen face with ragged beard looked cursed
1651He pulled the protesting Adonis to the wall.
1652Here is a way a she-poet might be worst,
1653Here was a way her beauty be undone, warp
1654With feigned love a trembling boy, with pursed
1656And quieten feeling with a drink of sympathy,
1658Spike the young forms verging on fertility.
1660A prodigal nature he hated so to see.
1661Glad that the worst was happening, grouped
1662Outside, three women kept up appearance, a taxi
1663Ticked over for a ride on poetry, the muse pooped
1664For the night of the flesh carnival. A waxy
1665Effigy, their common hatred of excellence.
1667Lest she bloom, have a lovely efflorescence,
1668Become a poet of note and lasting fame,
1669-Jealous of the beauty of transcendence;
1670While he, with five friends dead, was lame,
1671Like the boy in Hamelin, and quite unaware
1672His destruction of himself held no shame.
1673For life for him had never been very fair.
1675The old grey bard knew how to tap young despair
1676And on the polluted waters of life, he was free
1677To embrace with drunken arm the wilted shoulder
1678Support him to the taxi. The three women's glee
1679At a young girl poet defeated in love was colder
1680Than the embrace of death. Dare be dream Queen
1681A crowd of three or four is always bolder
1683That Spanish ale would give her hope
1684(while he could have the boy for self-esteem).
1685The magic incantatory song became soap
1686Opera with his traditional martyr's whinge
1687Which sneered at her efforts to cope
1688Now that the magic love undid the hinge
1689On respectable behaviour, a patriot's proband
1690Flourished in the drinking and the binge
1691Of sentiment and violence, that was love of land.
1692The girl, flayed whole in her alcove
1693Was debased, as she saw the bard's wandering hand
1694Insult her lover with caress of mauve
1695Suggestion, and away they drove.

-----------------

CANTO 19
I charge you, o daughters of Jerusalem,
If you find my beloved;
That you will tell him I am sick of love.

           The Song of Solomon
1696His last shout: ."Witch! Go exchange
1697Reality for dreams. Just get my message:
1698In my pocket there is the loose change
1699Of the decade's debate, and love's suffrage.
1701Love, here there is no refuge.."
1702He clasped a whiskey bottle, scarf askew
1703Peered out of the taxi. Stained glass
1704Shimmered as the smoke withdrew
1705And the fresh air let her pass
1706Invited guest to the evening's beauty,
1707The skies of Dublin like the robes at Mass,
1708When the priest falls in awe and piety
1710For himself and the world, a duty
1711Felt keenly by the worshippers. Her love pays
1712Now, on the profane sacrilege of youth.
1713He pulls his red scarf, and he lays
1714Two fingers on his cheek-no ruth.
1715."Witch!." He stamps his foot, a mundane
1716Goodbye to years, greets varnished truth.
1718Darkness her face, and she can't believe
1719What's happened. Plays the reel again.
1720But he's gone, and she goes home to grieve
1721Falling asleep on the divan bed
1722A tree in Spring that refused the leaf.
1723Morning comes like the silver head
1724Of a stranger probing strange fears,
1725She jerks awake, goes over what he's said.
1726She can find no relief, not even in tears,
1727Pulls on her clothes. The bike is parked
1728In the pub yard. She goes back amid leers
1729And jeers from men who feel marked,
1731That destiny has left others unmarked,
1732Squalor and bad accounts of women!
1733They stare while she beseeches the bar
1734-Was he really here? The love of my bosom?
1735She feels naked, like a vivid scar
1736In a young face, with promises life will mar.

-----------------

CANTO 20
Quai fossi attraversati o quai catene
trovasti, per che del passare innanzi
dovessite cosi spogliar la spene

           Dante Purgatorio Canto XXXI
1737How keep the faith? The years a crescent
1738Moon that awaits like the first hope
1739A light before the abyss, before its descent.
1740So, what is real? She doesn't know how to cope
1741Joins a rock band, the first girl drummer
1742And spins a fantasy of human life; a dope
1744Of each false pendulum swing into barbarism-
1746I can no longer break myself, a prison
1747Of truth, beneath your wheel of life,
1748I can no longer give myself a schism
1749Between truth and lie, and be a wife
1750And widow to the shadow of your promise-
1751I can no longer run in the streets, rife
1752With the false truth of the mob, be remiss
1753To my own true self, and to the tears,
1754I can no longer love without the premise
1756Are lapping with the footsteps of the holy
1757While I spendthrift time, with seers
1758Who are corrupt as idols, are wholly
1759Given to pleasing, who smile when gold
1760Is panned before them. I, solely,
1761Plant my graveyard and yours. Bold
1762With the stench of decaying lilies
1765Pouring out, out of the milk churn at night
1766Change into nightmare horses, into fillies
1767Who canter forever to fill the blight
1768Of time and space, the black void
1769Where tenderness is off duty, where the right
1770To be loved may never happen. Best to avoid
1771All chance, hope. To rest undetermined,
1773Throw to the raincoat brigade, in vermined
1774Cinemas for society's bashes,
1776For destiny, who will not be outdone. Lashes
1777Of fate on sale, a cat o' nine tails-
1778Who looks on lovers after car crashes?
1780Sordid limp lives, just going out
1782And a last curse (of minor doubt):
1783Reason quenches love, when love's a sin.
1784Honour, dimmed through the centuries, gives a shout
1785In the streets, just as if skin
1786Were the gateway of trust. But it's a word,
1787A name, how undo the curse, free her to win
1788For a short time again that quiet bird
1789Of peace, between breast and breast, like a flower?
1790How come their time was short, more like a surd
1791A mathematical possibility only. The loan
1792On her spirit increased its weight
1794And the whole future was a skate-
1795Board over the cliff. Her hair
1796Fell out in handfuls, for her mate
1797Had disappeared, and she went to her lair,
1798A hut in the bottom of the garden.
1799Each night she prayed the curse into a prayer
1800And prayed with mind and books and body's burden
1801To shrivel the noose of a dark devising,
1802And through her tears she begged pardon
1803Of every show of love, and revising
1804Her look at herself, she took some matches
1805To set fire to the words, that were the baptizing
1807Through which the hum of love had sounded
1808She burned her notebooks, sang songs in snatches.
1809She spurned philosophy; which her heart confounded
1810With her disjunctured brain, all were set aflame,
1811The hopes in beauty that tormented her, rounded
1812With the one poet who loved, who would tame
1813Curiosity like a lamp a moth,
1814Dictionaries that would largely take the blame
1815For confusing divination, and the behemoth:
1816The web of reality, spun and discarded
1817Into the tired shells of words, the aftermath
1818Of exploded experience were like dreams carded
1819Into notebooks, and were tossed upon the blaze-
1820Thus did I dream my nights, Osiris. Recorded
1822Without you, soggy remnants of city lighting
1823And spectral shadows your eyes, your death stays
1824Even lonelier through our in-fighting.
1826Pin you into wholeness on my sighting.
1827Now, in flames, you are one with the blotters
1828Of history, who wipe out legend with rationale
1829And leave us cultural desert, dirty rotters!
1830In this hot blaze my soul unites with you, special
1831Marriage of the contingent, that met the poets' ban-
1832Take heed, flames, we are one! Who will cavil
1833Now that cohesion has this plan!
1834Our formless foolishness will once more perish
1835Into a perfect shape that loves to scan,
1836This genius of mine a dervish
1837Dance of the timeless brain, so burn away
1838Those who thought our love they would ravish
1839A cinder trace will form another day,
1840A banished love the secret and the mystery,
1841And they will never find another way
1842In which our private moments make up history.
1843If they invade like leprous germs our passion
1844They cannot destroy what is our own consistory,
1845And if they try to decipher in their fashion
1846Our secret wording locked into our clay
1847A hieroglyphic conundrum is their ration!
1848Why did she not with him stay?
1849Why did she go on the highway with her bike?
1850Across the Styx I'll take you one fine day
1851And no remorse attend our pyre. To like
1852Romance impossible, now he was a goner;
1854Some months hence to be born. To the end a loner
1855She tossed on the flame the flower of honour.

Notes

15] entellus: on the one hand, a Greek term, enteles, from entelechy, a fully-realized essence; and on the other, the name of an East Indian monkey. Here and elsewhere in the poem there is "a split between a priori and empirical philosophy, the apotheosis of which is Darwin and his monkeys, which impacted hugely on religion, and therefore, the spiritual or inner life" (poet's note). Back to Line
26] streeling: straggling, disorganized. Back to Line
30] Polyxena: from the Greek roots poly `many' and xena `foreign', the youngest daughter of Priam, king of Troy, and beloved of Greek Achilles, chief warrior of the Greeks who would destroy Troy in Homer's Iliad. Back to Line
47] hard tack: biscuits and hard bread. Back to Line
52] maw: stomach. Back to Line
53] heal: well being. Back to Line
56] saw: aphorism, wise saying. Back to Line
71] ruth: pity. Back to Line
78] quotidian: daily. Back to Line
89] consistory: meeting place, court. Back to Line
96] canopic: Egyptian jar holding the body's entrails. levirate: Jewish custom, that the next of kin to a dead man might marry his widow. Back to Line
98] inspirit: animate. Back to Line
106] glyphic: carved work. Back to Line
108] diptych: pair of facing leaves or tablets. Back to Line
110] hieroglyphic: characterized by ideographical symbols. Back to Line
116] Osiris: principal Egyptian fertility god, the son of Ra, married to Isis, who bore him a son, Horus. After his murder by Seth, Osiris ruled the underworld until Isis partly resurrected him to life. See the poet's introductory note. Back to Line
130] besom: broom, bundle of twigs. Back to Line
146] Isis: wife of the Egyptian god, Osiris, who avenged his murder by Seth. Back to Line
160] Amarillo: city in Texas. Back to Line
164] coulomb: "the quantity of electricity conveyed in one second by a current of one ampère" (OED). Back to Line
177] Nefertiti: wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep IV or Akhenaten. Back to Line
180] Necropolis: cemetery. Back to Line
186] lye-eyed: dropping tears of searing lye. Back to Line
189] escutcheon: coat of arms. Back to Line
192] "Green Sleeves": Renaissance ballad about a beloved of that name. Back to Line
198] surd: irrational number. Back to Line
222] cacophony: loud discordant noise. Back to Line
241] stamen: male fertilizing organ of a flower; also "The thread spun by the Fates at a person's birth, on the length of which the duration of his life was supposed to depend" (OED). Back to Line
247] intaglio: engraved figure. Back to Line
251] diurnal: day. Back to Line
254] Creosus: king of Lydia in the sixth century BC. Back to Line
270] Sisyphus: a Grecian punished by the gods by having to roll a huge rock up a hill, watch it roll down again, and descend again to it only to repeat this futile feat of strength, eternally. Back to Line
288] Reichian: characteristic of Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), an Austrian psychologist who proposed a novel form of energy, the orgone, that contributed to health and sexual potency. He died in a US prison where he was serving a two-year sentence for selling orgone accumulators in defiance of a prohibition by the Food and Drug Administration. Back to Line
315] Pyrrhic: a victory only in name, or gained at too high a cost; also a metrical foot with unstressed syllables. Back to Line
320] entropy: the thermodynamical process whereby everything becomes, in energy, indistinguishable from everything else, tending to the so-called "heat-death" of the universe. Back to Line
323] coruscating: glittering. Back to Line
327] creels: baskets. Back to Line
345] wether: male sheep. Cf. Shakespeare's "I am a tainted wether of the flock, meetest for death" (The Merchant of Venice IV.i. 114-15). Back to Line
365] logus: Latin term for knowledge. Back to Line
366] cataleptic: characterized by seizures or paralysis. Back to Line
411] midden: garbage heap. Back to Line
422] barque: ship. Back to Line
436] coin-op: something operated by depositing coins. Back to Line
455] But: "Burt" in 2002. Back to Line
460] shibboleth: sign, formulaic token. Back to Line
465] Nut: Egyptian sky goddess, married to Ra. Back to Line
473] Thoth: ibis-headed Egyptian god who acted as Ra's spokesman. Back to Line
476] hod: receptable. Back to Line
477] Harmachis: the god-like sphinx standing protectively in front of the pyramid now at Giza. Back to Line
490] Ra: principal god of the Egyptian pantheon. Back to Line
519] She shored up what fragments: cf. the last words of the fisher king in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, "These fragments I have shored against my ruins / Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe. / Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata." Back to Line
522] Euclid (Pass): a general (or pass) course in the basic geometry of the Elements of Euclid, an ancient Greek mathematician who lived in Egypt in the reign of Ptolemy I (323-283 BC). Back to Line
542] Angelus bell: a bell rung, morning, noon, and night, at the ceremonial repetition of Gabriel's words of greeting to Mary at the incarnation ("Hail, Mary, the Lord is with you"). Back to Line
564] ."Lord Gordon.": a ballad entitled "The Duke of Gordon's Daughter," about Jeanie Gordon's happy love and marriage with a soldier, one Captain Ogilvie; and a reel played by Irish traditional musicians. Back to Line
580] hitches: temporary setbacks. Back to Line
584] the Inspector: "Irish schools were monitored by Inspectors from the Department of Education who visited schools and assessed pupils and students" (poet's note). Back to Line
610] The famine: 1847, the height of the Irish potato famine, which killed a million Irish and forced as many again to emigrate. Back to Line
622] limn: illuminate (as a manuscript). Back to Line
628] extenuate: thin, make meagre, diminish by explanation. Back to Line
634] duende: "a passionate spirit" (poet's note). Back to Line
635] proband: a person chosen to be the subject of an genetic examination. Back to Line
637] saraband: a stately Spanish dance in triple time. Back to Line
644] meretricious: whore-like. Back to Line
647] unguent: salve. Back to Line
652] dervishing: whirling (an invented word, from "dervishes," muslim friars who show their devotion by wild dancing and cries). Back to Line
662] factory hooter: steam whistle or horn that sounds the start or the end of the work-day. Back to Line
663] eke: sustain (minimally). Back to Line
676] Teddy Boy: young rowdy, hooligan-after the affected clothes of a fashionable gentleman in the reign of Edward VII (1901-10), side-burned, "strait-jacketed"-a term revived in the 1950s in Britain. Back to Line
677] Ark: like Noah's ark, a life-saver. Back to Line
704] smoky dope: chain-smoking fool. Back to Line
718] canter: light gallop. Back to Line
719] centaur: half-man, half-horse. Back to Line
722] ruck and camber: quarrelsome archness, perhaps insolent standoffish behaviour. Back to Line
725] fern: tall plants that tend to obscure and surround. Back to Line
734] dialectics: logic. Back to Line
739] dope: drug. Back to Line
742] skyver: do-nothing, shirker. Back to Line
744] Royal Liver: assurance company founded in 1850 that supports the arts. Back to Line
745] hocked: pawned. fob / Off: put off, get rid of with little or nothing. Back to Line
752] Bohemian: vagabond, counterculture. Back to Line
754] hothouse: greenhouse. Back to Line
764] Forum / Of Earl's Court: Earls Court Exhibition Centre (1991-), one of Britain's largest venues for shows and concerts, in west London. Back to Line
769] pissed: disgusted. Back to Line
778] Café des Artistes: famous Bohemian restaurant in New York originally frequented by artists-or a place of that kind. Back to Line
781] Styx: the river of the classical underworld across which a ferryman would take one into hell. Back to Line
783] Guelph: medieval Italian aristocratic line, "represented in modern times by the ducal house of Brunswick and the present dynasty of Great Britain" (OED); and here a reference to Dante's exile. Back to Line
797] pert: cheeky. bonnet: hood. Back to Line
798] had ideas: both inappropriate ones (such as science versus nature) and perhaps a design on the relationship that might lead, say, to a one-night stand. no go: not going to happen. Back to Line
811] craven: defeated. Back to Line
819] dances on vases: cf. Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn." Back to Line
831] hex: bewitch. Back to Line
832] declension: falling off. Back to Line
842] catharsis: purging of the emotions. Back to Line
845] referent: equivalent, or thing that quite corresponds to it. Back to Line
847] skiff: small boat. Back to Line
857] miscreant: depraved. Back to Line
860] midden: garbage heap. Back to Line
862] putting out: an easy lay, sexually promiscuous and willing. Back to Line
864] cockerel: young cock (bird and weapon). Back to Line
866] Prince Charming: the handsome lover of the Cinderella faery tale. Back to Line
880] thirteen moons: the number of lunar cycles in a calendar year. Back to Line
896] denoument: revealing part, from French dénoûment, end. Back to Line
907] own-goalie: a goal that one scores on one's own goal-tender. Back to Line
928] Ulster: Northern Ireland, still held by the British. Back to Line
936] gambolled in: sported out with, alive with. Back to Line
942] uaireadoir: watch. Back to Line
943] Shiva: Lord Shiva, the principal, creating-destroying God in Shaivism, a sect in Hinduism. His dance is "death." Back to Line
956] on the batter: debauching. Back to Line
958] Beatles: 1960s Liverpool rock band, the most successful in history. Back to Line
959] Bob Dylan: American folk singer (1941-). sussin': figuring out. Back to Line
964] Watted: powered (after James Watt, developer of the steam engine). cut-out: fuse, power-breaker. Back to Line
969] uncouth: literally "unknown," but also "impolite." Back to Line
977] sleazy: filthy, disreputable. sluts: ragged, slatternly, dirty women. Back to Line
988] transverse: crossroads, in-between. Back to Line
1000] logarithm: the base of the system. Back to Line
1003] on a spiral: going down. deteriorating. Back to Line
1038] A black hole: literally, a cosmological entity, a "region within which the gravitational field is so strong that no form of matter or radiation can escape from it except by quantum-mechanical tunnelling, and thought to result from the collapse of a massive star" (OED); but in this context, a universe without love. Possible sexual double entendre; cf. "jet liner" (below). Back to Line
1039] risque: off-colour, sexually suggestive. Back to Line
1041] jet liner: used to blacken around the eyes. Possible double entendre. Back to Line
1043] regina: queen. Back to Line
1088] ovum: egg. Back to Line
1092] saltire: coat of arms "in the form of a St. Andrew's cross, formed by a bend and a bend sinister, crossing each other; also, a cross having this shape" (OED). Back to Line
1097] spancelled: a spancel or span, a yoke of a horse that impedes movement ("spalcined" in 2002). Back to Line
1110] ."News of the World.": tabloid newspaper specializing in scandal, sex, sports, and celebrities. Back to Line
1124] demurrage: stay, pause. Back to Line
1130] Hendrix: Jimmy Hendrix (1942-70), American jazz-blues-rock musician, accidentally died in London from a drug overdose. Joplin: Janis Joplin (1943-70), American blues-rock singer, accidentally died from drugs and alcohol. Back to Line
1137] Vietname: the Vietnamese war (1959-75). Back to Line
1141] My Lai: site of a massacre of unarmed Vietnamese, mostly women and children, by American soldiers on March 16, 1968. Back to Line
1149] par for the course: business as usual (golfing phrase). Back to Line
1156] Byzantine: "tortuous discourse not remembered" (poet's note), from the medieval empire whose capital was Constantinople and whose gifts to civilization include civil law. Back to Line
1182] blab: talk. Back to Line
1184] AWOL: away without leave (military phrase). Back to Line
1189] bleep: a mid-twentieth-century word for a high=pitched squeek made by electronic equipment. Back to Line
1199] prescience: foreknowledge. Back to Line
1200] votive: devout. Back to Line
1207] synergy: collaboration of forces. Back to Line
1208] existence .Àæ essence: two concepts distinguishing existentialism (man makes his essence in the course of existing) and Christianity (man's nature precedes his begetting). Back to Line
1216] cyclorama: "A picture of a landscape or scene arranged on the inside of a cylindrical surface, the spectator standing in the middle" (OED). Back to Line
1218] Karma: in Buddhism and Hinduism, "In Buddhism, the sum of a person's actions in one of his successive states of existence, regarded as determining his fate in the next; hence, necessary fate or destiny, following as effect from cause" (OED). Back to Line
1227] scrimmage: a fight (sports term from football). Back to Line
1230] Patrick: St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, was believed to have rid the island of snakes. Back to Line
1238] get laid: have sex. Back to Line
1244] pollage: "his contact details" (poet's note). Back to Line
1248] "The Catacombs": a Dublin locality where Bohemians met, from the ancient subterranean cemetery, as in Rome and Egypt. Back to Line
1256] nape: back of the neck. Back to Line
1264] faggots: pieces of wood. Back to Line
1266] crammer: a student who studies intensively at the last moment. Back to Line
1267] epistomelogy: the study of what it is to know. Back to Line
1268] slammer: jail. Back to Line
1280] rents: regular payments to a landlord. Back to Line
1285] dole: unemployment insurance, a public charity. Back to Line
1319] bums: beggars. Back to Line
1343] commensurate: equal. Back to Line
1362] tear drop petrol tank: a gas tank shaped like a dropping tear. Back to Line
1376] hike: journey (by foot). Back to Line
1380] pat: accepted. Back to Line
1389] purblind: utterly blind. Back to Line
1402] kerb: raised edge of the road, curb. Back to Line
1403] mags: magazines. Back to Line
1407] in the lurch: abandoned. Back to Line
1421] dithered: dilly-dallied, irresolutely occupied. Back to Line
1422] vroomed: made the :roaring noise of a motor vehicle accelerating or travelling at speed" (OED). Back to Line
1424] raddle: furrow. Back to Line
1425] Adonis: handsome youth god, worshipped as a cult in classical times, supposedly beloved of Venus and killed by a wild boar's tusks. Back to Line
1428] post coitum tristum sunt: after intercourse [males] are sad. Back to Line
1432] ruse: trick. Back to Line
1435] chimera: monsters, wild imaginations. Back to Line
1437] pterodactyl: flying dinosaur. Back to Line
1438] trilobite: arthropod, with a segmented exoskeleton and jointed appendages, thought to be extinct until a specimen turned up off the coast of Africa in the 1930s. Back to Line
1440] protozoa: unicellar creatures. Back to Line
1441] mutagenic: causing mutations. Back to Line
1453] Grafton Street: main shopping street in Dublin. Back to Line
1461] acolytes: apprentices. Back to Line
1462] fags: cigarettes. Back to Line
1465] kipped: slept. Back to Line
1467] anthill bereavements: petty losses. Back to Line
1479] knicker: undergarment. Back to Line
1481] prised up: leveraged or pried open. Back to Line
1490] hauteur: haughtiness. finick: affectedness. Back to Line
1509] spunk: pluck, spirit. Back to Line
1510] parapet: military earthwork or stone rampart. Back to Line
1513] passel: bunch (not in OED). Back to Line
1517] NY: New York. Back to Line
1519] Uncle Sam: United States. Back to Line
1533] any old how: in any fashion. Back to Line
1546] Porn: pornography. Back to Line
1561] behoven: obligated to. Back to Line
1563] coven: gathering. Back to Line
1569] soubriquet: epithet or nickname. Back to Line
1583] miff: tiff, petty quarrel. Back to Line
1585] quiff: "curl or lock of hair plastered down on the forehead .Àæ a tuft of hair brushed upwards over the forehead" (OED). Back to Line
1599] pelt. skin. Back to Line
1605] on a par: equivalent. Back to Line
1612] Hamelin: the Pied Piper of Hamelin, betrayed by townsfolk, left one lone lame boy behind, of all their children that, in revenge, he took away with him. Robert Browning's poem is perhaps the best known version of this story in English. Back to Line
1624] Naseous: "Nauseus" in 2002. Back to Line
1635] Erse: the Irish tongue. Back to Line
1645] why mark: question mark. Back to Line
1655] gawp: yawn. Back to Line
1657] agit-prop: agitation propaganda, manifesto writings. Back to Line
1659] coup: overturn, tip over. Back to Line
1666] doxy: "Dublinese for `a learned girl'" (poet's note). Back to Line
1674] Odyssey: wanderings, after Homer's epic. Back to Line
1682] "Dark Rosaleen": a love ballad by James Clarence Mangan (1803.-49). Back to Line
1700] quays: docks. Back to Line
1709] transubstantial host: the bread of the mass, transformed into the body of Christ. Back to Line
1717] hulls: enclosures. Back to Line
1730] a hair of the dog [that bit them]: the liquor that gave them their present hangover. Back to Line
1743] Abraxas: "the end of good and evil" (poet's note); from the horse that drew the chariot of Helios, the Greek sun god. mummer: mime. Back to Line
1745] bummer: let-down. Back to Line
1755] weirs: mill-dams. Back to Line
1763] sepal: leaf of a flower's calyx, the bud's envelope. Back to Line
1764] tillies: additional articles or amounts "unpaid for by the purchaser, as a gift from the vendor" (OED; Irish). Back to Line
1772] Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Austrian psychiatrist, the founder of psychoanalysis, who coined the phrase "Oedipus complex" for what he believed to be a common but repressed human desire to commit incest. Back to Line
1775] carmined: rouged. Back to Line
1779] Lilliputian: miniature (from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels). Back to Line
1781] synchronicity: Carl Jung's concept, "the phenomenon of events which coincide in time and appear meaningfully related but have no discoverable causal connection" (OED). Back to Line
1793] koan: Buddhist paradox, such as "what is the sound of one hand clapping?" Back to Line
1806] swatches: samples. Back to Line
1821] tenebrae: "The name given to the office of matins and lauds of the following day, usually sung in the afternoon or evening of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in Holy Week, at which the candles lighted at the beginning of the service are extinguished one by one after each psalm, in memory of the darkness at the time of the crucifixion" (OED). Back to Line
1825] jotters: jottings book. Back to Line
1853] tyche: tich, little boy. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2007
Form: 
Special Copyright: 

Copyright © Rosemarie Rowley 2007. Not to be republished without permission of the poet.