Poem. Previously published in Manastash Literary, Spring 2022.
Thus departed Auden, Heaney, or Eliot,
now resting in hard soil.
we stand over them, sandalled,
on spent words and Word:
Now, Christ, my God, hangs on a cross
in an implacable horizon
His lips are baked and black.
I trace the labyrinth
on my common palm,
“the sign is… burning…”
to move away from what was, and is,
still, a recognizable face.
~ ~ ~
A real moon over this imaginary garden.
Gardeners trim the umbilical cords of rugged brown
with their sleeves un-rolled.
Standing some distance away from them,
the twigs still shine an unoffending glow.
Blood-plastered garden, foreshadowed bodies of decay,
but we stand sandalled on solid earth.
We begin to walk easily,
bow, pray for this wilderness to be
a promised land.
- Line 1: Cf. “Thus departed Hiawatha” in “The Song of Hiawatha” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- Line 3: Cf. “sandalled” in “General William Booth Enters into Heaven” by Vachel Lindsay’s
- Line 4: Cf. “spent word” in “Ash Wednesday” by Thomas Stearns Eliot
- Line 6: Cf. Cf. “the
untouchable implacable horizon”, manuscript draft, Marianne Moore edited by Marsden Hartley, as qtd in Emily Setina’s ““Mountains Being a Language with Me” Marianne Moore,
- Line 7: Cf. “with black lips baked” in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- Line 12: Cf. “That was, and still is” in “Letter to Lord Byron (1936) by Wystan Hugh Auden
- Line 13: Cf. “still knowable face” in “Casualty” by Seamus Heaney
- Line 14: Cf. “Poetry” by Marianne Moore
- Line 15: Cf. Clement Greenberg’s “Umbilical Cord of Gold”, Lapham’s Quarterly, 1931, https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/arts-letters/umbilical-cord-gold
- Line 16: Cf. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by Thomas Stearns Eliot
- Line 19: Cf. “blood-plastered” in “Mycenae Lookout” by Seamus Heaney; Cf. “It was omen and return, an illumined limen/We’d crossed ahead of time, foreshadowed bodies” in The makings of a music by Seamus Heaney, as quoted in “Boustrophedon between Hellas and Home” by Oliver Taplin in Chapter 2: Seamus Heaney and the Classics: Bann Valley Muses, 1931, Oxford University Press.
- Line 23: Cf. “That promised land it will not be ours to enter, and we shall die in the wilderness” in The Function of Criticism at the Present Time by Matthew Arnold