talking to the ghost
who speaks in tongues—
and torn in two
among the darkness
from where I came
and where I’ll go
a game of chance—
you laugh in my face
as you drown
in the River Styx
the impact was red—
orange mixed with light
fallen in a cryptic grave
and saved for many lives
the pot boils over
and spills for the rats
Yellow dust on a bumble
Grey lights in a woman's
Red ruins in the changing
I take you and pile high
Death will break her claws
on some I keep.
Faces of two eternities keep looking at me.
One is Omar Khayam and the red stuff
wherein men forget yesterday and to-morrow
and remember only the voices and songs,
the stories, newspapers and fights of today.
One is Louis Cornaro and a slim trick
of slow, short meals across slow, short years,
letting Death open the door only in slow, short inches.
I have a neighbor who swears by Omar.
I have a neighbor who swears by Cornaro.
Both are happy.
In the fair morning of his life,
When his pure heart lay in his breast,
Panting, with all that wild unrest
To plunge into the great world's strife
That fills young hearts with mad desire,
He saw a sunset. Red and gold
The burning billows surged and rolled,
And upward tossed their caps of fire.
He looked. And as he looked the sight
Sent from his soul through breast and brain
Such intense joy, it hurt like pain.
His heart seemed bursting with delight.
So near the Unknown seemed, so close
Oh, why should a hen
have been run over
on West 4th Street
in the middle of summer?
She was a white hen
--red-and-white now, of course.
How did she get there?
Where was she going?
Her wing feathers spread
flat, flat in the tar,
all dirtied, and thin
as tissue paper.
A pigeon, yes,
or an English sparrow,
might meet such a fate,
but not that poor fowl.
Just now I went back
to look again.
I hadn't dreamed it:
there is a hen
You may give over plough, boys,
You may take the gear to the stead,
All the sweat o' your brow, boys,
Will never get beer and bread.
The seed's waste, I know, boys,
There's not a blade will grow, boys,
'Tis cropped out, I trow, boys,
And Tommy's dead.
Send the colt to fair, boys,
He's going blind, as I said,
My old eyes can't bear, boys,
To see him in the shed;
The cow's dry and spare, boys,
She's neither here nor there, boys,
I doubt she's badly bread;
Stop the mill to-morn, boys,
Tz'u No. 12
To the tune of "Happy Event Is Nigh"
The wind ceases; fallen flowers pile high.
Outside my screen, petals collect in heaps of red
This reminds me that after the blooming
of the cherry-apple tree
It is time to lament the dying spring.
Singing and drinking have come to an end;
jade cups are empty;
Lamps are flickering.
Hardly able to bear the sorrows and regrets
of my dreams,
I hear the mournful cry of the cuckoo.
Twixt the Wings of the Yard
Hear the loud swell of it, mighty pell mell of it,
Thousands of voices all blent into one:
See “hell for leather” now trooping together, now
Down the long slope of the range at a run,
Dust in the wake of ‘em: see the wild break of ‘em,
Spear-horned and curly, red, spotted and starred:
See the lads bringing ‘em, blocking ‘em, ringing ‘em.
Fetching ‘em up to the wings of the yard.
Mark that red leader now: what a fine bleeder now,
Twelve hundred at least if he weighs half a pound,
I should like to rise and go
Where the golden apples grow;--
Where below another sky
Parrot islands anchored lie,
And, watched by cockatoos and goats,
Lonely Crusoes building boats;--
Where in sunshine reaching out
Eastern cities, miles about,
Are with mosque and minaret
Among sandy gardens set,
And the rich goods from near and far
Hang for sale in the bazaar;--
Where the Great Wall round China goes,
And on one side the desert blows,
And with the voice and bell and drum,
The God of the day has vanished,
The light from the hills has fled,
And the hand of an unseen artist
Is painting the west all red.
All threaded with gold and crimson,
And burnished with amber dye,
And tipped with purple shadows,
The glory flameth high.
Fair, beautiful world of ours!
Fair, beautiful world, but oh,
How darkened by pain and sorrow,
How blackened by sin and woe.
The splendour pales in the heavens
And dies in a golden gleam,
And alone in the hush of twilight,