Check out the animated show Bat out of Hell on YouTube!

“Quel Giorno Più Non Vi Leggemmo Avante.”

                          —Inferno V.138

We lean above the book and fateful page
    And lean into its words. You speak. I hear
    The husked seeds split, and they bleed down the page:
You tuck a strand of hair behind your ear
    And strings that knit the constellations twinge
    Like mandolins beneath the earth —so near
Commingled shade and soil to unhinge
    The grave; yet far as moonlight in a pond
    That blinks with nightjars rippled on the wing.
Though grassy spring now shimmers green with frond
    And shoot within your eyes, your beauty stares
    From violet shadow, Cimmerian, beyond
The swallowed source of bowered light that flares
    Within your eyes. They tear my heart away
    With a single glance. Eurydice wears
Your smile — anticipating hope, yet fey
    As autumn apples dropping from their limbs
    Will roll, gather into gullies, and lay
In wait: a sudden winter rain floods and brims
    The world in multiples of fallen time,
    The same that fuel in sullen throb the hymns
Of Orpheus, hemorrhaging grief in rhyme.
    But different tunes ignite our desire’s root –
    Their trace, emerging vines that merge and climb
The walls within the halls of Hades. Mute
    And vanished as night, yet here you remain
    A muse that breathes her fire upon a flute:
The pomegranate and its crimson stain
    Upon your lips, at dawn, upon my lips —
    Yet I am sure of nothing but the train
Of Venus, gown of ebony which strips
    This morning’s meaning, held out as a gift.
    My tongue takes these words as one, but trips
Upon your name. I hear each quench and sift
    It murmurs, blown upon the wind, and us
    With it, now bound by cords, now set adrift,
Regret our only landfall, tremulous
    Desire our only compass – this final page,
    The desperate map that charts us in our loss.
You arch your back and lean into the page
    Again, again I dare to lean as near —
    And further — but no farther than this page,
The compass needle driving through the air.

The Sea as Heartbreak

43e575a2debd6adfa00f0f11f2510943

             I
A wave. —A wave. —Another wave retells
The gain and loss, the wealth without a cost—
Recalling how each wave crashes memory,
So far from home and counting what to see.
I stand upon the shore, where wind is tossed
As infinitely as clattering shells

Upon the shore. She greets my eyes with bold
Surrender, nothing returning but wave
And tide. As sun and cloud beseech their home,
So I had begged for shelter. Now sands comb
Debris, the shipping bits that time will save
As cold comfort. The shadows grow old

And light that windows offer to my room
Has nowhere to go, now shunted and lamed
By dying shades. She comes to bring me back
With meats and wine, with spells that crack
An ancient code: your deeds are lost, unnamed
By fame, undone by beauty’s beckoning doom.

             II
We watch cloudy shadows with sunlit cast
Across the waves, like dark monsters beneath
Our vision. Hand across your brow, you peer
Where sea and sky are married, lost in vast
Declensions: wind and water—spangled breath
Of glittering gems that glow and disappear

Beneath our separate islands. Though we share
A single epic, lyric solitude
Maroons these comic palms, their offered green
Is lost in ocean’s grey. For ghosts that bear
The memories of tragic war intrude,
Insisting a claim on blood, true and clean

As bodies washed ashore. Such is the loom
In Ithaca that plucks Ogygia
From its threads, woven poor with cramped regret…
Tonight the stars dine alone and assume
A feast of meats we would call nostalgia—
And waves. —And waves. —And other waves forget.

Splinter

splinter

A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh
Like any black worry aching the blood,
A fevered heart in dead February. Mud
And wood are piled as winter winds engage
In mortal combat with fields of white, clash
In dull retort with beds of wilted sage.

As hands are steeled to helve each ringing log,
A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh,
Like ironwood and oak. What April wish
Can lick its roots with rain and shape the woods
To fly once more? Each leaf, a violent flag,
Slivers sunlight into a thousand gods.

Yard by acre, the grub denies the plow
Its seam in spring, but quick as silverfish
A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh.
Each swollen sty keeps it from summer’s eye:
Did not the soot-grey sage die to know
The shed secrets that hurt seasons deploy?

Now in woodsheds, those secrets are kept locked
As hostages of summer drying out.
Agonies of decay never forget
A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh
To vanquish the epoch and moment clocked
In concentric rings counting down to ash.

So summer falls and winter’s meat is fresh
For death—but first, autumn’s echo so sounds
Its drums from trunk and branch, and sun redounds
To arctic shadows drawn from night just as
A splinter tends to surface deep from flesh.
The whetstone sings its dirge in orchard grass.

Plucked as a loom, the bruised lilacs withdraw,
Unraveling a spool of leaves and blooms
Now bruised and left for beetles, mushrooms—
As forest floor enfolds the underbrush
And sawdust spits at the toothy bucksaw,
So splinters tend to surface deep from flesh.

The Judgment of Paris

judge parish
The Judgment of Paris

Eris:
A golden apple has no bruise—
Contemptuous of all that shine
Around it. Guests, you see the ruse
A golden apple has? That shine
Which vanity has lusts to choose
When discord’s mind cannot divine
A golden apple. Has no bruise
Contempt? Yes. Of all that shine.

You Among the Fireflies

lightning-bugs-fireflies-timelapse-michael-roman

The fireflies were thick in the back field tonight. Went out to watch the light show. Big, huge moon above, all peaceful except the drone of mosquitoes in my ear — at am an impasse — waiting for another.

You among the fireflies, you leaning deep
Among the dizzy fields of midnight haze—
How did we not meet the moon and stars in sleep?
There’s only calendars to blame. The maze
Of crickets cannot lead us from the past.
The myrmidons that make their tiny heaps
Are fierce as summer’s long—each kiss that’s lost
On wasp and hive discovers night and keeps
The honey secret. Your lips, the sweet
Mysterious defaults the spider shapes,
Are soft as flowers opening the night—
And sting.— With mosquito wings, blood escapes…
So I’m captured, lost as dark, a firefly
That burns your fields — urgent, silent as your cry.

Fathers and Sons

ADDED: A primer for those who don’t know why NYFG fans hate the PEs (and, yes, of course, the NEPs too.

ADDED: Exhibit A & B.

How I Feel Now that Philadelphia ("Ptui!”) Is Going to the Super Bowl

How I Feel Now that Philadelphia (“Ptui!”) Is Going to the Super Bowl

 

There is the boy and there are the certain facts of boyhood
(Though nothing autobiographical
Is ever really deduced, is ever really reducible).

Yet the boy’s whole story is as any boy’s life, full
Of moment and followed by others, messily progressing
Along in the plain old myth-telling style.

There was the boy and his father — a fact which must go
Unverified as a creature’s cause. That which didn’t
Make self, though, inherited at least this knowledge:

There is the father and the son – met in boisterous love of sport
Which welded the lessons of thunderous anger
And the sadness hidden in laughter’s cloudbanks.

The boy’s hand consumed in his father’s, they would walk
The yard, policing November’s washout of light;
Spring would arrive only later in the Sun’s cult.

But now was the time to take all of creation into account,
To find the faults in the earth where hide the virtues
Of fathers, to corral the sins of the sons with a hard stewardship.

In these wintry days, the son played Icarus with his father’s
Crafted matchstick ships, motorized by cleverness;
Or played Phaeton pilfering matchbooks and cigars; or Ganymede

Holding the cold brown bottle of Olympia beer for
Father Zeus watching Sunday football, weighing and sighing
In the gridded and hashed balance of his favor-fought heroes.

Thus, Zeus’s gaze fell shadow-like on the U.S.S. Missouri’s
Jacked keel, but withheld just punishments for playing
Fire’s innocence, and hounded the N.Y. Giants weekly battles

Against his patience – all things that youth reaches for
In the hardened hands of time, the works and ways
Of which the golden scales tip in a boy’s growing favor.

Elsewhere

FallowField

Korrektiv is gearing up for a great and productive 2018. (It’s good to let publishing start-ups lie fallow every few years, planting only word-fixing crops like JOB’s poetry to replenish the creative urge.) In the meantime, Friend of Korrektiv and Wiseblood wizard Joshua “Word Bird” Hren has a new poem up over at First Things. Read it, and then raise your hand if you had to look up “numinous” to make sure you had it right. Now raise your hand if you had to look up “logikēn latreian.” Søren says, Raise your hand.

Adam’s Alphabet: A Poem for Advent

Adam's Alphabet

All faith consists in Jesus Christ and in Adam,
and all morality in lust and in grace.

-Pascal

Adam’s anguished alphabet bungles the blood
Because Beelzebub became the cause
Creating crass chaos—deadliest of deaths—
Demanding destruction, what Eden earned.
Eve elected her fervent fellow, framed
For feting that green-gartered gallant who grounds
Grey the groynes and hearthstones that heat his hell.
Her heart, his hands, iuncta iuvant,
Inked up and iodine-red, judge the jet juice
Jerked from jaundiced kinks, kiting and kept
Kinetic in kleptic larceny’s lust.
Lo, law and ministrations to mammon
Manumit nothing but the nihil noted
Now in nations, urb et orb, and ordained
Officially on parchment’s passing pips.
Past passages and quotidian quandaries,
Queer the question: Quid est veritas? Right
Remains a rash, a scandalous stigma
Settling the scored sill of temple and thought—
Together taking umbrage underground
Unable to unearth all the virgin virtues
Villified by a vicious, warring world.
Well would it be if excellence exempted
Xerxes from Yahweh’s yawning yen, yearning,
Yoked to yesterday’s yondermost zone,
Zany with zephyrs for Adam’s ashes.

Zealots of zero, though, yank yammering yesses
Yoemen yell from sexless texts — Man’s own
X-rayed lexicons of wode warnings.
Willing, the world waits, revamping vaunted
Venus’s vanities. Uranus unfurled
Understands useless time as torn tissues
Tied to each solemn syllable of sound
Signifying a sore sight — reason’s right
Rescued from this round reliquary’s quagmire.
Qualified, the quest for peace, each person’s plight,
Perforce prays to obviate Eve’s ovaries:
Observe in one alone who negates and nips
Negative notions of mankind, her mother-maned
Mantle magnifying a love lauded
Lusty, loud and long to kismet’s Kαλον.
Keeping kindhearted for Joseph the just,
Jerusalem’s jewel invites the in-dreamt
I AM to inhabit her hallowed house.
He inspires, instead, gaining from her grant
Given ground foreclosed from the fell fall
Free as fields, fallow to its fruitless ends.
Envious, the enemy, dares this dreamed
Damnation a done deal. But incarned
Caritas came to christen blood and breathe
Balm for ancient agony’s ache, always
As Adam’s alphabet amended in ‘zblood.

Night Rain

                …presently after they shall be honored and exalted,
                shall come to nothing and vanish like smoke.

Our kingdoms shall not last. The rain says that
In every word that drips from eaves tonight—
Soliloquies in sluices, gutters spit
Their gargle out on the driveway’s concrete
Like morning coffee pouring cold and hard
Into tomorrow’s undreamt cups. The words

Of rain are not to be trusted. Tonight
The roof sizzles with them—like meat on a spit.
We listen late between thunder’s concrete
Exemptions and windy inclusions that
Prescribe our mortared brick. End-stopping hard
And final as a trumpet-blast of words,

Each kingdom states the risk. What more concrete,
More sound and safe a thing to say than that?
But liquid eloquence is drowning night
And counting syllables with all the spit
And polish of modern minds that, pressed hard,
Mushroom haloed plumes, like songs without words….

What kingdom ever lasts? For those who spit
Upon their mothers’ graves have made concrete
The mystery that reigns in darkness—that
Which irrigates our time: The rain tonight
Succumbs to its own rules—its laws are hard
And fast as tongues evaporate their words.

Envoi
So rain takes note of rust, and toads (discrete
As thoughtful lovers) crowd the waterspout—
The weather front decays to scraps of snarled
And scudding cloud—the kingdoms of this world.

“One of Those”

bartender pic

FOR JOHN LYON, ON HIS 85TH BIRTHDAY

Some say the cocktail’s genesis
       Was — fiat decoctae — New Orleans:
The Sazarac, wry antithesis
       Of Northernmost mixorians.

Some say it claims Midwestern root
       In sipping supper clubs that branded
The Brandy Old Fashioned—and put
       As paid the spirit tongues demanded.

Some say the how and when of it
       Was sourced more cosmopolitan—
A toast to Peter Minuit
       Who drank the first Manhattan in.

But whiskey, bitters, wine and fruit
       (As democracy often shows)
Will always win the local vote
       Decocting taste with “one of those.”

The House of Haddix: First Mansion

for Louise Cowan

Wisdom builds her house,
But folly with her own hands tears it down.
– Proverbs 14:1

You enter the house to see the house, four walls
And foundation under constant hazard
Of frost and crumbling emotions in time.
You enter the house to see what the house
Is not: these four walls and seven mansions,
The ghostly heads turned from the weariness
Of history, the keepers of the shades
Now gone down to sacred rest and left restless,
Unburied. Enter the house and the senses detect
A quiet genius undisturbed as attic air,
Locked in a tomb, no part of the fixtures
But like a fiction, finding the locus
Where object and memory meet, escape
Time, and maintain vigilance over what
From root cellar grows in the house of Haddix:
Expressed, the elegant elegiacs
In the dust and mold, the fingers of bone
Trace the moistened tracks a snail will make,
Moving toward inevitable lessons of the salt-lick.

Four-olive Martini: A Minor Drama, Last Call

four-olive-martini-keith-wilkie

Your eyes are drained as sapphires lost in blue
And ice. The frown your face is wearing tells
An adequate counterpoint to the tap
Of painted nails now playing up and down
A crystal stem. What is holding me from you
Maintains for us our several separate hells.
Our share in the punishment—your sullen lip
Against the rim, my olive quarto on
A cocktail spike—each rings as clear and true
As Gordon’s and diamonds (or Seagram’s and pearls).
Delivering the sudden burning sip—
The winter sting that splits us skin from bone—
“To each our own!” I say, and know it’s false
But wish to cut the crap with a little gin.

Does Anything Rhyme with “Nobel”?

nobel-prize-medal

When I first received this Nobel Prize for Literature, I got to wondering exactly how my songs related to literature. I wanted to reflect on it and see where the connection was. I’m going to try to articulate that to you. And most likely it will go in a roundabout way, but I hope what I say will be worthwhile and purposeful.

To Arena

to arena

            Corpus mortale tumultus
Non tulit aetherios donisque iugalibus arsit.

                        – Ovid

That day the beach crept up on us,
The tide a sideshow of seashells,
We began our sunburn early,
Soaked in warm beer against curly
Sails, a regatta of tassels
Thrown to a chalky blue chalice

Of sky. We drank and drank it in,
Your eyes going crazy with thirst
And whispering about your art.
I sought to touch your skin to sort
Out my feelings. Worse came to worst
And you dozed off mid-sentence, slain

By cervezas, college finals
And sand-strewn immortality:
So California left its mark—
White underbelly of a shark.
The running surf made us dizzy
As it swirled beneath us, runnels

That heralded a tidal wave.
Except it never came. Instead
Your white one-piece provoked a flush
Desire upon your slumber. The flash
Of flesh, your tapering thighs, fed
My eyes, a hurt longing that drove

Me out well past the surf. Earth’s curve
Swallowed up a ship to its mast,
And swam me to shore to search for
More than Crusoe’s evidence, more
Than Friday’s footprints…. I lost
You in the crowd—and lost my nerve

When I found the beach blanket bare—
As if you’d been absorbed and left
No farewell, except sun and shade
That marked your place. With sunset tide
As my witness, the shifting sift
Of sand had scattered you anywhere.

Five Tanka for Creation

800px-Flammarion

Ὅταν οὖν τι σῶμα κατὰ μηδὲν ἐξαλλάττηται
τῶν προϋπαρχόντων, ἡσυχάζειν αὐτό φαμεν…. -Galen

1
Photosynthesis
Before there was anything
To kiss or embrace,
Before our bed was warm with
Your soil or my seed — hunger.

2
Caress of plasma,
Hydrogen and helium —
Touches my face as
My giddy hands graze your thighs,
Heaven’s dizzying columns.

3
Tectonic spangle
Of plates on the lithosphere;
Your soft surf of breasts
Against my trembling shoreline;
You alone, tsunami’s love.

4
The original
Hertzsprung-Russell diagram,
This random order
Constellates your dark features;
Your fuse burns a comet’s tail.

5
Trout scales, clade branches,
Ascend in rainbow patterns —
Your body pulses
Shallows beneath coral cliffs;
Your eyes glitter dark, seaward.

6
Eukaryotic—
The foundation of all flesh,
Dante’s (h)O-M-O
Draws me to your deepest earth —
Creative, an act of love.

7
The cool part of day,
A sort of post-coital
Tristesse setting in;
For you walk in my garden—
So perfect, so incomplete.

May Day

bf6d59e2ce404839d3e9ff9e817b5c68

on the Occasion of the Marriage of Peter and Lauren

I
Lay by a sense of time, in all the works
And days that harvest out your bonds of earth
Under stars that will sift and shift like sparks
Resplendent, ever new as things that birth
Engenders deep within this bloom of May.
Now take again what time’s plenty bestows
And pluck this fifth-month day. Let no decay
Negate the moment. Build instead the rose
Deep as the hottest blessings of the sun:
Proposals are preludes to all the things
Enlightened in the asking. There’s but one
That gives an answer, shaded in songs
Exclaiming May the Sixth, a day in spring
Recalled in time: Lauren and Peter’s song.

II
Exclaiming May the Sixth, a day in spring,
The world has put its ear to earth, a kiss
Recalled in time: Lauren and Peter’s song

Is played with strings that circle squares. We bring
Our bodies to the dance, our souls in place,
Exclaiming May the Sixth, a day in spring.

But which among our million moments ring
The clocks to bring us round and feel the trace
Recalled in time? Lauren and Peter’s song.

The wine is pure, the bread is everything
That calls us to witness what will suffice,
Exclaiming May the Sixth, a day in spring.

The kiss that makes a mutual language sing.
So yours and yours becomes a single space
Recalled in time. Lauren and Peter’s song

Will play on — God bless and earth avow — these strong
And willing partner to a strident grace
Exclaiming May the Sixth, a day in spring
Recalled in time: Lauren and Peter’s song.

IMG_5715

Na Muintir: Three Fragments

muintir-na-tire-1954-large

                                              After Seumus McManus

(The Coming of the Gaels)

Let us sing of the coming of the Gaels,
         Three tribes like three streams, wandering
Across the wide lands of the East and South,
         Across the roaring body of seas, land
Of foreign powers and ways weird to Eire.
         From there came the Milesians though last
In order, first in war and rule.
                                                These were met
By bristling Firbolg and mighty Tuatha Da Danaan,
         When to these the Milesians beat their path.
All three were kin of Celt’s blood, who before
         The singing of songs separated to become
One tribe, they of whom we now sing our tune,
         The triple-headed river of wandering men,
Come from the East, the Gaels, warring down
         To the peace of a single river’s flow: the Gaels.
First the Firbolg came, and they from Hellas,
          Long enslaved but cunning in their escape,
Capturing the ships of their veteran masters,
         Outrunning the curses of Manannan MacLir,
They managed a beach head, and thereby good fortune
         Until the Fomorians, tribe of rovers,
With a stronghold on Tory Island, waged big war
         Coming down like birds of prey, across
The cold grey seas, white-tipped with chill wind,
         Come down from the Island of Tory, northwest.
Because of the Firbolgs, the Fomorians would work
         A petty worry in the wake of the Tuatha De Danann.
So came next these clever and skillful folk.
         Awed by the finery and execution of artful works,
[Read more…]

Gerasene Farm

gerasene

– for D.F.

“What do you want with me…?”
“We pigs are brainworkers.” – Napoleon
“Who is going to save me?” – Wilbur

Sundays during slaughter time, when work and days
Are a matter of acres and seasons, pink flesh
And exposed blue-white bone

Are surely signs of progress—satisfaction—fertility.
And when autumn begins to spit snow from its mouth
We’ll fire up the fifty-gallon drums for boiling skin

From the herd. With our blue knuckles now scalded red
We’re allowed to pretend we know Odysseus’s swineherd.
He’s a neighbor, say, who might need to borrow a pritch,

Lend his spare block-and-tackle or resharpen a bell scraper
On our millstone.
                             And that’s when Monsignor comes by to bless it all
One bullet at a time. It doesn’t take long after we call

And he’s there almost immediately.
                                                        There’s no dying soul,
No family grief; it’s all just business. “Tail
To snout” he likes to say, quoting from some other good book.

So Monsignor takes off the blacks and Roman collar
This Sunday, leaves them back at the rectory
And dons red buffalo plaid and tattered bibs.

“Scares the devil out of the herd,” I once heard him explain
“Don’t like black or maybe they just know.”
                                                                  Flexibility
Is one of his strong points.
                                            This day is full of a sky

Afflicted with a tin-foil glare from broken clouds—
It’s the day he’s chosen to come help because
He generally likes the business

And specifically on a Sunday. “Not unnecessary work.
A form of relaxation, I would call it.”
He grew up downwind of a giant swine operation

And of course raised his own and has some opinions on swine.
He knows his pig flesh, alright, the way
A horse trader knows teeth and hoofs.

Monsignor lowers the blue-barreled gun,
A pistol without history – it knows neither wars nor duels
But only a resting place between hunting seasons.

He stares the hogs down, and anoints
Their lives with purpose, cruel
For business, and kind but for no kind of fun.

Afterwards, he walks back to his car
To clean the muzzle and chamber.
                                                       Throats cut, they wait
With us for his return.
                                    We don’t let him near the boiling pot.

He’s no good at that part.
                                           But he has a great eye
For parting flesh with a .45.
                                          And maybe for that reason he was made a Monsignor,

But when he scalds the flesh he scrapes too much flesh with the hair
And very little hair with the flesh.
                                               We politely
Put him off to visit with the children

Or maybe put a beer in his hand and tell him to rest a bit,
Though rest isn’t in his nature anymore than
It is in the clouds that scud like corpuscles across the sky.

He was born on a farm and to hear him tell it he fought
Half the day with earth and flesh, the other half,
All blood work.
                                If given half a chance he could shine

Like the best of rural vicars and squires.
At any rate, his place in literature
May one day be secure—

Interpolating experience and innocence
With marksmanship and common sense:
“Pigs are a good investment—nothing wasted if you do it right.

Efficiency is in the nature of swine.”
“Why else,” Monsignor would add, “would the desperate demons
Of Gerasene plead with our Lord. ‘Let’s get the hell out of here!’

You can almost hear them say. It must have been a favor,
Well, maybe not a favor; more a false mercy, for our Lord
To provide that herd, that cliff, the sea beneath.

But there’s no mercy for demons, of course. That’s a figure
Of speech is all. Literature is full of them. But Scripture
Only uses it on purpose. No levity with that sort of business.”

Literature, indeed, I nod. Napoleon and Wilbur
Might talk past each other among the cold clouds
That gather and disperse in winter configurations above our heads.

But also in the sense that fictional pigs make of life and death.
It’s all fantastic friendships for nostalgia’s sake
Or a drudging work detail

To serve as footstool for naked power—
Pink flesh and blue-white bone for them—and sometimes for us.
But Monsignor? He doesn’t even bother to say–

And he gives it no more thought
Than a man of the cloth ought to be
Expected to do:

We watch him hold the pistol like an aspergillum.
And he anoints them both—Wilbur and Napoleon—
With one shot.