The Poet, II

My body was once a beautiful house of marble,
Kissed to pale rose by the passionate heat of the sun,
Wherein through cunning channels flowed forever
Health-giving crimson blood in steady tides.

My eyes were then quick to see and to welcome beauty,
My lips smiled often with gratified desire,
My hands shook not, but were fit for caress or grapple,
My arms rose and my body moved in strength.

Then not a single line of any poem
Had my hands raped from my brain, but untouched and pure
They abode in the land of distant visions where no man
Heard my voice calling for them at eventide.

My blood lies in great black lakes now, sluggish and frozen,
Or fumes in like some boiling, stinging, poison brew
Till it suddenly stops in a lassitude unspoken,
Or bursts through my pores and covers me with red dew:

My eyes are bleared now and dull with sleepless midnights,
My lips are shrunken purses—their gold is spent,
My hands unsteadily clutch and paw and tremble,
My arms are as strings of macaroni bent.

And as for my chest, ’tis like a leaky air-box
Fixed to some cheap melodeon out of tune,
The bellows creak, the loose and brown keys rattle,
And the music that comes is like a dog’s sick moan.

But in my brain there seethes an adulterous hotchpotch
Of poems clean and disgusting, mad and sage;
And pain, like a dry fire, keeps them ever a-boiling
Till they splash over and blacken some wasted page.

Yes, I am a poet now to be mocked and applauded,
A turnspit that turns and must never taste the meat:
Behold how great I am, but I wait for a greater,
Even Death, who will silence the march of these crippled feet.

—John Gould Fletcher (1886–1950), “The Poet, II,” Fire and Wine, 1913

Leaden Echo & Golden Echo

THE LEADEN ECHO

How to kéep—is there ány any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep

Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty,… from vanishing away?

Ó is there no frowning of these wrinkles, rankèd wrinkles deep,

Dówn? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey?

No there ’s none, there ’s none, O no there ’s none,

Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair,

Do what you may do, what, do what you may,

And wisdom is early to despair:

Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done

To keep at bay

Age and age’s evils, hoar hair,

Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death’s worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay;

So be beginning, be beginning to despair.

O there ’s none; no no no there ’s none:

Be beginning to despair, to despair,

Despair, despair, despair, despair.

THE GOLDEN ECHO

         Spare!

There ís one, yes I have one (Hush there!);

Only not within seeing of the sun,

Not within the singeing of the strong sun,

Tall sun’s tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth’s air,

Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one,

One. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place,

Where whatever ’s prized and passes of us, everything that ’s fresh and fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done away with, undone,

Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet

Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matchèd face,

The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet,

Never fleets móre, fastened with the tenderest truth

To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an everlastingness of, O it is an all youth!

Come then, your ways and airs and looks, locks, maiden gear, gallantry and gaiety and grace,

Winning ways, airs innocent, maiden manners, sweet looks, loose locks, long locks, lovelocks, gaygear, going gallant, girlgrace—

Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with breath,

And with sighs soaring, soaring síghs deliver

Them; beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death

Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver.

See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair

Is, hair of the head, numbered.

Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould

Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we slept,

This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold

What while we, while we slumbered.

O then, weary then whý should we tread? O why are we so haggard at the heart, so care-coiled, care-killed, so fagged, so fashed, so cogged, so cumbered,

When the thing we freely fórfeit is kept with fonder a care,

Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept

Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder

A care kept.—Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where.—

Yonder.—What high as that! We follow, now we follow.—Yonder, yes, yonder, yonder,

Yonder.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889), “The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo,” maidens’ song from the unfinished tragedy St. Winefred’s Well, in Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, now first published, edited and with notes by Robert Bridges, 1918

I accept you

Okay — I give in — I accept you — Middle Age
I am tired — I want to sit down — unrushed —
to read — and drink hot tea — and — Breathe
the number of years behind me — and ahead of me —
no longer concern me — mathematically or emotionally
I have come to rest in the sturdy arms of the Present —
where Time has been waiting for me — my whole Life

—Terri Guillemets

My heart sees all the better

my eyes can’t see as well anymore
but my heart sees all the better

my ears have begun to fail me
but I hear the quiet budding of success

I move more slowly now
but have learned to be still with myself

my aching body is stiff and sore
but my spirit has never felt so fine

my memory is slipping
but I’ve got a firm grip on what it is to live

my head is going gray
but I have found all my true colors

I get out of bed earlier
but still have plenty of dreams

I live more softly
but don’t back down from doing hard things

my teeth are getting artificially replaced
but my soul is real and all my own

my bones are brittle
but my resolve is strong

I no longer bounce back
but continue to look forward

I tell the same stories over and again
but become a new me every day

I’m nearer to the end
yet I have only just begun

—Terri Guillemets