Sunday

  • The poem that follows has spilled blood. I’ve put just about everything else aside to write it these last few months. It’s a refutation. I won’t tell you of who or which poet but any reader familiar with poetry will recognize its inspiration. I didn’t want it to just be a pastiche. That is, though it hews closely in form and rhetoric to its inspiration and though I’ve adopted the original poet’s way of thought, imagery and elusive argument (even his liking of antiquated words and syntax)  I wanted the poem to be mine. That’s hard. Readers who remember my last poem will see that it still lingers with me in my final stanza. But. Done. You won’t find anything like this anywhere else. Enjoy. As for me: On to other poems that have waited patiently.

 

1

The apostasies of a woman’s lips
On an afternoon at the hotel.
The orange sun brings her colluding with
Persimmons on a Sunday beneath the palms
Of Santa Cruz. Upon a bed sheet lies
A dissolution of desires saying
There’s this and only this; and that if afterward
The waves confide in the brutal architecture
Of consummation there will still be evenings
Under the umbrellas of Capitola,
The large procession of its lighted buildings
Where women walk in splendor; evening colloquies
Of a green harbor and the dimming waves—
Dimmed for the contemplation of the women
And contemplating on the women walking.

2

Why should her beauty not be worldly?
What is to her the fixed divinity
Of the high, gold-enameled angel, wrought
In her own image, never rising nor
Descending? What to her her coterie
Of holy emblems? Shall she find no comfort
In earthly totems? Nothing is divine
And there is nothing that is not divine
Both in her and without her: autumn’s frail,
Confiding sky, the heart’s divide beholding
The sky; the uncharted snow’s descent, hers
Upon her lover’s bed. These are the measure—
Her soul creating and created by
The world: the pomegranate’s stain before
The blackbird’s consuetudinary cry.

3

Mary had her immaculate conception,
No lover bruised her thighs, nor any sweet
Soil lingered there; she moved with unstained feet
Among the winemakers—a miracle,
Walked among generations undisturbed,
In holy revelry, until our own
Discerning, unabashed, surmised descent—
The earth’s blood rendered with our own; where even
The priests discerned it in Galapagos.
Shall we be mute? When was it ever
Other but that a woman’s gait be broken
By the shapeful bounty of a man’s motion?
When was it ever other than that we
To each other are all the paradise
We’ll know, of love, of sorrow, consummation?

4

She says, “I am content he wakes me, questions
My sinews when the morning’s sun first salts
The odorous sheets. But in my lover’s absence
Shall swallows not contend?—the plum not taste
As sweet?—the berry?” Inasmuch as autumn
Exhausts the yielded fruits of summer,
The turmoil of the sun is unabated.
Even as lilacs cool beneath the moon
Desirous roots divide the earth, confound
And undermine. No edifice endures
As the body will endure—no cloister,
Cathedral, academe—as blood endures;
As the ecstatic foison of the sun
Abides within the lover and beloved,
Their impassioned breaths annealing their tongues.

5

“Becalmed,” she says, “and the body wearied,
I choose to contemplate the spiritual.”
From eros springs desire, being desire;
The mother of the sacred and profane—
She populates our dreams; proffers the apple
Flavoring lips and thighs, that although tasting
Of ecstasy, tastes too of bitterness,
And loss; yet nonetheless we eat: no fruit
Spits forth the seed until the flesh be parted;
Until the green calamity of April
Is reaped by August’s laboring sun. Late hour—
The women lie with men; eros spreads
The evening’s garment over them. If otherwise
The soul know no respite but this, though suffering,
Though weary, what more than to love—and be loved?

6

Is there desire in paradise? How else
Do lovers speak? How else if never thigh
To thigh; if mutual labor never dust
Their sun-regarded flanks? Is her apron
Forever burdened by the unbruised fruit
And his swagger never altered being
Perplexed by hers? What purpose to a man’s
Proportions or a woman’s where without death
They never need make love, give birth, or nurturance?—
Yet it was never us in paradise,
But paradise in us—in us the dreamt of
Elation of an ageless afternoon
Discovered in a kiss—nor the shores
Of an elysium but our perishing whispers
At midnight. Paradise is in desire.

7

Sinuous and orgiastic, the women
Wheel and cant devotion to the Earth
Not in dominion but as Earth might be,
Its curling waters thrumming in the heart,
Its seasons churning in the blood of hips
And groin. The moon descends among them, fierce,
Unveiled. They voice the cunning of the river
That kneads the dour root and rubs against
The skin of April’s melting, women not
As goddesses might be, but goddesses
Themselves in whom the summer’s revelations
Are consummated. Even afterward
Though autumn breaks the year end’s faltering gait
Their own describes the memory of the dew
That slaked their feet; the lilt of the summer’s liquor.

8.

She hears, among the startled flight of thrushes,
Girls cry: ‘The porch of Ithaca is not
Our resting place, but ours are voices rising
From every shore.” The chaos of our being
Is all the world we know: not the sun,
Or dinted summer fields, a midday’s rainfall
Or skimming swallows, not the course of autumn
Altering the braided grasses; but they take
Their drink from us; berries their sweetness from
Our mouths; the wind that scuffs the evening’s waters
Our breath and longing. Where the starlings flock
Above a dangling moon—where black as words
They slip the knotted cords of verse, arising
Out of the discourse of desire—the mind
Arises and, containing them, is made whole.

Sunday
February 2nd, 2019 by me, Patrick Gillespie