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Trail: Ys


Quoth SongBook



the meadowlark and the chim-choo-ree and the sparrow
set to the sky in a flying spree, for the sport over the pharaoh
a little while later the Pharisees dragged comb through the meadow
do you remember what they called up to you and me, in our window?

there is a rusty light on the pines tonight
sun pouring wine, lord, or marrow
down into the bones of the birches
and the spires of the churches
jutting out from the shadows
the yoke, and the axe, and the old smokestacks and the bale and the barrow
and everything sloped like it was dragged from a rope
in the mouth of the south below

we’ve seen those mountains kneeling, felten and grey
we thought our very hearts would up and melt away
from that snow in the nighttime
just going
and going
and the stirring of wind chimes
in the morning
in the morning
helps me find my way back in
from the place where I have been

and, Emily - I saw you last night by the river
I dreamed you were skipping little stones across the surface of the water
frowning at the angle where they were lost, and slipped under forever,
in a mud-cloud, mica-spangled, like the sky’d been breathing on a mirror

anyhow - I sat by your side, by the water
you taught me the names of the stars overhead that I wrote down in my ledger
tho all I knew of the rote universe were those pleiades loosed in december
I promised you I‘d set them to verse so I’d always remember

that the meteorite is a source of the light
and the meteor’s just what we see
and the meteoroid is a stone that’s devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee

and the meteorite’s just what causes the light
and the meteor’s how it’s perceived
and the meteoroid’s a bone thrown from the void that lies quiet in offering to thee

you came and lay a cold compress upon the mess I’m in
threw the window wide and cried; Amen! Amen! Amen!
the whole world - stopped - to hear you hollering
you looked down and saw now what was happening

the lines are fadin’ in my kingdom
(tho I have never known the way to border ‘em in)
so the muddy mouths of baboons and sows and the grouse and the horse and the hen
grope at the gate of the looming lake that was once a tidy pen
and the mail is late and the great estates are not lit from within
the talk in town’s becoming downright sickening

in due time we will see the far butte lit by a flare
I’ve seen your bravery, and I will follow you there
and row through the nighttime
gone healthy
gone healthy all of a sudden
in search of the midwife
who could help me
who could help me
help me find my way back in
there are worries where I’ve been

say, say, say in the lee of the bay; don’t be bothered
leave your troubles here where the tugboats shear the water from the water
(flanked by furrows, curling back, like a match held up to a newspaper)
Emily, they’ll follow your lead by the letter
and I make this claim, and I’m not ashamed to say I know you better
what they’ve seen is just a beam of your sun that banishes winter

let us go! though we know it’s a hopeless endeavor
the ties that bind, they are barbed and spined and hold us close forever
though there is nothing would help me come to grips with a sky that is gaping and yawning
there is a song I woke with on my lips as you sailed your great ship towards the morning
come on home, the poppies are all grown knee-deep by now
blossoms all have fallen, and the pollen ruins the plow
peonies nod in the breeze and while they wetly bow, with
hydrocephalitic listlessness ants mop up-a their brow

and everything with wings is restless, aimless, drunk and dour
the butterflies and birds collide at hot, ungodly hours
and my clay-colored motherlessness rangily reclines
- come on home, now! all my bones are dolorous with vines

Pa pointed out to me, for the hundredth time tonight
the way the ladle leads to a dirt-red bullet of light
squint skyward and listen -
loving him, we move within his borders:
just asterisms in the stars’ set order

we could stand for a century
with our heads cocked
in the broad daylight at this thing
in bodies that don’t keep
dumbstruck with the sweetness of being
till we don’t be
told; take this
eat this

told; the meteorite is the source of the light
and the meteor’s just what we see
and the meteoroid is a stone that’s devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee

and the meteorite’s just what causes the light
and the meteor’s how it’s perceived
and the meteoroid’s a bone thrown from the void that lies quiet in offering to thee

Monkey & Bear

down in the green hay
where monkey and bear usually lay
they woke from a stable-boy’s cry

he said; someone come quick!
the horses got loose, got grass-sick!
they’ll founder! fain, they’ll die

what is now known by the sorrel and the roan?
by the chestnut, and the bay, and the gelding grey?
it is: stay by the gate you are given
and remain in your place, for your season
and had the overfed dead but listened
to that high-fence, horse-sense, wisdom...
did you hear that, Bear? said monkey
we’ll get out of here, fair and square
they’ve left the gate open wide!

my bride
here is my hand, where is your paw?
try and understand my plan, Ursala
my heart is a furnace
full of love that’s just, and earnest
now; you know that we must unlearn this
allegiance to a life of service
and no longer answer to that heartless
hay-monger, nor be his accomplice
(that charlatan, with artless hustling!)
but; Ursala, we’ve got to eat something
and earn our keep, while still within
the borders of the land that man has girded
(all double-bolted and tightfisted!)
until we reach the open country
a-steeped in milk and honey

will you keep your fancy clothes on, for me?
can you bear a little longer to wear that leash?
my love, I swear by the air I breathe:
sooner or later, you’ll bare your teeth

but for now, just dance, darling
c’mon, will you dance, my darling?
darling, there’s a place for us
can we go, before I turn to dust?
oh my darling, there’s a place for us
oh darling
c’mon will you dance, my darling?
oh, the hills are groaning with excess
like a table ceaselessly being set
oh my darling, we will get there yet

they trooped past the guards,
past the coops, and the fields, and the farmyards
all night, till finally:

the space they gained grew
much farther than the stone that bear threw
to mark where they’d stop for tea

but walk a little faster
and don’t look backwards
your feast is to the East, which lies a little past the pasture

when the blackbirds hear tea whistling, they rise and clap
and their applause caws the kettle black
and we can’t have none of that!
move along, Bear; there, there; that’s that
(though cast in plaster
our Ursala’s heart beat faster
than monkey’s ever will)
but still;
they have got to pay the bills
hadn’t they?
that is what the monkey’d say

so, with the courage of a clown, or a cur
or a kite, jerking tight at its tether
in her dun-brown gown of fur
and her jerkin’ of swansdown and leather

Bear would sway on her hind legs;
the organ would grind dregs of song, for the pleasure
of the children, who’d shriek
throwing coins at her feet
then recoiling in terror

sing, dance, darling
c’mon, will you dance, my darling?
oh darling, there’s a place for us
can we go, before I turn to dust?
oh my darling, there’s a place for us
oh darling
c’mon, will you dance, my darling?
you keep your eyes fixed on the highest hill
where you’ll ever-after eat your fill
oh my darling, dear, mine
if you dance
dance, darling, and i love you still

deep in the night
shone a weak and miserly light
where the monkey shouldered his lamp

someone had told him
the bear had been wandering
a fair piece away from where they were camped
someone had told him
the bear’d been sneaking away
to the seaside caverns, to bathe

and the thought troubled the monkey
for he was afraid of spelunking down in those caves

also afraid what the village people would say
if they saw the bear in that state;
lolling and splashing obscenely
well, it seemed irrational, really; washing that face

washing that matted and flea-bit pelt
in some sea-spit-shine, old kelp dripping with brine

but monkey just laughed, and he muttered;
when she comes back, Ursala will be bursting with pride

till I jump up!
saying: you’ve been rolling in muck!
saying: you smell of garbage and grime!

but far out
far out
by now
by now
far out, by now, Bear ploughed
‘cause she would not drown:
first the outside-legs of the bear
up and fell down, in the water, like knobby garters

then the outside-arms of the bear
fell off, as easy as if sloughed from boiled tomatoes

low’red in a genteel curtsy
bear shed the mantle of her diluvian shoulders;
and, with a sigh,
she allowed the burden of belly to drop like an apronfull of boulders

if you could hold up her threadbare
coat to the light where it’s worn translucent in places

you’d see spots where
almost every night of the year Bear had been mending suspending that baseness

now her coat drags through the water
bagging, with a life’s-worth of hunger, limitless minnows;
in the magnetic embrace
balletic and glacial of Bear’s insatiable shadow;

left there!
left there!
when Bear left Bear
left there!
left there!
when Bear stepped clear of Bear

(sooner or later you’ll bury your teeth)

Sawdust And Diamonds

from the top of the flight
of the wide, white stairs
through the rest of my life
do you wait for me there?

there’s a bell in my ears
there’s a wide white roar
drop a bell down the stairs
hear it fall forevermore

drop a bell off of the dock
blot it out in the sea
drowning mute as a rock;
sounding mutiny

there’s a light in the wings, hits this system of strings
from the side while they swing;
see the wires, the wires, the wires

and the articulation
in our elbows and knees
makes us buckle as we couple in endless increase
as the audience admires milkymoon

and the little white dove
made with love, made with love:
made with glue, and a glove, and some pliers

swings a low sickle arc
from its perch in the dark:
settle down
settle down my desire

and the moment I slept I was swept up in a terrible tremor
though no longer bereft, how I shook! and I couldn’t remember

then the furthermost shake drove a murdering stake in
and cleft me right down through my center
and I shouldn’t say so, but I know that it was then, or never

push me back into a tree
bind my buttons with salt
fill my long ears with bees
praying: please, please, please,
love, you ought not!
no you ought not!

then the system of strings tugs on the tip of my wings
(cut from cardboard and old magazines)
makes me warble and rise like a sparrow
and in the place where I stood, there is a circle of wood
a cord or two, which you chop and you stack in your barrow

it is terribly good to carry water and chop wood
streaked with soot, heavy booted and wild-eyed;
as I crash through the rafters
and the ropes and pulleys trail after
and the holiest belfry burns sky-high

then the slow lip of fire moves across the prairie with precision
while, somewhere, with your pliers and glue you make your first incision
and in a moment of almost-unbearable vision
doubled over with the hunger of lions
‘hold me close’, cooed the dove
who was stuffed, now, with sawdust and diamonds

I wanted to say: why the long face?
sparrow, perch and play songs of long face
burro, buck and bray songs of long face!
sing: I will swallow your sadness and eat your cold clay
just to lift your long face

and though it may be madness, I will take to the grave
your precious longface
and though our bones they may break, and our souls separate
- why the long face? milkymoon
and though our bodies recoil from the grip of the soil
- why the long face?

in the trough of the waves
which are pawing like dogs
pitch we, pale-faced and grave,
as I write in my log

then I hear a noise from the hull
seven days out to sea
and it is the damnable bell!

and it tolls - well, I believe, that it tolls - for me!
it tolls for me!

though my wrists and my waist seemed so easy to break
still, my dear, I would have walked you to the very edge of the water
and they will recognise all the lines of your face
in the face of the daughter of the daughter of my daughter

darling, we will be fine, but what was yours and mine
appears to be a sandcastle that the gibbering wave takes
but if it’s all just the same, then will you say my name:
say my name in the morning, so I know when the wave breaks?

I wasn’t born of a whistle or milked from a thistle at twilight
no, I was all horns and thorns, sprung out fully formed, knock-kneed and upright
so: enough of this terror
we deserve to know light
and grow evermore lighter and lighter
you would have seen me through
but I could not undo that desire

oh-oh, oh-oh-oh desire
oh-oh, oh-oh-oh desire
oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh desire milkymoon

from the top of the flight
of the wide, white stairs
through the rest of my life
do you wait for me there?

Only Skin

and there was a booming above you
that night, black airplanes flew over the sea
and they were lowing and shifting like
beached whales
shelled snails
as you strained and you squinted to see
the retreat of their hairless and blind cavalry
you froze in your sand shoal
prayed for your poor soul
sky was a bread roll, soaking in a milk-bowl
and when the bread broke, fell in bricks of wet smoke
my sleeping heart woke, and my waking heart spoke
then there was a silence you took to mean something:
mean, run, sing
for alive you will evermore be
and the plague of the greasy black engines a-skulkin’
has gone east
while you’re left to explain them to me
released from their hairless and blind cavalry
with your hands in your pockets, stubbily running
to where I’m unfresh, undressed and yawning
well, what is this craziness? this crazy talking?
you caught some small death when you were sleepwalking
it was a dark dream, darlin’, it’s over
the firebreather is beneath the clover
beneath his breathing there is cold clay, forever
a toothless hound-dog choking on a feather
but I took my fishingpole (fearing your fever)
down to the swimminghole, where there grows bitter herb
that blooms but one day a year by the riverside - I’d bring it here:
apply it gently
to the love you’ve lent me
while the river was twisting and braiding, the bait bobbed
and the string sobbed, as it cut through the hustling breeze
and I watched how the water was kneading so neatly
gone treacly
nearly slowed to a stop in this heat
- frenzy coiling flush along the muscles beneath
press on me: we are restless things
webs of seaweed are swaddling
you call upon the dusk
of the musk of a squid
shot full of ink, until you sink into your crib
rowing along, among the reeds, among the rushes
I heard your song, before my heart had time to hush it!
smell of a stone fruit being cut and being opened
smell of a low and of a lazy cinder smoking
and when the fire moves away
fire moves away, son
why would you say
I was the last one?
scrape your knee; it is only skin
makes the sound of violins
when you cut my hair, and leave the birds the trimmings
I am the happiest woman among all women
and the shallow
stretches as far as I can see
knee-deep, trudging along
a seagull weeps; “so long”
I’m humming a threshing song
until the night is over
hold on!
hold on!
hold your horses back from the fickle dawn
I have got some business out at the edge of town
candy weighing both of my pockets down
‘til I can hardly stay afloat, from the weight of them
(and knowing how the common-folk condemn
what it is I do, to you, to keep you warm
being a woman, being a woman)

but always up the mountainside you’re clambering
groping blindly, hungry for anything:
picking through your pocket linings - well, what is this?
scrap of sassafras, eh Sisyphus?

I see the blossoms broke and wet after the rain
little sister, he will be back again
I have washed a thousand spiders down the drain
spiders ghosts hang soaked and dangelin’
silently from all the blooming cherry trees
in tiny nooses, safe from everyone
- nothing but a nuisance; gone now, dead and done
be a woman, be a woman!

though we felt the spray of the waves
we decided to stay till the tide rose too far
we weren’t afraid, cause we know what you are
and you know that we know what you are
awful atoll
- o, incalculable indiscreetness and sorrow!
bawl, bellow:
Sibyl sea-cow, all done up in a bow

toddle and roll;
teeth an impalpable bit of leather
while yarrow, heather and hollyhock
awkwardly molt along the shore
are you mine?
my heart?
mine anymore?
stay with me for awhile
that’s an awfully real gun
I know life will lay you down
as the lightning has lately done

failing this, failing this,
follow me, my sweetest friend
to see what you anointed in pointing your gun there

lay it down! nice and slow!
there is nowhere to go, save up
up where the light, undiluted, is weaving in a drunk dream
at the sight of my baby, out back:
back on the patio watching the bats bring night in
- while, elsewhere, estuaries of wax-white
wend, endlessly, towards seashores unmapped

last week our picture window produced a half-word
heavy and hollow, hit by a brown bird
we stood and watched her gape like a rattlesnake
and pant and labour over every intake
I said a sort of prayer for some sort of rare grace
then thought I ought to take her to a higher place
said: “dog nor vulture nor cat shall toy with you
and though you die, bird, you will have a fine view”

then in my hot hand
she slumped her sick weight
we tramped through the poison oak
heartbroke and inchoate

the dogs were snapping
so you cuffed their collars
while I climbed the tree-house
then how I hollered!
cause she’d lain, as still as a stone, in my palm, for a lifetime or two

then, saw the treetops, cocked her head and up and flew
(while, back in the world that moves, often
according to the hoarding of these clues
dogs still run roughly around
little tufts of finch-down)
the cities we passed were a flickering wasteland
but his hand in my hand made them hale and harmless
while down in the lowlands the crops are all coming;
we have everything
life is thundering blissful towards death
in a stampede of his fumbling green gentleness
you stopped by, I was all alive
in my doorway, we shucked and jived
and when you wept, I was gone:
see, I got gone when I got wise
but I can’t with certainty say we survived
then down, and down
and down, and down
and down, and deeper
stoke without sound
the blameless flames
you endless sleeper
through fire below, and fire above, and fire within
sleeped through the things that couldn’t have been if you hadn’t have been
and when the fire moves away
fire moves away, son
why would you say
I was the last one?
all my bones they are gone, gone, gone
take my bones, I don’t need none
cold, cold cupboard, Lord, nothing to chew on!
suck all day on a cherry stone
dig a little hole, not three inches round
spit your pit in the hole in the ground
weep upon the spot for the starving of me!
till up grow a fine young cherry tree
well when the bough breaks, what’ll you make for me?
a little willow cabin to rest on your knee
what’ll I do with a trinket such as this?
think of your woman, who’s gone to the west

but I’m starving and freezing in my measly old bed!
then I’ll crawl across the salt flats to stroke your sweet head
come across the desert with no shoes on!
I love you truly, or I love no-one
fire moves away, son
why would you say
I was the last one?
clear the room! there’s a fire, a fire, a fire
get going, and I’m going to be right behind you
and if the love of a woman or two, dear,
couldn’t move you to such heights, then all I can do
is do, my darling, right by you


when you ate I saw your eyelashes
saw them shake like wind on rushes
in the corn field when she called me
moths surround me - thought they’d drown me

and I miss your precious heart

dried rose petal, redbrown circles
framed your eyes and stained your knuckles

and all those lonely nights down by the river
brought me bread and water (water, in)
but though I tried so hard my little darling
I couldn’t keep the night from coming in

and all those lonely nights down by the river
I was brought my bread and water by the kith and the kin
now in the quiet hour when I am sleepin’
I cannot keep the night from comin’ in

why’ve you gone away?
gone away again?
I’ll sleep through the rest of my days
if you’ve gone away again

sleep through the rest of my days

why’ve you gone away, away
seven suns, seven suns
away, away, away, away

can you hear me? will you listen?
don’t come near me, don’t go missing
in the lissome light of evening:
help me, Cosmia; I’m grieving

and all those lonely nights down by the river
brought me bread and water (water, in)
but though I tried so hard my little darling
I couldn’t keep the night from coming in

and all those lonely nights down by the river
I was brought my bread and water by the kith and the kin
now in the quiet hour when I am sleepin’
I cannot keep the night from comin’ in

beneath the porch light we’ve all been circling
beat our dust hearts, singe our flour wings
but in the corner, something is happening!
wild Cosmia, what have you seen?

water were your limbs, and the fire was her hair
and then the moonlight caught your eye, and you rose through the air
well, if you’ve seen true light, then this is my prayer:
will you call me when you get there?

and I miss your precious heart;
and miss, and miss, and miss,
& miss, & miss, & miss, & miss, & miss your heart
but release your precious heart
to its feast, for precious heartsmilkymoon