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Anubis-black, the breathless sky blinked its jackal eye

above the field of darnel, foxglove and rye.

Along the lane dark cloudberry loomed

lit only by an antimony Moon

broomed by wisps of damson-dye.

Obscured by this starry mask, the Swanmaiden

rose from her tourmaline lake,

slipping off her robe-damask and feathery crown her troth to seek.

Thus fate-blessed she quit her tramontine nest.

Foretold her cygnean life she must forsake, she flew—

bound to her whispered task—on bleu-blanc wings

six ells wide to the distant shore of the West.

The cold crawled by her, night refusing to thaw, a helix-en-air

purling from each wingtip dyadic

like a honeyed sky-note to the Great Bear

urging Ursa to crawl from his Cimmerian attic

to guide her way with his vast paw.

Before the dawn she lit on lofted gable runic-writ.

Upon the carvéd wood the words ran thus:

Down from above cometh my life.”

The Swanmaiden smiled, adding five strokes by her curvéd claw:

Downy from above cometh my wife.”

This quietus done she sought an entrance to the warmth.

Such scratching was heard by none within,

but without it woke the dunlin and weary pipit

ensconced on their sandy tumuli. Each hatched a tiny greeting

to their great sister, who heard not. She only tried the planchette

on the roof; found it latched.

At last she forced a window; stole inside.

So silently did she tread, a calico cat never raised its head

but napped still upon the hearth, her fur reflecting orange and red

from the lightly hissing fire.

Cramoisie shadows danced on the walls

sloe-black pools ran down the halls

while the coals purred like copper wire.

The Swanmaiden found the Master's bed:

above, her great wings she spread, canopying his dreams with hers.

Underneath he stirred, cued by the waning Moon not to wake.

As the cock crowed, swan's form did she forsake,

his desire fatally linked to a long-necked girl of pallid mien:

none other could he wed.

Who is This Ghost

Who is this ghost I seek
or sylph or fay
Oh where is she
this one I've seen
the long-haired one of shivered limbs
of shadow eyes
of downcast day
of silvered hands and subtle mien
Why should she only send her sisters
of false hope
unlit fairies

Wrecked upon this shallow land
in penance for what hollow deed
Shall I find the countermand
and rein the Apollonian steed
Or am I stranded utterly
til she or one like she takes pity
Is my fate for me to fix
or must I patiently await the Parcae's hex
Such as these speak when it suits
not when I beg or pray
A sentence is served
not to a fixéd day
but to that word
and to that thought
and to that hour when walls dissolve
and I can walk away

Of all the damnings
across the lost eternal skies
of all appointed sorrow
the sharpest is saved for struck listeners
encircled by ancient
and haunted lullabies
who love not the living most
who love not the day and the hours
not the May and the morrow
but as in an aching dream
love and love
an unknown
unnamed ghost

You give your love so reluctantly

The town imagines you a subtle princess
slight of waist, delicate of wrist
long-fingered and light-stepped
Your skirts follow you like hounds
follow Artemis, rustling and attentive
Your jewels and speckled bands
delight the ashram eyes
and even younger men vie to kiss your sandals

but I know you give your love so reluctantly

Although you smile at the wind
and seem to seduce the very gods
with your blue blue irises
and caress your worshipful cats with cool abandon

still I know you give your love so reluctantly

You talk of flying spirits
and long hot summers of India
Among the words are tucked unspoken promises
of a red Arabian night
Your dreams betray you, for they
float on golden carpets and dive in warm waters
and you tell them in satsang, surrounded by your acolytes
seemingly unaware of their effect

I, who do not tell my dreams,
but nonetheless dream long and deep
regretting to wake,
was fooled
I had been thrown high by you
I had walked the clouds
given assurances, proffered gifts
and gladly met the myriad demands of a silver princess

Though you were said to be the flower,
it is I that opened, petal by petal
Sun-leaning, nodding with the hours,
Moon-bowing, swaying in the dark
arms and legs to the four corners

I had made a bed for love
stuffed it and mended it and canopied it with
all expectance
a blanketed refuge from all that is,
from all that is too much

In a grand gesture, you had blessed it
chanted, burned your incense
laid on your decorations of quartz and adamant
and walked a flourished circle three times
shedding your sage perfumes

But only I know how reluctantly
you give your love

My hands have built the festooned halls
in which you glide
my magic surrounds you
I have loaned you my devis, and they invisibly
guard you as you blithely haunt the world
And so you have grown even more lovely
flanked by my paintings of you
wearing clothes from my model's closet
You have climbed me like a sequined ladder
and the stars flutter in your celestial hair

But even after all these years
you give your love so reluctantly

La Pucelle [concerning Joan of Arc]

The white-archangel bloomed high along the lane, nodding to young Jehane
as she passed,
gentil, complaisant.
A rill ran beside, lambent with summer rains, brown below but wan

above, washing with
the black woolly rocks. A grey heron, inglenooked in the brook's yellow hay
eyed her, grimly

of the sound of her sabots on the cakéd earth. Nearer still, the quail
des blés2
bowed in hedgerows, hidden
among the stars-of-Bethlehem,
la herbe-de-la-saint-Jean3, and la mauve-musquée.4

They hunched in their feathery pews, well-ridden
of their normal foxy fears. The virgin's arrival stopped all chase and chasse
'til the saints be bidden.

Her promenade closed when a dusky warbler brightly warned her of the coming crevasse.
She had sought this moraine
as the appointed place, a wild and wind-blown altar for an almost private mass.

The nimble maid of Lorraine
climbed right down, led by her
fauvette ophée6, plumuled grey. He warbled
a trilling

to bless this fourre-tout
8 of the gods, this heap of stone, this mystery-slag unrivalled.
Nothing followed the pair
but the white flowers, turning now to asphodel with calyx lightly pebbled

and patches of
and clusters of
conopode-dénudé,10 which Jehane did engarland like baby's breath
in her still-long hair.

She removed the dented clogs for the final climb, her toes cheating death
with subtle purchase of the ledge.
At last she reached the bed, dry and sandy with white shale beneath.

Nearby, tufts of sedge
followed a fine line of water, fed in silvery webs along cavern walls
split like a long-drawn wedge.

The friendly warbler left her now, frightened by his own echoing calls,
replaced by a martinet pâle.
Far quieter, he patrolled with a balsam whisper, master of these low halls.

The little
encircled Jehanne, fashioning her a
chaplet-en-air12 with his wind-sharpened wings,
an implied corolla of the dell

to protect her from all
fées-rustique.13 Even so, the maid's silent imaginings
les dieux locaux,14
waiting through centuries for an honest intention. They prepared their hallowings

like a balefire row,
Michael, Catherine and Margaret in trinal apparition, musing the maid
into a

The angels clothed her in
boucassin-blanc16 and ciel-bleu,17 her collar of silk inlaid.
With essence of plum they laved
her hands, and about her feet a bough of
musquet-des-bois18 curled and played.

In the folds of her dress ennaved
were long green needles of cedar and leaves of durmast oak, heavy with signs
that Orleans and Patay would be saved.

At last they cut the woodbines,
freeing Jehane from her bosky boat-of-dreams, and sent her back up to the real.
All that remained were the lines

in her memory, the clear etchings of battle and proof, of providence, signal and seal.
The maid was now of France,
her mind a book the angels would write, her body a sword they would anneal.

With a shy and backward glance
she wondered that Michael and the rest—waylaying her in that heathen deep—
should send her on the road to Rheims

from an enchanted gap of stone. Why not take her in church, or in devoted sleep,
under eaves where all Christendom lay?
Should she henceforth pray under sky and stars, under Sun and Moon, her soul to keep?

But the birds would not say.
Le moineau soulcie19 was silent; la tourterelle des bois20 only cooed and sighed,
awaiting the end of day.

So she walked back down her road, guarded by dogrose and danewort and
No Dauphin yet spoke of tests,
no Cauchon of trials; only the waking owl, crying in the fields like an earless muse,

warning nobly of the nests
of Englishmen, and of the fourberie
22 of priests, and of the blood-singed brevity of all fierce
God-appointed quests.

But Jehane had no mind for the prophecy of owls, Merlin though he be. Let them pierce
her pellucid breast with a dart
or nail her to a
Vieux Marché pyre: it would always be her sweet Jhesus who steers

her course and her innocent heart.
Accepting his summons might lead to bitterest pain, but denying would be far worse.
The maid must play her part.

1whirlpools    2of the wheat    3St. John's wort    4musk mallow    5the hunt    6Orpheus' warbler, the dusky warbler    7mountain song    8hold-all, junk pile    9campion    10naked cone-foot, St. Anthony's nut    11swallow    12crown in the air    13field spirits    14the local gods    15dream-boat    16white fustian fabric    17sky blue    18lily-of-the-valley    19rock sparrow    20turtle dove    21thorn-apple    22treachery


The sennit in her hat was stolen,
picked from fields her father did not rent or own—
a handsel from the petted heifers
cropping purslane near the edge of town.

Calves in the sedge shied away from the fence
as she climbed the short hill beyond,
and the lambs leapt from mayapples offered,
and the geese flew up from the pond.

She lay that summer’s eve on the wold
scented with chervil and tansy.
Above her the regions of dusk did unfold
light-gemmuled as a virgin sea.

Her hair burgeoned the rain-cracked rocks
following the lines of stonewort a-whirl,
while beetles about her beat paths through the scutch,
wandering wide in avoid of the girl.

Bat vied with nightjar for greymoth and brown;
vole gathered orache and hare hid his hyssop—
all unknown to the dirndled girl on the down
begging the Moon to come to a stop.

But the Corymb above her continued to climb,
surrounded by surfeit of sky edelweiss;
and the waters between them bubbled with rime
and sea wrack and red ramage and spice

flung by the Hunter to coax the sea monsters
out from their dark caves above the trees.
She saw his arrows fly, like catkins afire between the stars
burning out fast in the high cold breeze.

With a sarmentine wand, won from a pollard willow
she waved at the sky and cast crooked spells
to bring hydra and draco and both dogs below
to burn all the houses and dry up the wells.

For her the kine in the fields became wyvern
choking the village folk with soot.
For her the cats that haunted the verges were witches
combing the reeds for henbane and wolfbane and feverroot.

Varuna looked down on this floss-silk girl—
her clogs, her sisalled arms and legs, her strawbraid brow—
and sent four owls to rouse her from her curl
upon the copsy hill: she should not sleep with rook and cow.

She wiped her mind with hexenbesen
and wet her lips with boneset.
She lifted her like a bayadére on a dew palanquin
webbed with briony, and kermoak for a chaplet.

The laverock let them pass with an orgulous look
from beneath his dark green leaves.
The yarrow bent and the groundsel shook
and the hart’s tongue licked its bluish greaves.

The girl woke at home with eaves overhead
and smoke from the peat-tended fire.
Raffia littered her bed on the floor,
and her mind danced like silver wire.

But a cricket calmed her, and her sisters’ sounds,
and she rubbed one foot with the other.
Varuna continued her subtle rounds
and the four owls left with their mother.

Ushas Asleep

The Moon pales bosky
hugging the tattered rim of the wood
like a charnel vine, one dim bloom
above the black.

Smell of charlock deckles
the wind, and meadow rue arrives
behind, tainting the squirrel corn
and sweet mazzard with its tones

Ushas is asleep, curled ophidian
in some warm cave, her gowns plissé,
her breath of meliot,
her zaffre rays reigned in for now.

Knowing this, the sciomancer blows his
subtle flame to life and greets the golemi
as they blink and puff, their fingers
still sticky with dew of deep roots,
their eyes leaking glaire,
their heads nine timbrels, all in row.

He bends this coffle with a brew
of coltsfoot and baneberry,
bribing them from their brides,
withy wands unwending them,
and they ride the night on a brood of ouzel,
bred to malinger the fogs.

A codling moth patters the rafters
and rains down dust on the books and naked pages.
A clock’s crystal, chatoyant in the candle’s eye,
places all this in the past
with each stuttered blink.

As a cruel charivari, the clock and candle
toast the man and his painted zenana,
for the golemi, gone to gather all whispers,
have left their weird wives in a clutch.

The man looks to them, each to each,
desiring that ones throat, like a wake-robin,
desiring that ones lip, like carnelian.

One white body he peels from her calyx,
petal for green petal, til she stands a parian
parted from the mountain.

Another he limns in air,
her verge of kaolin umber waxing
tripetalous, pucelle of chalcedony
bedded in finest bistre.

Another, hair in carcanet of wood
anemone, murmurs a make-believe
chanson de geste as counter-mesmer.

But to no avail: he will have her cowl
as well, burning it with the rest.
Pitiless, he picks her pose as punishment—
arms overhead.

The last he likes in caput mortuum
the best. Purply she lies on a long couch, sipping
blossom tea languidly
from a terracotta cup.
It is doubtful she will even look up.

Artemis approves with arrowy glance,
finally rising steeple-high.
She cares not for wives, sylphic or no,
and leads the golemi easterly still
dumbly driving their dream.

But at last Ushas rolls back the rock,
cleaving the night from her narrow shoulders.
The wind reverses, waking the plowbirds,
and the ouzel tip and turn.

The mandrake yawns, the vole scratches,
and the damselfly drinks a drop of dew,
tongue like a tiny frond, flicking wet.

The golemwives run from the room,
slipping under the wainscoting like Walkure mice.
Quickly they dress themselves in calladia
and calla lilies, weaving a lie for the nonce.

But their mud-husbands ask nothing,
seeking the warm soil, sighing a night’s-end.
No beetle above them will trouble their rest.

And he, alone once more, returns to his
eau-de-vie, freeing the chalk from his fingernails.
He has no oblation for Ushas.
Artemis, cold and white, distant and undoting
yet binds him somehow,
by some roll of the bones
above or by some sortilege
from the shore of Cocytus.
Her whoredom vierge
has become his hymn.

The Cypress Wife

Melissa brushed the flaxseed from her drapéd hair
O mallow mallow and malmsey
and picked the bluebells from her skirts
and ladyfern and thistle.

She walked a'home through moonlight and coppice
Sing mallow and yellow malmsey
Unshoed through ponygrass and willow
and horsetail and rushes.

She thought "I be seed vessel and him wind fellow"
O mallow mallow and malmsey

A lacewing brushed Melissa's darksome face
and greenly paced the air around her.
Melissa licked the night for passing ghosts
and whispered mallow mallow.

The moisture messed her netherhair
and made her silver legs move nicely
slipping noiseless and mothy and lissome
O mallow mallow and malmsey.

"Great Cypress!" called she to a massive tree
"for one more kiss of him I'd marry thee!"
And Cypress listened to poor Melissa
sing mallow and yellow malmsey

She kissed her fellow by bulrush and weed
and eelgrasss and pussywillow.
And turned to white wife of swaying Cypress
sighing mallow mallow.

My Last Love

My last love
slept on a blue pad
in a sea of books

I moved them off
rustling in their jealous stacks
to make room for me

They waited like shorebirds
for the wave to pass

The Merman
(a sestina)

I dreamt a river of yellow hair
my bed but a mermaid thought
a bark of rushes
Your webby claws raked the raw silt, the silk black weeds
my tongue swam in circles~silvery fish
and death was green

I dreamt a hard sky, turtleback green
the moon a face without hair
"There I lie and fish,
reedpoles my arms, casting up to the green." I thought,
"I am a tree, roots among the weeds
among rushes."

I dreamt a white island, by rushes
encrypt. An egg among green
feathers, mossgreen weeds
There you woke like a nestling, preened your downy hair
with pearly currycombs that I thought
were bones of fish

I dreamt a greensea of vase-shaped fish
or "cellos from which rushes
fish music," I thought.
They plucked a long wavering whalesong of death green
and silkblack, on strings of yellow hair
long goldenweeds.

I dreamt a muddy cave, mouth of weeds
clumped with sparrowbones and fish
eyes and matted with hair
soft under white toes like a floor of wet rushes
or riverbed rocks beneath feltgreen
moss. Then I thought

"And this cave is but a mermaid thought
fisheyes ensconced in silkweeds
on walls of blue-breen
algae, a ceiling of pearl-white shells." And I fish
there for dreams among the black rushes
the yellow hair

where you are an otter seeking fish
and I a green rushclad merman combing the weeds
for death or a thread of maidenhair.


The dead may air an applewood of greenrippling bark
their bed of dark
below a brown bough
shady where it stood
in a white wood
shiny with the moon

Or leaves may dance an orange turn round roots above
a winding move
through clay black grey and dust
and finger the sleep
from those down deep

Some dig dirt and taste sienna-yellow sap
like mother's lap
Some spread wide in violet-sacred matricide
of fallen earth
this bloody birth

But silver-rimed graves in applewood know children too
hills not new
I sleep on overarching grass
an apple canopy
is all I see

Iron Taboo

She buried her hair
there below boards seven ells deep
safe with a needle her goldenthread
iron eye dazzling the dead
from her head

Our bed was straw
She spun it yellow night by night
and covered the weft with dead red leaves
the branches she tied into sapless sheaves
torches she weaves

A garden she dug
wet with sweetbrier, white eglantine
Propped up a grey groom legged in vine
priest-king with a penny
of her makeshift croft

Her hair lay long
like orphrey collar on moss-rose neck
The limetree hung her broadcloth dress
her nest of silk whipstitch
over muddy knees

She buried the child
deep between roots where the river winds
the bones a mother hides no one finds
and built for a boat a willow bier
knotted with hair
her own hands

The curragh she sailt
brownbourn down rindle to sea
river daughter yet mouthing a digging song
and threw a spoon to oceanrift
In flaxen bindweed seven ells deep
I sleep

Death is an Otter

Death is an otter
swimming rings around the moon
river daughter writing runes around the sun

Life is a fish
gills wide in flight from webby paws
scaled son-of-stars, stippled child of middlenight

Death is a bear
dancing a buzzing whirlpool, fur fearless
and honeycomb drunk

Life is a bee
pollen-dusted in sexy flower hop
unaware of ursa dipping overhead

Little Bird

Where dost thou flutter
Little bird
What is thy song
little heard
Dost thou tumble from bracken fern
all the mornings fog to burn
lowly aloft on redgold heath
breakfast bugs astir beneath
naught but vapors up above
which languishing night but now unwove
Will I see thee again at dusk
sleekened by thy daily rusk
or shall I lose thee to the claw
the all devouring, time's great maw.


The harvestman prancing on whinneying air
shooting the dappled pumpkins king of the Moon

Where are the Wiccans tresses a testing the loom
will she spin long silver thread to steal my ghost
Or must I run waters through greygrass and the brown
leaflimbs slender as a spiderleg

Dig deep cicadabug chew quietly locustlady
Apollo seeks you from the silent side
to burn your wings to singe your freckled carapace
it will not do to sleep
or tongue your earthy womb

Make an offering child of dust
on the rooted altar at river's edge
Delve your drinking hands elbow-deep in brackish blue
and weave a worm from maker's mud

and splay your dancing line longlegged
into wind

For Mary

Like death your eyes go deep and grey
Their marble tastes of breath and sleep
and patient black and cold-ash clay

Your hands raw willowroots a-sway
White limbs move lithe and long-a-sweep
and eyes go deep like death and grey

Winterberry lips do curl away
round mine more murmur and creep
Go deep like death eyes of grey.

Mio Caro Leonardo
da tuo padre

O do not think, my lovely boy—
fair face framed in ringlet curls,
silk o'er citrus-alabaster skin—
such angel's drape will cover shape
from Devil's dreams or worldly sin:
such beauty here—no heaven's coin—
will buy you only Papish looks
and claws of fifty-year-old girls.

O do not think, my lovely boy—
hand with flowing line of God
following lithe Nature's willow curve
in perfect mirror Ess of Soul—
such divine amanuensis is required here.
Rome translates this snake as backward script,
sinister sign of Adam's fall
and Eve's corrupting curves.

O do not think, my lovely boy—
blacks aglow with atmospheric white
and brightest light subdued in shadow's glaze—
such subtlety, line to tint and colored edge,
will capture eye, confined by gaze
to straightened sight, chiaroscuro
shading depth for sons of Lazarus
accustomed to Sepulchral tones.

O do not think, my lovely boy—
strumming lute like fretted swan
or piping flute (a childish toy)—
Polyhymnia is worshipped yet.
Muses, Graces, Fates and Furies were pitched
from Milvian Bridge and drowned:
and water-walker solemnly wades—
does not dance or sing or finger his kithara.

O do not think, my lovely boy—
mind outstripping history's coils,
thinking thoughts Medieval men mistake,
seeing solid air uplift your wings
and gaseous rock, Madonna's vale,
containing as much Sky as Earth,
matter sprinkled wide in Pallas' birth
like gems in Heaven's veil—

O do not think, my lovely boy,
such musing makes one better.
Blood and veins and scattered bones
are death's concern: Nero may fiddle
as Christians burn, his song and salt
a pyramid of dust that time erodes.
God will outlast Giza waiting
for the Sphinx to tell its riddle.

O do not think, my lovely boy,
perfection is the point: Paul reserved
your place for penitent sinners.
Unabsolved clay cullers, scrabbling in the mud,
picking fruit from Mother's breast,
tasting tree for seeds of immortality,
will never tithe the Trinity
or earn a place in Paradise.

Put away your paints and pray, Mi Fili.
Give up your Ge and learn Theology.
With your right hand reach inside,
exorcise the demons of your bet.
We know too well you traded hell
for all your Mother's bounty.
But She will never save you, Bastard Child.
Christ and you cannot be reconciled.


Dig deep beneath your bed, sleeping one—
The soil is warm and sandy and flies
like mist from hands that claw and feet that run.

You will find, if you go deep below
beyond the lowest catacombs that sigh
beyond the pale eidola, rocking to and fro,
You will find a room, walled in green so high
roofed in blue so mystery-sheer
warmed by red and floored soft
lit by yellow and watered clear,
and here you will curl in shapes of round
here the skin will smell of milk and sweat
here the breath and heart will sound
here all friends are found and met.

Crawl up to the moon, sleeping one—
Swim by clouds that brush your cheek, like spiderwebs,
lost forever from the brooming sun.
Feel the tide that thrusts and ebbs
lofting you into the white arms,
the cold blue light, the shivering vault.
Here pain freezes, memory never harms,
yesterday is lost, the past is salt.

Penetrate the walls, confound the maze, sleeping one—
You are not confined by day's hard lines,
only night's fine confusion, a net that none
need suffer—none, that is, that time resigns.
Look upon the horned monsters, won't you,
as they hoof their fateful lanes of dust.
As they must roam and chase and ravage too,
so you look and tremble and weep, you must.

But when the weeping's done then slay the beast.
Lick your sword and laugh a creature's oath,
repeat it 'til the blood and fur have ceased
then to the subtle fires haul them both.

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