A DREAM OP OLD VIENNA
The mother sits, the whites of her eyes tinted
By a gas lamp of red Bohemian glass.
Her one gray lock could be a rosy fireworks.
She hums the galop from Lehar’s Requiem Mass.
Deepening a blood-red handkerchief the father
Has drawn over his face, the warm beams wreathe
Its foldings into otherworldly features
Now and then stirred lightly from beneath.
The child, because of his extreme pallor,
Acquires a normal look as the lamp glows,
For which the mother is and is not grateful,
Torn between conflicting libidos.
To wed the son when he has slain the father,
Or thrust the brat at once into the damp …?
Such are the throbbing issues that enliven
Many a cozy evening round the lamp.
with thanks to Norman O. Brown
Perhaps it is being off the gold standard
Makes times particularly hard.
Dark brings the jingle and glint of waning coin;
The Huntress pokes through a vast pantheon
Of paper, each leaf sacred to someone
Like Richelieu or Hamilton.
How many genial flames
Gutter and flee the nation’s household shrines!
These days the people I know, like raccoons,
Squat over streams to wash their hands
In the clear thinking of John Maynard Keynes.
And nothing clings to the pans.
Meanwhile the heavens fill with counterfeit
Bodies and lights, which seem to circulate.
The woman of the world puts on
These trinkets with a frown;
They poison her compliance and the love
We had no other way to prove.
The diehards cry: “Restore
The monarchy! Our buried King
Lent significance to everything,
Made the desert bloom and the heart soar.
Uranium the jet-black President is insane.
Ah to be loyal subjects once again!”
Personally I would leave him at Fort Knox
And look for something better-yes, but what?
Each time you butter bread
Paid for with money that your money made
The debt grows more prohibitive
To those luxurious lives you did not live.
Infants (the Master said) in the erotic filth
Of their own bodies first imagine wealth,
Then sweat to purge it from the very bone.
With shaven head and climbing eyes
A priesthood grew. Soon Cities filled the skies,
Of gold and precious stone.
The next step was to build one here below.
Less rich, conceivably, but no
Less real, these concrete blocks
Up from whose monumental bowels jokes
Pharaoh’s ghost: “Such interest we accrue,
We might at last relent, and cover you.”
Forty floors down is Wall Street; forty years
Ago, the merger of Heart & Hurt
That made me. Sunset. In a cage of gilt
Loaded with financiers
I sink. We can be trusted to revert
Back to original value in the vault.
THB VISION OF THE GARDEN
One winter morning, as a child,
Upon the windowpane’s white frost I drew
Forehead and eyes and mouth, the bright and mild
Features of nobody I knew,
And then, abstracted, looking through
This or that bright transparent line,
Beyond I saw a winter garden, so
Heavy with snow its hedge of pine
And sun so brilliant on the snow,
I breathed my pleasure out onto the chill pane
Only to see its angel fade in mist.
I was a child, I did not know
That what I longed for would resist;
Neither what cold lines should my finger trace
On colder grounds before I found anew,
In Ann’s, the feature of that face
Whose mouth, whose eyes alone undo
Such frosts, I hold my breath in love, in fear
At how they melt, become a blossoming pear,
Joy raining in our bodies’ place.
ASCENDANCY OF CHILDREN
For weeks, for years perhaps, they have been playing
Upon the ten-mile boardwalk xylophone
Outside, that joins a given stilted dwelling
To the next and the next and the next one. To and fro
They romp, shrieking. A cluster drops for fun
Into shallows the milky yellow of Pernod.
They are everywhere. Now some have taken to milling
Round a certain doorway, thrusting in their heads
(The door having long since vanished) until pressure
From the foot of the stairs forces an unwilling
Littlest one, all belly, beads
And panicked, painted eyes, across the threshold.
When it appears no violence will befall
The visitor, five or six larger ones permit
Themselves to be pushed in. What do they see?
A squat white Mover ticking menacingly,
A square leaf with blue marks-look, some are wet!
A woman under glass, white-haired and small,
Fearfully small, and smiling, though not a child.
A devil, surely. More, many more, have come.
They babble and touch things. They appear unskilled
In telling metal from cloth, or wood from flesh.
As the confusion mounts it is guessed in a flash
That one of them will discover the occupant of the room.
He has been sitting, rigid, pen in hand,
Before his mother’s picture. But now he flinches.
As from one throat, ravenous cries rebound.
The waters seethe and smoke with images
Whose parent glares unblinking from on high
And will not long be borne by the naked eye.
THE MIDNIGHT SNACK OF PATIENT O.
When I was little and he was riled
It never entered my father’s head
Not to flare up, roar and turn red.
Mother kept cool and smiled.
Now every night I tiptoe straight
Through my darkened kitchen for
The refrigerator door-
It opens, the inviolate!
Illumined as in dreams I take
A glass of milk, a piece of cake,
Then stealthily retire,
Mindful of how the gas stove’s black-
Browed pilot-eye’s blue fire
Burns into my turned back.
THB DANDELION SBRMON
In the heat of a sentence I stopped. You waited
Complacently, but my mind
Had been breathed upon at last.
Innumerable feathery particles rose in less than wind
Out over the nude waters where both suns
Fierily, the reflected and the seen,
Strove to be one, then perhaps were, within
A white haze not at once or ever with ease construed.