Written in 1968 when I was not quite 16, this is another poem I’m very fond of, which sucks. I love the way it sounds—so oracular & intense—but all the images are so private, they can’t possibly convey any meaning to anyone but me (& maybe to a couple other people who were around at the time, but I doubt it). If any of you wanna take a stab at explaining them, I’ll send you a copy of my play Odysseus among the Suitors, which tells the same story in plain English. The occasion for the poem was my return to the Boston area after a year in the West, to reencounter my former circle of friends & former girlfriend. Everyone had moved on, including me, but I was still refusing to accept it. “The Regret” is a second-draft title, & again, I don’t recall what the first one was. I’m not sure, but I think “Eber” in part II is another name for the goddess of Change in part I. Part II has the same rhyme scheme as Dylan Thomas’ “Author’s Prologue”—the first line rhymes with the last, the second with the next-to-last, & so on.
Caught in arms, the arms, the woman
whose name is Change.
Two seats across, the window:
over the river,
spelled in adrenaline garlands at last,
Land City’s length at the second sitting,
flower-wassail over the river.
The woman, Change
will see you airborne,
your wrinkled byword
bastard of the gun.
Land City, workingpart of
the great machine—his, that’s yet the way
his was. Unthinkable that she should come to that:
we have been alive
as long as alive has been alive,
she, reaping what fancy sends her,
bellied by strife, by Plan’s edges.
The chip-golden skylark
slashed to the logical fronts,
planed to feign
what externity was known.
In the century seventeen castle’s lady
looked like followings of dark dream,
cool to the touch which comforts with warmth,
fur white, sense of a myriad marble,
the cool anterooms of the outlook.
O as in the pit
I know what is the spasm
of what is beholding
my outstretched words.
You sat on the step.
I’m sorry I’ve seen you, you’re sorry I’m lost.
The blessing I offer for yours, O yours:
the blessing for what was once
dream-music, what was the moon’s infant,
become a rich and scarlet shadow
borne by phrases into the scarlet shadow.
come I to your threshold
often yet to cross
what is missing.
It remains to tell of childhood,
of this the donning of a baptist’s cape,
to twice affront the pleasure-columns
soft in earth’s appointment,
soft in a woman’s will for the reason
and struck upon gold-bordered homes.
Where have I left them
What can we
now become, but
The heavier God is past the arm
aloft with the pointing, east and fro,
to gather the closèd ring of space
in what I can travel; then, pursue
the woman while wrestling at her face,
until solemn Future rays the crown
onto Eber’s omen, castle-caught.
My violence is good to blacken sheets
but so would be more to present light
that thin crescent-spot of rose-hue stain
imprinted thereon, more crime contain.
I’ll use safe medallions for my sight,
who’ll bear me along your pushing streets
and not then forsake me what I sought.
Eber, and the willer’s face is down,
my midnight arises on your face,
a conductor slapped by woman’s cue.
And all graces then, do they erase
the symbol of shock’s blue vertigo,
and suspend the spiral from alarm?