Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Two poems to celebrate the turning of the year, the permanence of change, the eternal strangeness of the familiar

Gentle People

The gentle people seem to float
Through life, dispensing gentle balm
On turmoil others stir by rote,
Their fingers tightening toward the palm.

How do the gentle people feel
As things ungentle strew their path,
Dilute the acid of the real,
Put up good wine from grapes of wrath?

The public face is rent-to-own,
The character is sealed at birth,
Gentleness marrow in the bone
Sir John Falstaff
Of legatees who'll claim the earth.

Where do the gentle go to tame
The bile that rises in life's throb?
When they're at home, and doff their fame,
Do they curse peace, "that lousy job"?

A rogue too dims his glaring light,
Recharges, takes a deeper breath,
As late, offstage, the roaring knight,
Calmed by Dame Quickly, saluted death

Across green fields. He'd time to mull it
Amid conclusive groans and winces,
Recalling when heart and tongue and gullet
Were all congruent with a prince's.

The Streetlights in Other Neighborhoods

      Let there be light. — Genesis I:3

I know my own corner just well enough under the streetlight
With its teasing, suggestive mystery
Outside the glowing motes of illumination
In fog or mist, and even when the air is clear,
To be able to give you a history
Of my time in the neighborhood, my station
In the midnight swish of time edging out fear.

By day when I see other neighborhoods, no matter how strange,
The familiar stature of houses where strangers live
Connects them to a sense that says, You know me:
This is where I house families like yours in some manner.
You could live here. What I take home, I also give
In these brief visits. But nothing quite so homey
Comes through emblazoned on a welcome banner

When I pass through at night, and every intersection
Seems to replicate a crossroads of accident and fate,
As streetlights, now put to their automatic work,
Shoulder aside a darkness full of uncanny dread
In which pinpoints of light suggest the leisure state
Of people whose souls hang heavy in the murk
Of sleep to come, rehearsing when they'll join the dead.

The streetlights in other neighborhoods are doubtless like mine,
But after dark I have to notice how self-contained they are,
Insisting their glowing circles diffuse into gloom unique
And dangerous. You don't live here, they say, and never will.
Each source of light, from 10-watt bulb to star,
Must radiate nostalgia for the moment before time's first creak
And light's diffusion from then to some exponential nil.

Light is one, and dreams it eventually will convene as such
In a fraternity of the universe's orbed reflectors and fires,
Of burning brilliances both continuous and interstitial,
When the streetlights of all neighborhoods will find nothing odd
In consorting with each other, with flashlights and suns, in optics-driven choirs
And, in one voice of blazing muteness, repeat the initial
Recorded utterance and command of God.

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