Caught in the heavy wax of summer
in a yellow room
while the slow needle
designed old song
that hung in the heat
like fruit overripe
we stirred little or not at all
motion bogging us down.
Brown hair on brown shoulders
beiged in the glow
she tapped a mute but semaphore toe
to the clustering sound.
Holding a book he lost himself
in the laden air
between the ceiling and his chair.
Heavy and dissonant
not being thin
bluntly my thoughts turned in
to a desultory war.
Silently the ices
vanished from drained glasses.
At length he read
from an obscurer clime,
the words were suspended honey
in a yellow comb.
“…than longen folk
to goon on pilgrimages…”
But journeys are for spring:
we could not move midsummer.
Briefly to that music
we made our music.
Tuned to a softer warmth
we breathed a green isle
lontano lontano lontono
(The Sunflower Literary Review # 2, April 1, 1954)
Now my feet, all sandal-shod,
Love not the stoney earth
And to my flesh the trees are thorns;
Chaffed are my thighs by rude covering.
The thirsty wind dries up the soil
Where only needle plants may flourish.
But in the nights on my hard bed
My dreams are coloured with flowers
Bruised fingers shape no more.
For there is a place that I recall
Of green and shade, where branches
Caressed the ground with fruit.
By grass my feet were cushioned
And the wind was still and cool.
Was it but a dream, a dream
That I bathed in deep streams
And knew not the ache of labor?
O fruit of terror and blinding touch
That brought me here
Through the glare of blacking lamps
In anguish with the weeping Eve.
Eve—woman of my sleep,
Disturber of the dream,
Moves now along the dust alone.
She gives me sons,
The one who loves the sheep,
The one who seeds the soil.
But they are not of me;
Brooding browed and apart
We walk, our blood unjoined
By speech. I am alone, for they
Have not the hours of the garden
Nor have they felt upon their lips
The sweet breath I remember.
There is a greenness they cannot know,
There is a surcease they can but seek,
And peace they can never find
But in a guarded hidden garden.
If, scorning, and spurning all of wisdom, knowledge, love,
Shunning festering humanity, and souls pregnant with blackness,
Devoid of desiring aim, you should lie searching, seeking
Spacious faith and concrete truth,
Journey forth into the illimitable mind,
Pointing out lakes and hills and golden fields of grass.
Conjure tender leaves and honeysuckle on the vine,
Silver-dusted grapes and violets huddled on damp banks.
Fasten yourself upon flowers and follow the course of clouds.
If you fall so far that roses and dawnings cannot help,
Exist like sand and wind, like rain, like arctic ice.
Remember barren rock. Return to the swelling sea.
Ways of Silence
The threads of sighs that maze
My labyrinthian days
Are tangled past unraveling
And I am wound in longing
With a puzzled silent tongue.
The tortured eyes, the ear delirious,
The climbing heart that leans
Beyond to seek its love,
(look, it comes, it comes)
These are not mine to tell.
My trembling tumbling tongue
In the jungle of my sighs
Has lost its voice in longing
And now I have no song.
To lean across a balustrade
To glimpse a love unseen
(it comes! it comes!),
Hiding, I found new ways
Of love to learn: a certain stance,
A motionless dance of pause
In love’s being; then a turn,
Climaxing all action;
Unique color to rend me.
Bizarre thunder to shake me.
All this new—
And so I leaned and learned
New ways to plague my eyes
For many days, new ways,
New song to dazzle
And daze my inner ear:
A turn, a pause that sways
My balanced heart to fall,
New shade, new song to stray
And strew my sense for days.
Lulled by certain beauty
I hear, rocked in its fluted tone
The even music of its song,
The one note held—too long—
That holds me still, enchants my ear
And ending leaves it numb.
Beguiled, bemused, I cannot move.
But trapped unaware I stumble and hear
The tremor of songs that wound my ear
And cause my cadenced heart to pause:
The sudden plunge of the wandering tone,
The slender sound of fragile wings,
The uncertain beauty of trembling things.
Blood Will Tell
I could jump from a high place to rocks below
or put a gun to my head and pull the trigger
if broken limbs or the body’s rigour
after death proved anything.
Or I might amble through your door
while you lounged reading in a chair
and very calmly take a razor
and slash my wrist and smile.
Though ired, you’d be compelled
to watch my little drama, but all the while
you’d think distastefully about the mess
my life was making on your carpet.
(The Sunflower Literary Review # 8, May 13, 1955)
Memory Is a String
by Glenn Todd
It is spring but I am at my books and weltering among my papers. It is night and dark but in my room the light reveals the climate of a sterile season. It is quiet and over my papers my thoughts are scattering like broken beads. It is April and the wind is saying like a breath hello and pulling like a hand come out and in me memory is sounding like a string insistently plucked and now it is louder and now it is spring and it is April and I am saying if anyone would love me love me now. It is spring and it is April and I am growing curved and empty like a shell to catch and echo every sound of night and wind and in me is madness threatening to blossom every moment like a flower. I am taut and aching and the night is softly fondling and the wind is like an arm around me and on their shelves my books are dead.
I am at my books and I am thinking it is spring and I will quit my books. I rise and pour three swift shots of gin and drinking I am jagged but also smooth again with the madness subsiding except for the string insistently plucked. Soon the sterile papers are behind me and I am from my room and in the night. Along the streets the doors are open to the evening and people move through rooms like faraway dancers. At the doors children are gazing into the night. Girls and boys are leaning through darkened windows to search the sky for the star that surely must be rising. Surety is fading from them like a sun setting. They are bright with uncertainty and portentous time is upon them. They glimpse before and after feeling large and floundering and small and bewildered.
Suddenly the angry ocean of the gin is churning and aloneness is in me like a great swinging bell. I am on the streets alone and I wander. Ahead of me the sign of a tavern is jangling and careless as a tambourine. In the tavern the awakened young are playing. Life as a gift and constant surprise is flushed upon their faces. The juke-box is tingling pleasant magic along their spines to the accompaniment of one two three beers the third of which is still before them golden and promising.
My beer before me is neither golden nor promising but contagiously magic and I am drinking swiftly while I am listening to a student who is one of three
For that sensitivity is our one inalienable quality. Granted that all the lovely verses and all the tunes we know were taken from our heads we could begin again and from that same innate susceptibility rediscover in glorious intensity
and then from a young man unfortunately facing a wall
There are so many things I want to tell you about but it is very disconcerting to talk when one feels that absolutely no one is listening.
and I hear a young man who tells a girl
If you have never been loved and suddenly you are it is difficult to believe.
But now I am no longer listening but musing and musing on writing and deciding that I must write and wondering what happened to that shallow hallowed supremacy that in our youth told us we could and would that fascination that glory that dream of comprehension that print might carry us whirl us fling us hitherward whitherward we know not but to realms of joie de vie where we landed heavenward havenward poetry slung and sound sprung music shapen. Nor entirely then were we witherward progressing guessingly ungame for life liberty and the pursuit of ideals unattainable. Now we unwilling gameable and willing blameable desire refire tragic magic to o’ertake us break us tear us shake us eternitying toward flame beyond name shame an unseen sheen clouds the shrouds of all trying dying crying. Unsold bold and surely keen sweet breath of good lead us onward to accomplishment atonement astonishment tonic meant for the banishment vanishment of youth truth unbarred starred in the dawning of our longing.
But now I am no longer musing but watching and watching a girl who opens a door and comes in. As I see this girl I see this girl is like no other girl and she is coming out of the night to the sound of a string insistently plucked. She is wearing a man’s white shirt folded back at the cuffs and trying to look lost among its folds but appearing quite substantial and losing her hands in the deep pockets of a black skirt. She is coming to my table as original as a new season and pauses at my table real as a dream swaying and saying
Paris. I am thinking of Paris France. This morning when I woke up I thought the birds were singing in French.
Yes, I say for I am very drunk.
She says, The trouble with where I live is that it is so close to the outside. I want a corner where I can make a warmth not dependent upon spring.
If anyone would love me, love me now, I say.
You are beautifully drunk she says. But if you were sober I would be the same.
Be careful, I tell her, I have changed.
And looking up I see that she has changed also and now is wearing a black dress that leaves her shoulders and almost her bosom bare and on her naked skin near her rising breast is suspended one silver sequin in fascinating fashion and falling from her ears like a jewel box overturned are earrings and her voice has changed to silver as she says
Changed? Changed? Not drastically I hope. On you a change would have to be bad for I the virgin of the villa thought that you were very near perfect.
Changed, I say, Yes. And now I miss you.
And her voice is tumbling silver as she says, When I am sad or things go wrong I don’t miss you but on these stilled and chilled evenings when the sky is just one huge webwork of powderpuffs and rhinestones then I miss you. I guess I miss you most of all this spring. Before it was just a novel sensation but now I want you for my very own. And I just laugh and laugh because I know all the time I can’t have you.
Please don’t go on, I say.
And she answers, I’ll quit talking but I won’t promise to stop loving anybody because I like to be in love with all sorts of people.
Let us speak of other things, I plead.
She says, My day and night uninterrupted thus far by my mother’s imminent miscarriage or father’s castration by the buzz saw have been spared all excitement.
And then she is wearing something bright and fun and like the spring and holding my eye and breath as she flings her hand to her forehead in a mock histrionic gesture as she says
I Libby Tipton daughter of a deceased old English earl feel a seizure coming on. Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking I nevertheless wish to take advantage of this unforeseen propitious moment to make a few sweet and simple observations upon —
changed? changed? Time tide and tears may change you rearrange you but I know you will always retain the golden charm like the land of opportunity the promised land the land of milk and honey.
Then, laughing she says, Don’t ever leave me not completely not all the way.
And I am crying because of the lateness of this hour and I am weeping because of the sad and beautiful pizzicato strings and I am sobbing because time tide and tears are changing me and through my tears I see that she has changed back to the white shirt and is pretending to be a lost little girl as she begins
You leave me … all a lone … with nobody
And I am laughing and prompting, With nobody but the goblins …
But the goblins … and the goblins … is bigger … thananyplaceelse.
And some day, I say.
And someday … I’ll disappear … between the sheets … and you won’t ever have any more upside down puddin cake again ever.
In harmony we are laughing we are crying and time is an evil rumor as I reach for her hand that is caught in the fiction of the past.
But she is withdrawing and rising to her feet saying,
Whatever rich harvests that life may offer I doubt if there is any gain through the years that can equal the loss of you.
What do you want out of me, I ask.
And she sways unsteadily and screams, All I want out of this is out.
And she is gone without anybody knowing she is gone forever gone and always gone and gone completely. And I am screaming to the people
Did you see her go Did you see her leave and is there none of her in your life no reflection of a sequined glitter or the memory of rhinestones teasing your eyes?
Unfortunately a young man faces a wall, a boy entreats a girl to love, three students spin their paragraphs of fabulous nothingness and sentences of deepest sentience. And none see my way except to see my very undoubtedly drunken way.
And where my way leads is through the arc of doors and the curve of streets and I am lost and I wander and I am aware of the great stars and the giant night. The world is grinding out a lonely uphill noise under its burden of sprawling cities which cover it like candles on a brooding altar. I am not finding the way homeward for the way is lost but in the dark and silence I am thinking I perceive the ancient wellknown objects grown throbbing and dreamlike hanging about me unseen and quiet but which I am learning from the strings is not home but the memory of home. I know not my way but I know the vastness of the land wherein a hand once let go can be held no more but is held always — only without substance. What the strings are telling me is that memory is a music without sound to which I must always listen. Beyond the lost way are darkened windows and closed doors. I am stumbling and dogs are rushing out to voice I am a stranger.
© Glenn Todd