.. who, reaching
to pull the door shut, turned in my direction
–but not, after forty years, the haggard rock,
the supernatural contour of her face, and eyes
as if they’d looked on the purely evil and
utterly boring so long that evil bored
and boredom was itself their only evil.
Then the charred gaze fell blankly on me
–from the blackened stones of a wayside shrine,
an empty place where someone once died
and a last gasp of smoke now clutches at
the luckless, halted passerby, demanding,
Did you think you amused me, fool?
Yes, I, too, had scraped my match, burned and moved on.
After trial by fire is trial by ash.
I bow to the verdict of the embers.
Testing the Waters
Daylong and then in dreams this testing
the waters–how swift, sweet, thick the course
of things, how cool, consistent, various,
and what the current bears, or bypasses–
so that we can go on and on in the swim
and still be staunch and other than this flowing:
not carried away, not left behind.
Laura Among the Shades
Honor, and excellence, and transcendent best,
I was the laurels I denominated:
diadem and queen and diadems bearer.
Disdaining tribute from inferior hands,
I crowned myself The Greatest Poet Alive.
And died to pursue opponents far worthier.
I bore my distinction against the famous dead,
and grimly–not their rival, their enemy.
My evergreen shall overgrow their names
grimed on the black page of Oblivion.
My conceit was always larger than myself.
Not vainglory, it was ambition, and meant
to show my complete contempt for poetry.
Accursed the leaves I plucked and poison to me,
my laurels mingled with berries of the nightshade.