THE MARITIME GRAVEYARD by Paul Valéry
How odd it is that a few doves between pines
among tombs make with the glare off the sea
a thought compounded, something to be
thankful for, composure like thinking's recompense
center of the diamond as the sun, invisible
hovers like justice or some holy ghost
in Milton conceiving reflexivity's hic est
Time's Dream of itself imagined as univocal.
Like a hill, this mood is, as if one is regarded
by something come on, faced by what you thought
monotonous tranquility, the puddle in heat
moved by wind, leaving your ceiling liquid gilded.
The temple of time raised in a breath
in which to look out as a god gazes
as if through arches where the coast rose
scatters petals leeward on the spindrift path
all vanished in the moment as the palate's pear
in smoky wine, a pythoness's vision, goes
a shape without a form, Tydeus
above the plain he dies on by the grumbling river.
How changed we are, after the marmalade sea
our pomp and indolence turned by this brightness
into one shadow, our presence like the coolness
of tombs, bodiless as quality.
Oppose your mortal body to the blade of noon
and you'll become anatomy. Let diamond
return what passes through pure, no less refined
without the pendant shade the highlight's floated on.
For me, my self laid bare at classic font between
the rite itself and spring I attend my echo
for what it's worth, the click of baton to cello
announces another creation, pale ultramarine.
Poor body, dragging to paretic end
one more prediction spelt in sybil's leaves
what makes you, here, adopt a pensive pose
if not the thought of shades disposed around.
Closed in, sanctified, embered garden
offered up to light, your marbled shade
pleases me like a composition, the ocean laid
at your feet like a tomb dog gardant,
good dog. I feel a shepherd of some flock
off-white as tombs on which my smile
is fatherly, wending my way tranquil
as dovey angels dreaming hic, haec, hoc.
The future seems a fever, burned away
in this aridity to veins on a katydid-wing
the world refined to aquavit, no thing
acerb without its consonant clarity.
The dead ones enveloped in warm earth
like dough bake at noon the vertical
to their flat, I like some crystal
in your tiara qualify your worth.
Without me, flawed that I am, you have
nothing but a field of folk
underneath your paperweights like
shapeless pants on infant Zouave,
vague populace melted into flowers
their words filtered through paste, now tucked
where worms investigate the duct
that once shed tears uniquely ours.
Sharp cries of the chucked, my chuck
your eyes and teeth, the feathery lid
lips rendered as da Vinci did
as deeds of gift, now mulch, turn black
will you, my spirit, cozened by
the rhetoric of wind and wave
will you, subliming still preserve
Teresa's need to curse delay?
Thin immortelle, your gilded laurel
withers on your weedy brow
and we reject as soon as know
the smile that winds around the skull.
Deep fathers' empty heads lie under
shovelfuls, the thought impedes
our steps; the worm that intercedes
to keep me in the game no kinder.
Love is it, perhaps self-hate
the name like its nature, what you choose
I feel it while I sleep impose
its hyper-real analogate.
Zeno the Eleatic's cruel arrow
nocked and fletched by mind transfixes
tortoise day with knowing flux is
Phoebus stone above his shadow.
Break, body, to prospective yon
breathe in this landward hint of breeze
thank salt for weaving sympathies
with life into the heaving ocean.
Oh chlamys, panther-scintillant
on skin stretched blue, the hydra you
make me think of's a curlicue
arresting motion, self-ingestant,
a wind from off you troubles my book,
a wave breaks. Whirl it away! wave waves,
play in the water as a fo'c'sle carves
its way, Sinbad alert for rocs.
copyright 1994 by Gerald Burns