Three Poems

TO ‘THE DAY’S UNCOMMON LUSTRE’

 

The business of selling French
frippery and doodads to New
Yorkers fell off in ‘proverbially
dull’ late ague-struck summer,

what Herman Melville’s father called
‘cucumber season.’ A man of
formal diligence who longed for
mere competency. To a brother

in jail for debt he
sent a pound of snuff.
He called ‘beloved Son Herman’
docile and amiable, backward in

speech and somewhat slow in
comprehension. Tempus lustrare meaning nothing
that is not love is
not to the sacral bent.

 

TO LITERARY HISTORY

 

In Switzerland, approaching
death, Rousseau did
openwork lace pieces,
ornamentally white. Nietzsche
suggested we humans
turned scientific out
of lack of
subtlety. Ford Madox
Ford, who claimed
nothing that Dante
Gabriel Rossetti did
mattered “a damn,”
privately pictured him
sweeping inconstant fingers
over “the heart-
strings of innumerable
hearts,” calling out
the music within.
Zukofsky wrote: “Ibsen
scrimped / On postage.”
Clement Clarke Moore,
composing the Homeric
metaphor, “As dry
leaves before the
wild hurricane fly, /
When they meet
with an obstacle,
mount to the
sky . . .” likely recalled
the Shakespearean tag
(out of Coriolanus),
“As weeds before /
A vessel under
sail, so men
obeyed and fell . . .”
So we do.

 

TO SINCERITY 

 

Any talk of
the surly gum-
chewers of Reykjavik
or the seventeenth
century Flemish botanist
Matthias de Lobel—
whence the genus
Lobelia—is apt
to draw down
hoots of in-
sincerity, the feigned
rue and hazard
of the roué
descending the gap-
runged ladder post-
ravishing, still pliable
with smarm, or
shouldering a half-
busted wheel. It
lacks spokes, long-
legged storks used
it for perching,
gaudy and white
and lucky, up
above the town
nobody visits now
that its local
raconteur Bob’s gone
plumb to meet
His Maker. He
Who rarely jokes
about anything. Master
of the lost
wax process. He
of the astral
inventory. He of
the perpetual darn
and unremitting gloss.