Hart Crane: Additional Poems
At Melville's Tomb
Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge
The dice of drowned men's bones he saw bequeath
An embassy. Their numbers as he watched,
Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.
And wrecks passed without sound of bells,
The calyx of death's bounty giving back
A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,
The portent wound in corridors of shells.
Then in the circuit calm of one vast coil,
Its lashings charmed and malice reconciled,
Frosted eyes there were that lifted altars;
And silent answers crept across the stars.
Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive
No farther tides . . . High in the azure steeps
Monody shall not wake the mariner.
This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps.
Carmen de Boheme
Sinuously winding through the room
On smokey tongues of sweetened cigarettes, --
Plaintive yet proud the cello tones resume
The andante of smooth hopes and lost regrets.
Bright peacocks drink from flame-pots by the wall,
Just as absinthe-sipping women shiver through
With shimmering blue from the bowl in Circe's hall.
Their brown eyes blacken, and the blue drop hue.
The andante quivers with crescendo's start,
And dies on fire's birth in each man's heart.
The tapestry betrays a finger through
The slit, soft-pulling; -- -- -- and music follows cue.
There is a sweep, -- a shattering, -- a choir
Disquieting of barbarous fantasy.
The pulse is in the ears, the heart is higher,
And stretches up through mortal eyes to see.
Carmen! Akimbo arms and smouldering eyes; --
Carmen! Bestirring hope and lipping eyes; --
Carmen whirls, and music swirls and dips.
"Carmen!," comes awed from wine-hot lips.
Finale leaves in silence to replume
Bent wings, and Carmen with her flaunts through the gloom
Of whispering tapestry, brown with old fringe: --
The winers leave too, and the small lamps twinge.
Morning: and through the foggy city gate
A gypsy wagon wiggles, striving straight.
And some dream still of Carmen's mystic face, --
Yellow, pallid, like ancient lace.
Forgetfulness is like a song
That, freed from beat and measure, wanders.
Forgetfulness is like a bird whose wings are reconciled,
Outspread and motionless, --
A bird that coasts the wind unwearyingly.
Forgetfulness is rain at night,
Or an old house in a forest, -- or a child.
Forgetfulness is white, -- white as a blasted tree,
And it may stun the sybil into prophecy,
Or bury the Gods.
I can remember much forgetfulness.
The Great Western Plains
THE little voices of the prairie dogs
Are tireless . . .
They will give three hurrahs
Alike to stage, equestrian, and pullman,
And all unstingingly as to the moon.
And Fifi's bows and poodle ease
Whirl by them centred on the lap
Of Lottie Honeydew, movie queen,
Toward lawyers and Nevada.
And how much more they cannot see!
Alas, there is so little time,
The world moves by so fast these days!
Burrowing in silk is not their way --
And yet they know the tomahawk.
Indeed, old memories come back to life;
Pathetic yelps have sometimes greeted
Noses pressed against the glass.
It sheds a shy solemnity,
This lamp in our poor room.
O grey and gold amenity, --
Silence and gentle gloom!
Wide from the world, a stolen hour
We claim, and none may know
How love blooms like a tardy flower
Here in the day's after-glow.
And even should the world break in
With jealous threat and guile,
The world, at last, must bow and win
Our pity and a smile.
A land of leaning ice
Hugged by plaster-grey arches of sky,
Flings itself silently
"Has no one come here to win you,
Or left you with the faintest blush
Upon your glittering breasts?
Have you no memories, O Darkly Bright?"
Cold-hushed, there is only the shifting moments
That journey toward no Spring -
No birth, no death, no time nor sun
The Visible, The Untrue
Yes, I being
the terrible puppet of my dreams, shall
lavish this on you-
the dense mine of the orchid, split in two.
And the fingernails that cinch such
And what about the staunch neighbor tabulations,
with all their zest for doom?
I'm wearing badges
that cancel all your kindness. Forthright
I watch the silver Zeppelin
destroy the sky. To
stir your confidence?
To rouse what sanctions-?
The silver strophe... the canto
bright with myth ... Such
distances leap landward without
evil smile. And, as for me....
The window weight throbs in its blind
partition. To extinguish what I have of faith.
Yes, light. And it is always
always, always the eternal rainbow
And it is always the day, the farewell day unkind.
--And yet this great wink of eternity,
Of rimless floods, unfettered leewardings,
Samite sheeted and processioned where
Her undinal vast belly moonward bends,
Laughing the wrapt inflections of our love;
Take this Sea, whose diapason knells
On scrolls of silver snowy sentences,
The sceptred terror of whose sessions rends
As her demeanors motion well or ill,
All but the pieties of lovers' hands.
And onward, as bells off San Salvador
Salute the crocus lustres of the stars,
In these poinsettia meadows of her tides,--
Adagios of islands, O my Prodigal,
Complete the dark confessions her veins spell.
Mark how her turning shoulders wind the hours,
And hasten while her penniless rich palms
Pass superscription of bent foam and wave,--
Hasten, while they are true,--sleep, death, desire,
Close round one instant in one floating flower.
Bind us in time, O Seasons clear, and awe.
O minstrel galleons of Carib fire,
Bequeath us to no earthly shore until
Is answered in the vortex of our grave
The seal's wide spindrift gaze toward paradise.
Infinite consanguinity it bears
This tendered theme of you that light
Retrieves from sea plains where the sky
Resigns a breast that every wave enthrones;
While ribboned water lanes I wind
Are laved and scattered with no stroke
Wide from your side, whereto this hour
The sea lifts, also, reliquary hands.
And so, admitted through black swollen gates
That must arrest all distance otherwise,
Past whirling pillars and lithe pediments,
Light wrestling there incessantly with light,
Star kissing star through wave on wave unto
Your body rocking!
and where death, if shed,
Presumes no carnage, but this single change,-
Upon the steep floor flung from dawn to dawn
The silken skilled transmemberment of song;
Permit me voyage, love, into your hands . . .
Whose counted smile of hours and days, suppose
I know as spectrum of the sea and pledge
Vastly now parting gulf on gulf of wings
Whose circles bridge, I know, (from palms to the severe
Chilled albatross's white immutability)
No stream of greater love advancing now
Than, singing, this mortality alone
Through clay aflow immortally to you.
All fragrance irrefragably, and claim
Madly meeting logically in this hour
And region that is ours to wreathe again,
Portending eyes and lips and making told
The chancel port and portion of our June-
Shall they not stem and close in our own steps
Bright staves of flowers and quills today as I
Must first be lost in fatal tides to tell?
In signature of the incarnate word
The harbor shoulders to resign in mingling
.Mutual blood, transpiring as foreknown
And widening noon within your breast for gathering
All bright insinuations that my years have caught
For islands where must lead inviolably
Blue latitudes and levels of your eyes,-
In this expectant, still exclaim receive
The secret oar and petals of all love.
Meticulous, past midnight in clear rime,
Infrangible and lonely, smooth as though cast
Together in one merciless white blade-
The bay estuaries fleck the hard sky limits.
-As if too brittle or too clear to touch!
The cables of our sleep so swiftly filed,
Already hang, shred ends from remembered stars.
One frozen trackless smile . . . What words
Can strangle this deaf moonlight? For we
Are overtaken. Now no cry, no sword
Can fasten or deflect this tidal wedge,
Slow tyranny of moonlight, moonlight loved
And changed . "There's
Nothing like this in the world," you say,
is Knowing I cannot touch your hand and look
Too, into that godless cleft of sky
Where nothing turns but dead sands flashing.
"-And never to quite understand!" No,
In all the argosy of your bright hair I dreamed
Nothing so flagless as this piracy.
Draw in your head, alone and too tall here.
Your eyes already in the slant of drifting foam;
Your breath sealed by the ghosts I do not know:
Draw in your head and sleep the long way home.
Where icy and bright dungeons lift
Of swimmers their lost morning eyes,
And ocean rivers, churning, shift
Green borders under stranger skies,
Steadily as a shell secretes
Its beating leagues of monotone,
Or as many waters trough the sun's
Red kelson past the cape's wet stone;
0 rivers mingling toward the sky
And harbor of the phoenix' breast
My eyes pressed black against the prow,
-Thy derelict and blinded guest
Waiting, afire, what name, unspoken
I cannot claim: let thy waves rear
More savage than the death of kings,
Some splintered garland for the seer.
Beyond siroccos harvesting
The solstice thunders, crept away,
Like a cliff swinging or a sail
Flung into April's inmost day-
Creation's blithe and petalled word
To the lounged goddess when she rose
Conceding dialogue with eyes
That smile unsearchable repose-
Still fervid covenant, Belle Isle,
-Unfolded floating dais before
Which rainbows twine continual hair
Belle Isle, white echo of the oar!
The imaged Word, it is, that holds
Hushed willows anchored in its glow.
It is the unbetrayable reply
Whose accent no farewell can know.
My Grandmother's Love Letters
There are no stars to-night
But those of memory.
Yet how much room for memory there is
In the loose girdle of soft rain.
There is even room enough
For the letters of my mother's mother,
That have been pressed so long
Into a corner of the roof
That they are brown and soft,
And liable to melt as snow.
Over the greatness of such space
Steps must be gentle.
It is all hung by an invisible white hair.
It trembles as birch limbs webbing the air.
And I ask myself:
"Are your fingers long enough to play
Old keys that are but echoes:
Is the silence strong enough
To carry back the music to its source
And back to you again
As though to her?"
Yet I would lead my grandmother by the hand
Through much of what she would not understand;
And so I stumble. And the rain continues on the roof
With such a sound of gently pitying laughter.
Where the cedar leaf divides the sky
I heard the sea.
In sapphire arenas of the hills
I was promised an improved infancy.
Sulking, sanctioning the sun,
My memory I left in a ravine,-
Casual louse that tissues the buck-wheat,
Aprons rocks, congregates pears
In moonlit bushels
And wakens alleys with a hidden cough.
Dangerously the summer burned
(I had joined the entrainments of the wind).
The shadows of boulders lengthened my back:
In the bronze gongs of my cheeks
The rain dried without odour.
"It is not long, it is not long;
See where the red and black
Vine-stanchioned valleys-": but the wind
Died speaking through the ages that you know
And bug, chimney-sooted heart of man!
So was I turned about and back, much as your smoke
Compiles a too well-known biography.
The evening was a spear in the ravine
That throve through very oak. And had I walked
The dozen particular decimals of time?
Touching an opening laurel, I found
A thief beneath, my stolen book in hand.
"'Why are you back here-smiling an iron coffin?
" "To argue with the laurel," I replied:
"Am justified in transience, fleeing
Under the constant wonder of your eyes-."
He closed the book. And from the Ptolemies
Sand troughed us in a glittering,, abyss.
A serpent swam a vertex to the sun
-On unpaced beaches leaned its tongue and
What fountains did I hear? What icy speeches?
Memory, committed to the page, had broke.
Regard the capture here, 0 Janus-faced,
As double as the hands that twist this glass.
Such eves at search or rest you cannot see;
Reciting pain or glee, how can you bear!
Twin shadowed halves: the breaking, second holds t,
In each the skin alone, and so it is
I crust a plate of vibrant mercury
Borne cleft to you, and brother in the half.
Inquire this much-exacting fragment smile,
Its drums and darkest blowing leaves ignore,-
Defer though, revocation of the tears
That yield attendance to one crucial sign.
Look steadily-how the wind feasts and spins
The brain's disk shivered against lust. Then watch
While darkness, like an ape's face, falls away,
And gradually white buildings answer day.
Let the same nameless gulf beleaguer us-
Alike suspend us from atrocious sums
Built floor by floor on shafts of steel that grant
The plummet heart, like Absalom, no stream.
The highest tower,-let her ribs palisade
Wrenched gold of Nineveh;-yet leave the tower.
The bridge swings over salvage, beyond wharves;
A wind abides the ensign of your will . . .
In alternating bells have you not heard
All hours clapped dense into a single stride?
Forgive me for an echo of these things,
And let us walk through time with equal pride.
For The Marriage of Faustus and Helen
"And so we may arrive by Talmud skill
And profane Greek to raise the building up
Of Helen's house against the Ismaelite,
King of Thogarma, and his habergeons
Brimstony, blue and fiery; and the force
Of King A baddon, and the beast of Cittim;
Which Rabbi David Kimchi, Onkelos,
And A ben Ezra do interpret Rome. "
The mind has shown itself at times
Too much the baked and labeled dough
Divided by accepted multitudes.
Across the stacked partitions of the day-
Across the memoranda, baseball scores,
The stenographic smiles and stock quotations
Smutty wings flash out equivocations.
The mind is brushed by sparrow wings;
Numbers, rebuffed by asphalt, crowd
The margins of the day, accent the curbs,
Convoying divers dawns on every' corner
To druggist, barber and tobacconist,
Until the graduate opacities of evening
Take them away as suddenly to somewhere
Virginal perhaps, less fragmentary, cool.
There is the world dimensional for
those untwisted by the love of things
And yet, suppose some evening I forgot
The fare and transfer, yet got by that way
Without recall,-lost yet poised in traffic.
Then I might find your eyes across an aisle,
Still flickering with those prefigurations-
Prodigal, yet uncontested now,
Half-riant before the jerky window frame.
There is some way, I think, to touch
Those hands of yours that count the nights
Stippled with pink and green advertisements.
And now, before its arteries turn dark
I would have you meet this bartered blood.
Imminent in his dream, none better knows
The white wafer cheek of love, or offers words
Lightly as moonlight on the eaves meets snow.
Reflective conversion of all things
At your deep blush, when ecstasies thread
The limbs and belly, when rainbows spread
Impinging on the throat and sides
Inevitable, the body of the world
Weeps in inventive dust for the hiatus
That winks above it', bluet in your breasts.
The earth may glide diaphanous to death;
But if I lift my arms it is to bend
To you who turned away once, Helen, knowing
The press of troubled hands, too alternate
With steel and soil to hold you endlessly.
I meet you, therefore, in that eventual flame
You found in final chains, no captive then
Beyond their million brittle, bloodshot eyes;
White, through white cities passed on to assume
That world which comes to each of us alone.
Accept a lone eye riveted to your plane,
Bent axle of devotion along companion ways
That beat, continuous, to hourless days-
0ne inconspicuous, glowing orb of praise.
Brazen hypnotics glitter here;
Glee shifts from foot to foot,
Magnetic to their tremulo.
This crashing opera bouffe,
Blest excursion! this ricochet
From roof to roof-
Know, Olympians, we are breathless
While nigger cupids scour the stars!
A thousand light shrugs balance us
Through snarling hails of melody.
White shadows slip across the floor
Splayed like cards from a loose hand;
Rhythmic ellipses lead into canters
Until somewhere a rooster banters.
Greet naively-yet intrepidly
New soothings, new amazements
That cornets introduce at every turn-
And you may fall downstairs with me
With perfect grace and equanimity.
Or, plaintively scud past shores
Where, by strange harmonic laws
All relatives, serene and cool,
Sit rocked in patent armchairs.
0, I have known metallic paradises
Where cuckoos clucked to finches
Above the deft catastrophes of drums.
While titters hailed the groans of death
Beneath gyrating awnings I have seen
The incunabula of the divine grotesque.
This music has a reassuring way,
The siren of the ' springs of guilty song-
Let us take her on the incandescent wax
Striated with nuances nervosities
That we are heir to: she is still so young,
She cannot frown upon her as she smiles,
Dipping here in this cultivated storm
Among slim skaters of the gardened skies.
Capped arbiter of beauty in this street
That narrows -darkly into motor dawn,
You, here beside m/e, delicate ambassador
Of intricate slain numbers that arise
In whispers, naked of steel;
Who faithfully, yourself, will fall too soon,
And in other ways than as the wind settles
On the sixteen thrifty bridges of the city:
Let us unbind our throats of fear and pity.
Who drove speediest destruction
In corymbulous formations of mechanics,-
Who hurried the hill breezes, spouting malice
Plangent over meadows, and looked down
On rifts of torn and empty houses
Like old women with teeth unjubilant
That waited faintly, briefly and in vain:
We know, eternal gunman, our flesh remembers
The tensile boughs, the nimble blue plateaus,
The mounted, yielding cities of the air!
That saddled sky that shook down vertical
Repeated play of fire-no hypogeum
Of wave or rock was good against one hour.
We did not ask for that, but have survived,
And will persist to speak again before
All stubble streets that have not curved
To memory, or known the ominous lifted arm
That lowers down the arc of Helen's brow
To saturate with blessing and dismay.
A goose, tobacco and cologne-
Three winged and gold-shod prophecies of heaven,
The lavish heart shall always have to leaven
And spread with bells and voices, and atone
The abating shadows of our conscript dust.
Anchises' navel, dripping of the sea,-
The hands Erasmus dipped in gleaming tides,
Gathered the voltage of blown blood and vine;
Delve upward for the new and scattered wine,
0 brother-thief of time, that we recall.
Laugh out the meager penance of their days
Who dare not share with us the breath released,
The substance drilled and spent beyond repair
For golden, or the shadow of gold hair.
Distinctly praise the years, whose volatile
Blamed bleeding hands extend and thresh the height
The imagination spans beyond despair,
Outpacing bargain, vocable and prayer.
The Broken Tower
The bell-rope that gathers God at dawn
Dispatches me as though I dropped down the knell
Of a spent day - to wander the cathedral lawn
From pit to crucifix, feet chill on steps from hell.
Have you not heard, have you not seen that corps
Of shadows in the tower, whose shoulders sway
Antiphonal carillons launched before
The stars are caught and hived in the sun's ray?
The bells, I say, the bells break down their tower;
And swing I know not where. Their tongues engrave
Membrane through marrow, my long-scattered score
Of broken intervals ... And I, their sexton slave!
Oval encyclicals in canyons heaping
The impasse high with choir. Banked voices slain!
Pagodas campaniles with reveilles out leaping-
O terraced echoes prostrate on the plain! ...
And so it was I entered the broken world
To trace the visionary company of love, its voice
An instant in the wind (I know not whither hurled)
But not for long to hold each desperate choice.
My world I poured. But was it cognate, scored
Of that tribunal monarch of the air
Whose thighs embronzes earth, strikes crystal Word
In wounds pledges once to hope - cleft to despair?
The steep encroachments of my blood left me
No answer (could blood hold such a lofty tower
As flings the question true?) -or is it she
Whose sweet mortality stirs latent power?-
And through whose pulse I hear, counting the strokes
My veins recall and add, revived and sure
The angelus of wars my chest evokes:
What I hold healed, original now, and pure ...
And builds, within, a tower that is not stone
(Not stone can jacket heaven) - but slip
Of pebbles, - visible wings of silence sown
In azure circles, widening as they dip
The matrix of the heart, lift down the eyes
That shrines the quiet lake and swells a tower...
The commodious, tall decorum of that sky
Unseals her earth, and lifts love in its shower.
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