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Anthony Hecht--Online Poems

A Letter

                                                                I have been wondering

                                            What you are thinking about, and by now suppose

                                                                It is certainly not me.

                                            But the crocus is up, and the lark, and the blundering

                                                                Blood knows what it knows.

                             It talks to itself all night, like a sliding moonlit sea.


                                                                Of course, it is talking of you.

                                            At dawn, where the ocean has netted its catch of lights,

                                                                The sun plants one lithe foot

                                            On that spill of mirrors, but the blood goes worming through

                                                                Its warm Arabian nights,

                            Naming your pounding name again in the dark heart-root.


                                                                Who shall, of course, be nameless.

                                            Anyway, I should want you to know I have done my best,

                                                                 As I'm sure you have, too.

                                            Others are bound to us, the gentle and blameless

                                                                Whose names are not confessed

                           In the ceaseless palaver. My dearest, the clear unquaried blue


                                                               Of those depths is all but blinding.

                                            You may remember that once you brought my boys

                                                                Two little woolly birds.

                                             Yesterday the older one asked for you upon finding

                                                                Your thrush among his toys.

                            And the tides welled about me, and I could find no words.


                                                                 There is not much else to tell.

                                                One tries one's best to continue as before,

                                                                  Doing some little good.

                                                But I would have you know that all is not well

                                                                    With a man dead set to ignore

                            The endless repetitions of his own murmurous blood.

Copyright 1994. Online Source


It was a villainous spirit, snub-nosed, foul
Of breath, thick-taloned and malevolent,
That squatted within him wheresoever he went
.......And possessed the soul of Saul.

There was no peace on pillow or on throne.
In dreams the toothless, dwarfed, and squinny-eyed
Started a joyful rumor that he had died
.......Unfriended and alone.

The doctors were confounded. In his distress, he
Put aside arrogant ways and condescended
To seek among the flocks where they were tended
.......By the youngest son of Jesse,

A shepherd boy, but goodly to look upon,
Unnoticed but God-favored, sturdy of limb
As Michelangelo later imagined him,
.......Comely even in his frown.

Shall a mere shepherd provide the cure of kings?
Heaven itself delights in ironies such
As this, in which a boy's fingers would touch
.......Pythagorean strings

And by a modal artistry assemble
The very Sons of Morning, the ranked and choired
Heavens in sweet laudation of the Lord,
.......And make Saul cease to tremble.

from The Darkness & The Light, copyright Anthony Hecht 2001. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Online Source.


For William and Emily Maxwell

At this time of day
One could hear the caulking irons sound
Against the hulls in the dockyard.
Tar smoke rose between trees
And large oily patches floated on the water,
Undulating unevenly
In the purple sunlight
Like the surfaces of Florentine bronze.

At this time of day
Sounds carried clearly
Through hot silences of fading daylight.
The weedy fields lay drowned
In odors of creosote and salt.
Richer than double-colored taffeta,
Oil floated in the harbor,
Amoeboid, iridescent, limp.
It called to mind the slender limbs
Of Donatello's David.

It was lovely and she was in love.
They had taken a covered boat to one of the islands.
The city sounds were faint in the distance:
Rattling of carriages, tumult of voices,
Yelping of dogs on the decks of barges.

At this time of day
Sunlight empurpled the world.
The poplars darkened in ranks
Like imperial servants.
Water lapped and lisped
In its native and quiet tongue.
Oakum was in the air and the scent of grasses.
There would be fried smelts and cherries and cream.
Nothing designed by Italian artisans
Would match this evening's perfection.
The puddled oil was a miracle of colors.

from The Darkness & The Light, copyright Anthony Hecht 2001. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Online Source.

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