Eyewear wishes you a Happy Easter.
I turn 41 today, and wish all the millions of others who also do, a very happy birthday.
Last year, I asked close friends to provide me with words, for my 40th, to write a poem. Here it is, finally, and in full.
What I haven’t written,
I haven’t written. Last Easter –
April takes vinegar once a year –
I turned forty, gave up youth
And reckless afternoons endowed with darkness –
Being twenty is like being a millionaire
About to be ruined in a house of sweat and roses –
Promising gathered friends, among the ghost
Of celebration, shadowed by near loss –
For my birth was on Good Friday (premature,
Incubated, my parents cradling my smallness
To cherish the weak miracle guarded by glass) –
I should have come in to the world in summer
Not shadowing the saviour like a blinking twin
Upstaging his unbroken promise on the skull
(Venerate the cross with kisses!)
With a spring birth, poor but full.
I asked each friend for a word to create
A poem to complicate a pattern,
Indulge my submission to growing older
With a new start, a kind of rhetorical failure
To accept that the middle way requires
Words to halt, youth’s flame to cancel,
As if a cashier’s cheque, smoke and fire.
Long ago I gave the promise
To create an accomplished thing:
A poem made of given words,
A sort of trying, triumphing.
Now, on Good Friday,
After a celebration of
The Lord’s Passion
In St. John’s Wood
At Our Lady’s, love
Compels a beginning.
After the communion,
Tongue taking what’s distributed,
It is time to observe a silence
And in that silence rise and sing.
The mystery of words
Never ceases to serve,
To matter. A poem
Is a moment of intensity
Carved in time with words.
Isolated, moving, the pen
Writes on the dark, opens
Light as if a letter, restoring
Day, after a night of tumult
And no repose; I sleep to cry
Out, bothering the bed with recollections.
My father, bleeding from his arms,
Stares, eyes craving health.
Embrace him. I try to heal but
My hands come away from the body
Wet with blood and faeces. Balm
Cannot secure a corpse from time.
Time ruins love with continuity.
I will begin to deceive the surgeon,
Borrow his steel into the bargain,
And relieve paternal wounds with wound
Words. I will apply a salve, to save.
Gifted with words, I must obey –
Use them, flagrantly.
Caution is not the dancer’s way
With music, or the porpoise
Commanding vast water. To obey
Form is to occupy all wings
Of its theatre – flowing space,
Across the stage, a sort of flung bouquet –
Mastery requires gay indifference,
Less majesty, more rude stylish straying –
To act upon language one must
Indulge in what one loves, one wants,
Whether it be old or new, in one’s gift
To give or merely taken like a loan –
Indulge at last in a thrown saying.
What follows is what was given,
Imposed, like old laws, half
In folly, half in wisdom –
For love has a ceiling, which touches
Upon God’s civil kingdom, yet
To reach that glass one must first press
Upon a darker serenity, parted by
Interruptions of winter lightning,
Elements of poetical fashion, flashing,
And break past all of this, all of them.
The priest continues alone.
The poet is the man or woman
Whose progress is more solitary still.
Each side is open from a spear.
A perforation marks the borders.
We moved to priapic Budapest.
In Montreal, Sara had mounted
A bicycle one late evening
On boulevard St. Laurent – I followed
To Middle Europe, a wild card.
Csokolom, they said, who
Had never read Heaney
Or seen the Borg. Hungarian, alien.
We were never lost among the ruins
We moved among, carried always
By the map of our selves, our shared
Aim to arrive safely, together, elsewhere.
We honeymooned on Hydra, island
Of laughter, but also bad dreams.
The accident offered our love
The quality of careful workmanship:
Hope is only as smart
As home is possible.
What is music but a scramble
For charmed time, a network
Of tintinnabulations made unfamiliar
In the sequenced air? A bumblebee
Will adumbrate, with élan, its fertile
Music, in a yellow field, upon
A family of ensunned flowers.
You laughed that winter, as I placed
A gargantuan toque upon your head,
Crowning you queen of the white snow.
Now, that snow is gone, is clear
As the water that dried off Ararat,
The world cleansed or differently bled.
Nothing is broken, not a leg or word,
Unless the prophet says it should be.
The defenestration of language
Leads to silence, fallen silence,
To words, bound and solemn,
Judged ignorantly on The Pavement.
The stones cry out for a changed verdict,
But the prisoner, which is language,
Needs no victory to be freed.
Caesar cannot constrain,
I have completed my tapestry
For you, celebrating
A spring liturgy, enriched by
Elements from Coker,
And separate words offered
By my friends, to compose
These lines, a year ago,
Exactly, as if time
Waited for poetry
Or poetry ever delivered
A timely riposte.
By earthly qualities
Like sloth. Both
Temporal and tempted,
Lost beyond time,
They sustain the body
By being a kind
Of mouth for the spirit –
Unable to die completely,
Thereby living again,
When the stone
Is turned away
With the reading,
poem by Todd Swift