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Ben Mazer - Harvard-educated poet and scholar - remains one of the more fascinating and surprising of contemporary American poets, with a high-modernist and unapologetic rhetorical gift that fuses aspects of Early Eliot and the Fugitives with Lowell and even Crane.

He is daring, eccentric, and passionate, creating lyric poems as moving and beautiful as any ever written in English.  These below are some of his best poems. Eyewear, the blog is thrilled to offer them to the world to read today, before their first appearance in printed form later in a new collection. His edition of the Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom was recently reviewed favourably in the TLS by John Greening.

These love poems are Mazer's pinnacle so far. They have his poetics and the poetry combined at his highest level. These new poems will make any person, poet or otherwise, love him, cry with him, and be him.                                                                            
-- Kevin Gallagher, Publisher and Editor of SpoKe
Mazer is revolutionary, in our view, because, for the first time since Tennyson, poetry is once again allowed to be itself, to produce symphonies—with no need to parody, or feel self-consciously modern. Mazer’s poems seem to say to us: Among all your sufferings, look! this lighted window really is for you. The couch of art, with its faint, sad music, belongs to everyone. You may all rest here. Mazer is doing something wonderful and important. No one should resent this. Mazer is it.
-- Thomas Graves, Scarriet



Narcissus doubles the white chrysanthemums too,
those Cambridge houses that have far to go . . .
Not about orphanages do they talk
for nothing, on the eve of war
about lost buildings, broken memory,
not the bricks from which the monasteries flow.
His first harmonics, were Greek, ruling by lines
and rods the elaborate textures grow
to a virtual renaissance, replacing what men know.
It is an echo, a rumour, a ghost
visiting houses, through the sleepless chimneys,
through the barren trees of deserted streets.
She is mad, because mad beautiful
when they have vital decisions to make
on the eve of death, an aesthetic flowering.
The sign is for her, her elegant orderliness
that appeases the gardener, the mountain prophetess.
Across the street from George Washington's fort
I get a lot of reading done at night.
These cocktails were not reserved for the inelegant
who why shouldn't strike every note
to appease so many deaths, in the heroin park
so many voices.


So many eyes.
I am staying in a house with a lot of books.
I am staying in a book with a lot of houses.
We check the newspaper listings
on an August night, sons of Constantinople.
The casbah atmosphere gives in to gossip, Life magazine, and root beer.
Newton struck gravity, when he struck the apple.
The clouds cows munch the orbiting atmosphere,
another planet, heaven's stratosphere.
Thus I have returned to my own roots.


In the backyard heaven grazes
upon a wilderness of clotheslines
where the providential guest
follows the time line of the exquisite panels.
Each increment of vision's gesture
excites a praeludium of airsent scrapbooks,
the endless repeatable absence of absolute sense.
More than any book could bear.


This reminds me of ice skating, not looking for a job.
The windows are gobs of candy like newspapers or avernoes.
Winter New England is cracked, with the spirited glass
of the sidewalk's stiff journey
(as the cars whizz past)
into steep tea, attics, coloring.
Everyone's roughset mother retains
a command of the light structures
hard as the time they are being made.


Whales with wave-shaken lanterns
in their stomach pit,
receive the last land broadcast
in a storm and say goodnight
lashed by rain, whipped by fright
in the deepening, darkening night
(sails scrape by the calendar)
where you were last kept warm,
counting each darkening, each sparkling light
of ships at sea, who turn off the signal;
raiding the aisles of the darkened theatre,
have no idea of what come next,
horror upon waking of knowing the truth,
impossible impasse of conflicted perspectives,
the ordinal urge to procreate.

In the cobwebbed villains' cellar
there was still a chance, instill you with hope,
now the tossed heights of the ocean's foam
outlast arrangements of our makeshift home.
The cut light, the green light
goes out at eight, profited by partitions.
A brown light, under the slow clock,
trains up the street, a way that's still modern.
I know I have lost you
I know I have not lost you
Which one of these is true?
The vacant lots cry out with lights
for the newly married to be safe and happy.


There is no way to say the things I said.
They possessed unity, for from the start
a single vision, an emotion's icon,
an image that I held in the mind's eye
until I let my language flood with it,
was filled out in much detailed texturing,
each part imbued with the thrust of one vision,
form within form, form fragment of one form,
till all died out, the whole thing was complete.


Sometimes they all go into the dark.
I see her there, a flash in the window pane,
scurrying in fright to nothing. I'm not her's,
since she has turned away from memory,
and thousands move like her, a twisted face
glimpsed through distorted dark of winter night,
and she's not mine, as place is no more place,
since she has fled in hysteria and fright.
There is nowhere to go, love's a black hole
without a destination, peace or calm,
when fear has turned love paranoid and cruel,
a stranger place than any that was home.
Yet I protect my eyes in hopes to see
who was my true love scurrying home to me.


I was at the Nuremberg Rallies pleading with my wife,
I love you, I love you, more than anything in the world!
As she looked off to see the dramatic spectators,
she turned to me and said, you hate my guts.
I wept, I pleaded, no, it wasn't true!
I only married you because I love you!
There is no force to plead with that can change her course,
now everything is quite its opposite,
and yet she said, "I wish that it were true",
and would not answer "Do you love me?"
or contest "You do! You love me!"
What are we then? Man and wife
hopelessly lost and separated in strife
and worser grief than was known to despair
at using words like markers, no means yes,
when Jesus Mary Magdalene won't you bless
the two true lovers, their heads to your thighs,
and let this nonsense out in bursts of tears and sighs.


Christmas Lights


The car lights turn and probe the wilderness
of Christmas carols sung in the abyss.
A bill board flashes, roadside bars flash by,
forks in the road, a half glimpsed library,
and here and there between the thick set trees
bright lights of peaceful domesticities.
The world's a place! Car hurtling through space,
record each image trailing 'cross the eyes,
as brief and tender as your lover's face,
signs like lone voices that a side light blurries.
We climb the slow climb to the Christmas bed,
as vintage words rise from each vintage head,
and lie down in the crystal dark awhile,
pillows, blankets, comforters in a pile,
and stare across the way to see the trees,
those strange divisions of eternities.




She fled by train,
and all the eternal music was the same,
perpetually dramatic, like the rain
in swells and outbursts without resolution--
the storm affords no spiritual solution.
Ah, but to flee, far hence from the familiar scene
of love, stability, the marriage threne:
this is the music of a cataclysm
which upon the seventh day has risen
to a sea change, cold and cruel and strange.
What of this flight, its causes, mysteries,
will be the key unlocking what he sees
of her true nature, if there's such a thing?
Patient, for him the rain must lash and sting
the memory and all its unkempt channels,
furiously turning the leaves of all their annals
to try to understand, impossibly--
when the whole answer solely lies in she.


Here in these woods, in these New England woods
the damp mulch covered soil has a plan
the shell drone of the wind will whip and fan
behind what after all are neighborhoods:
clock-pleasant-chances amble to the goods
you last dry stored beside the dynamite
to commend, commemorate the night
when Venus in Orion's circle stood.
I am concerned with what is over cast
upon high waters of the child-kite's fate
out where the fabled plots are growing late,
the salvageable threatens to fall fast.
I have resolve because I see the tree,
intricate outlines that were meant for me.


Things that don't make sense include the wind,

the braying on deserted macadam,

dreaming that offices won't fall behind,

occult convergence in the drawing room.

Yet I am sour to see the hour grow dim,

as my eye falls on darkening lawn debris,

Atlantis made me blind, now I can't see,

the steel weight of the world, the human hymn.

Yet rich with deviations, Abilene,

will make a little life, have all the answers,

finding her place among the graceful dancers,

I hate to think of her without this threne.

Drawn in resemblance to the hour of spleen,

her eyes will pierce me like two uncaged panthers.


Christmas comes with newspapers and darkness down
the Christmas that each Christmas light avers
when the bell begins tolling, heaving at the levers,
you eye them with a frown, the graveyards rolling
till all the sun goes down, a fresh bell tolling
and the increase in wattage in the town
is Christ's fresh killing, candle lights go up
to brighten the brass rims from which we sup,
we are the stuff from which the plots are wrung.
I don't believe the midnight will be sung
upon the golden footage like an aria
which weeps the tears from candles when I marry you  
and shows from space the axis of earth's orbit,
as if Christ's burning passion could be torpid.


This Christmas ice skating is rather thin,
I pass you in the stairwell, our one skin
is covered with the obsolescent maps
of the old Indian village and its traps,
your mother screams and faints on the top floor,
a messenger leers gardenias at the door,
your father is paroxic in the cellar,
you tabulate my love vows like a teller.
But this is not to love, or live in marriage,
accepting words from any chance-sent stranger;
I flail about, and pray you off the danger,
that none should tamper with the God-sent carriage.
If man loved woman more, then let me burst,
and let the holiest of vows be cursed.  


The Operatic Stair

Climbing to reach the operatic stair,
when all are asleep, and only you are there,
from which by skylight you can see the stars,
audible chariots of the Hamilcars,
I open the window box for you to see
the thousand trinkets I have kept for thee,
the little silver Buddha on a pin,
masks of our faces made from one paper skin,
the trusseau of costume jewelry life made real,
beams of darkness that know just how we feel.
I would go to any ends at all
to keep your closer heart to mine in thrall,
would do the world in, at the latest hour,
to generate mechanics of the flower
that holds us steady in one perfect union,
do in the curse that holds us close to ruin.
I open the box, a thousand ghosts you see
dance and sing arias of your love for me:
it's true you know, that our love knows no bounds,
to sit in boxes admiring empty sounds,
and naught is palpable within this life,
but my vows to you, your vow to be my wife.
No stranger will enter there to mar the scene,
you will remember all that we have been,
and so much more, that we have yet to be,
immortal in eternal revery.



Angels come and go from room to room,
who know the attributes of each great year,
ideas' condition, and what is held most dear,
on a mischievous whim, who may even grab a broom!
They come look in on us to see we're good,
not fallen in the muddle of our making,
the alert pressures of our fate are breaking,
we are not fallen where we loved and stood.


What is their interest in such refinements
as cannot cogitate another soul,
but filled with toil at the allowed confinements,
should let a second prisoner out of jail?
I thrust my calendar into the hail
of stoic winter, and am good for bail.

And how do the mystical divisionists
segment off to what's never found again,
the high, obtuse dust tower of the pen,
the quibble drawn and quartered on the mists
of evening rooms, and providential feasts,
invisible to time, yet there lives fire
intenser than the focus of the choir,
and all is urgent, just because it lives,
and in the mirror, life to life life gives.
The full bird song will grow soon in the trees.

Yet there's a band that goes through at nine o'clock,
restless to stir the summer into being,
because one night to meet each will undock,
and each in love be crystalline for seeing.




I lie awake and hear
the sounds of a used up world
as eager as fright gleams
to realize the beloved,
the memory of arms,
of eyes, and kiss, and hair,
of journeying space there
in darkness without end:
but fragments of stars glow
and the moon makes its way,
its present is the day
I dream you shall be here,
unique and known by me
in all eternity.


Your long thin hands are warm and free
and dust of snow blows from the tree
that focuses the wind and light
from the far away of a winter night.

It seems to blow from the North Pole,
touch many an individual soul
in wooded houses far away,
where other lives and people stay.

But we are snowed in in the dark
when everyone is fast asleep
and all the world seems bare and stark
and buried in fresh snow very deep.

We light a candle, and surmise
the wonder in our gleaming eyes,
cast into an eternity
of love's bright lonely sympathy.




I've said that bricks on bricks climb up to heaven--
but whether heaven exists, except in the mind,
is a moot point compared with the cosmic thrust
of infinite lines that veer upwards toward space.
What chiefly concerns me is the mystery of
the locus of our dreams and fantasies:
spaces we must fill with imagination.
And imagination has little consort with
the way we feel but in deep memory;
they are but reflections of our desires,
and intrigue at the immensity of the world.
I could sit for hours looking out a window
at wind and rain that's blowing through the trees,
or at the brick facades across the way,
but I know that I am facing my own feelings,
disrupted as they may be by stormy weather.
I wanted to count the raindrops, every one,
and as a child thought of them as a broadcast
of God's intentions and his plans for us.
But now I wonder if we're in a void
where nothing makes sense in its bare innocence.
Memories of little cities have stuck with me,
in images of their permanent existence,
but this is wrong: so much is now effaced,
and will mean nothing to those who weren't there.
The one thing I can hold as permanent
is the love of my wife, who represents the all
of history, of memory, and nature,
She jars me into seeing quite naturally,
and makes me dream illimitably.
Further she holds the key to my deep feelings,
which are the most of what I am, a mystery
even to myself; for that I love her.
Poetry has to break apart its precepts
to come in full force, if ever it comes again.
It's true all is objective correlative,
the metaphors steeped deep in the unconscious.
I wait for lightning to enlighten me.
Though I am blind, yet sometimes I can see.


You may fear the Ace of Spades, or you
may steep yourself in sugar like a bear,
battling mid-town in tormented dreams,
boxing a blizzard, weeping for a dear:
the young are not yet mad, who will be soon,
excelling at philosophy and prose
a little while; exhaustion comes in June,
the first uncertainty of what one knows.
But, ah, your figure in the restaurant
the blazing fire with wild talk will haunt;
the snows will cover up your camel coat,
melt up the stairs in darkness as you float
to grander visions, sections of the world
transmogrified, then eddied, piped, and hurled.


The attic, with its costumes and fake pearls,
old magazines, and piles of ancient books,
is where the rain will animate its spooks,
the firmament is shaken and it swirls
into the streets, electric car tops ride
in stasis on the pavement, all's inside,
removed to an elaborate realm of heaven,
the poison on the kitchen stove will leaven;
out in the districts, at the turnaround,
there is no access to the closed down town,
the lights turn, but the window snuffs all sound,
and all is like a graveyard to the top
of where the highest houses all look down,
it is eternal, and will never stop.


The hardest thing is getting into bed,
the sheets too small, the wool cap on your head,
clutching your torso, lying on your side,
immensities of emptiness inside;
you try to find her in your empty arms,
as rapid tears come rushing to the eyes,
you call her name out wildly many times,
as if to crack the heavens with your cries,
and bring her back to bed before great harms
perpetuate communion with the dead,
but you can feel them breaking on your head,
an aching panic rushes and it climbs
into your guts, the emptiness instead
of being thrown among the living dead.


Old love, when all is gone you will appear

and hover about my bed. Our conversation

will have the freshness of another year,

and stir old fire with each exhalation,

as one by one death's trains depart the station.

"Love, I was faithful. Filled with adoration

and wonder at the fact of your creation."

"I panicked, and at my first fears I flew.

I didn't realize what I'd done to you."

"But we were so in love. Remember, heart,

we knew that we could never be apart.

I, for my part, was too insensitive,

when there was so much more I had to give.

Forgiveness is not needed any more.

For time has closed the partly open door."

"It is not true! My ghost exhumes your ghost,

and in eternity we are not lost!"

The words come late. So many tears we've wept,

here in this very bed where we once slept.

"Remember me! Love, let me back to stay.

Heart, hold me tight, and don't abandon me!" 

What might have been is lost to speculation.

Our bodies have been broken of sensation.

The time has come to put our love away,

to be forgotten for eternity.




The gold flames rose above the rooftops,
new life rests powder blue on the facades
of morning's silent tenements, and the past
is weeping in the shrubbery, falling fast.


What illness havocs, what's there of forgiveness?
The children play within the unkempt impulse
to write your missive, or to throw away
the whole of it into a paper basket.


The tiger comes in spring, illogical
finally to the senses. But of man
and woman, put away the spring
from which wrath pooled. Conclusion has been fooled.


At last your eyes can focus on the distance,
and take a more reserved and balanced stance,
free of the pains that time will put away,
the attic toys left for another day.


Night will come, with fish in newspapers,
crowds rushing to and fro, the butcher's scale
a momentary respite when the sale
of memory shall reach the monstrous whale


upheaving cities with its massive tail.
There will be time for weeping at the window.
Progress will cease at last, for life is slow.
And there is nothing that you do not know.



I see all now. I see that all was splayed,

and crystalline and perfumed as it swayed

in shadowed gardens, high up in the air,

and in the sheeted windows what's not there.


This was the birth of love, the cracked and clear

strange perpetuity unreaching here.

The fountains fountain, and they must continue

when I can no longer lose or win you.


We slept together up above the world.

Experience had to the surface hurled

its words. Now all is past and streaky grey

of what the gods had rendered for display.


What of forgiveness? How bad must they hurt

to break all trust, imagine the faithless flirt?

Of resources in common that they had?

How to forgive the lover who goes mad?


Gigantic flowers sprout where our love seeds.

Larger than all the predicted deeds

we might have done. Satanic death has won.

How then to extricate one from but one?


The senselessness is senseless above all.

The accusations have begun to pall,

and are not there. Some other goes instead,

to walk deaf, mute, and blind among the dead.

Yet just last week you told me a good story.

You must have ducked while entering the dory.


Yes, what of forgiveness? Is there rest in peace?

Lately I had wondered why disease

should take you away again, beyond my call.

Man has no needs, none looking over all.


My dear, they cannot say you were unfair.

Last time I held you, you were hardly there.

Magnificent your future, without doubt.

Now that your benefactor is cast out.


But I shall love you as you truly were,

and speak no more to others to aver

the softness of the rain that's made of mothers.

Not I, who never knew the love of brothers.

I must have abused you when I sat and gazed

upon your beauty, and was hardly phased.


They sit there, listening 'round the radio,

those in the photographs I didn't know.

Are you there? Like a speck I understood

were all the nights you proffered me your good.

The Christmas lights shine briskly all the year.

I will not take them down till you are here.


Old love, drop your pretenses and come out
to see me, as you know you should;
remember every aspect of the rain
has stood by us where we have understood
the meaning of the flowers in the rain,
the age of cities, and the dark long look
often while examining a rare book
that makes me love you, chasing you about.
Remember the first night that we were alone,
in Athens, Georgia, deeply in love, beyond the pale with it,
You were standing on the bed, I took my clothes off,
and shat on the carpet of our hotel room
rather abruptly, unexpectedly, so that we snickered
and laughed, my family was in the toilet paper business--

I have taken trains from Istambul, to Europe, and to sections further East,
and tasted many sour, salty, pickles,
that set my teeth on edge for ham & cheese;
but I excelled at photography, my specialty icebergs,
captivated by the North, in focus there, myself born in winter.
Shing-tu enlightened this Professor at the University
with breezes that were Plato, and flowers that were Christopher Marlowe,
broke Chinese until the English that was to it Basic
broke--experienced the ideal prophecy of peaks
and lay a picnic for my weary head.
I am focusing on subjects that inform my own dissertation
and those which merely inform my soul.
Actually I am quite theological.
I wear striped pants if I am invited to a dance.
I have been found to be taking naps at the wrong time.
Never mind, I am always in the museum
looking over the archives, and I walk by Buddha and the fountain each day--

Yes, there is a glistening of the strung beads of the prophetess
up in the mountain fortress, with no cell phones, and lions--
there the close sunlight refracted through clouds
is enough to serve the caravan
by which long way I have come to you.
I beseech thee, come out, come out,
time hath no fury like a delayed lover
in the fire of the danger in our midst--
there is a need to bare our souls before it is too late--
finding at at last that we are exactly alike
in the protracted privacy of our selfs.
The beautiful ornaments lie shadowed in the future shelfs
by the moonlight which guided the wise kings to Christ.
The crystal of fir, evergreens
perennial in January waits for you to remember you love me
and to know in your heart that I love you
and Janus-faced like Delmore on Ellery Street
the snows of patience and impatience fall.


You in your camel hair coat, smiling
clutching the collar, crossing the street
to see me. Smiling to be approaching me.
I love you more than anything in the world.
The truly beautiful piano jazz that sums up a New York evening
is but a pale shadow, and nothing to
the way you are, the way I feel about you,
sad as I weep at the loss of the sum of the city,
maybe inclined to peculiar rooms with ornaments on the shelves,
spangles, our desire for one another,
old as the first moment we saw each other and spoke.
But you are distant, and do not hear my heart break.


My wife is sleeping beautifully alone,
under the moonlight, skin and rib and bone,
my lovely treasure, going without pleasure;
I weep beneath the covers with a phone,
in case she wakes with nightmares; I'd rejoice
to waken in the night and hear her voice.
I myself am scared to go to bed,
and hold the covers tightly to my head,
calling her voice in murmurs and in whispers,
weeping a long time till the silver sled
of sleep shall take me sliding into dreams
where all is mixed up badly with what seems,
or isn't, till I wake with fear and panic;
while she lies beautiful and epiphanic.

Jan. 6, 2016



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