The dark bloom watch grow,
clatter down the swell,
blanched white the meadow
on the prowl bids light farewell ---
coming to an end each pale shadow
bullied by light burn black with night
and fly high. Love quavers in the grass,
what Love made want shall pass,
quickly close the quiet dark cast
the green shout roar of insects outlast
the silver-bladed hush of moonlight
and rub the backs of stars asleep
and fleshy whirlpools dream of light,
sweep clean upstairs chamber night.
(appeared in Sparks)
Come bitter tones and late the dark bones
Of the day shall soon have their fill
Of us. That during so dull a mystery
So rich uncertain sublime history,
And emptiness like a terrible joy
Come round and touch each hand ---
Stubborn steadfast all tomorrows destroy
And lay the afterlife's Holy Land
Upon our face. A look that passes from
One generation to the next, the blessed dumb
Expression that holds flesh so still
It cannot rest.
(appeared in Grape Poetry)
The minutes had come round,
They had drilled like platoons,
Marching up and down
The parade ground,
And scarce few had paused to weep
He had died peacefully in his sleep.
The holy terror didn't shock him anymore,
And since retirement,
He'd lived off the fat of his contradictions,
And kept in the bank a safe deposit of blood and gore
(The last vestiges of his crumbled down convictions).
The minutes of his military life marched past
in single file
And at his orders, they rallied to his side,
Filling him with dread,
Fought bravely against the powerful doubts
That came suddenly in his head.
He relished the four o'clock mock-executions,
The miraculous births and deaths of striking elocutions
Which sprang forth from the distraught down trodden poor
None of whom were worth fighting for.
He choose to ignore the educational
Where raving mad radicals concocted
Their strange behavior and clever revolutions.
He found exciting the folly and the fighting
Of small minds at war.
He loved the wild look
That came over his face at six o'clock,
When he read from his biography.
He would sit in his rocking chair and rock,
Smoking a cigar, and when dark had begun to fall
Outside, he would gaze over his shoulder at the clock,
And it was the only time he smiled,
When he cried so loud the neighbors could hear
'There's no hope for Oscar Wilde.'
He hated civilian life. It was cruel, harsh
He felt exiled. He peeled an orange with his knife,
Drank too much, beat his wife.
At odd moments, interviewed by the press,
He commended the Romans for their brutality,
Loathed the Chinese plurality.
He preferred his shame stirred, not mixed,
And worried about his complexion,
Which appeared upon inspection
Pale, drab. His eyebrows, bushy, somewhat untidy.
He was opposed to nuclear disarmament.
Peace was not so high and mighty,
He believed the Japanese were sons of bitches
Who burned their sirloin steaks like witches.
And at his funeral, the rifles fired off,
The military minutes marched round
And at his graveside gave pause,
The trumpets shrill sad cry boasted
Of his many victories, without mention
Of his many flaws.
(appeared in The Free Cuisenart)
Now pompous the minutes like holy monarchs
Parade past the evening clock.
The last stark moments of the day
Have come to call, and in the distance, fall
The footsteps of time's footsoldiers deep along the rock.
The best impulses have all struck their marks--
And the fresh hours of night's making,
And dark's world quietly quaking
Upon the body's pale and solemn undertaking
Insure the long journey's safekeeping,
Arriving at the worlds our dreams are seeking.
Scarce has been overheard
The voice of reason speaking.
There has always come the sense of the absurd
Into the last thoughts of the day,
Which fill the body up with clay.
The old stale dark time sleeping
And the hours weeping
And keeping us far away.
(appeared in Grape Poetry)
Born in Appalachia, Ernest Slyman lives in New York City. He is a member of the Alsop Review.
He has been widely published in The Laurel Review, The Lyric, Light: A Quarterly
of Light Verse (Chicago), The NY Times, Reader's Digest and The Bedford Introduction
to Literature, St Martins Press, edited by Michael Meyer, as well as Poetry:
An Introduction, St Martins Press, edited by Michael Meyer)
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