Dec 212018
 

There’s a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything,
‘T is the seal, despair, –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, ‘t is like the distance
On the look of death.

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Dec 132018
 

BYZANTINE COIN

How many hands, vicissitudes,
Have worn this gold to the thin ghost
That gleams in the shopkeeper’s palm?
A millennium flickers, eludes
Us, is gone, as we bend engrossed
In blurred words and a surface charm.

SERVICE

Mismanaged love, at large, made vagrant,
Uncontained seeking the enormous land

Seen fleetingly, once manifest, now lost:
Seeking the defining rite, the service

That the heart could bend to – of rosary,
Or gun, or patient domesticity.

THE EPIC SCHOLAR

What is his life? the library,
  Worn books minutely scanned,
The evening and the single meal.
  He dreams of the vast land.

He sees behind the urtext loom
  The dedicated band
Who, barbarous, inhabit him:
  He dreams of the vast land.

A scholar’s indolence: the shelves
  Dissolve to endless sand;
Horizons touched, lost enmities:
  He dreams of the vast land.

His patience thins: minutiae:
  His predecessors planned
The complex text impeccably:
  He dreams of the vast land,

His solitary action there:
  O he can understand
His love’s futility: but look,
  He dreams of the vast land.

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Dec 062018
 

In Ecclesiastes I read,
“That which is far off and exceeding deep,
Who can find it out?”
Who can tell the earth’s tale of wearing down,
building up, erosion, creation,
a swirl of embers breathing amethyst and tourmaline,
a suffering bounded by the four baleful rivers of Hell
and a sun that will one day collapse,
engulfing it in one long dragon breath of dying out?
The ancients said earth was immovable—
that every daffodil and sequoia
was fixed in its own sky-blue mirror.
Now we know this planet is like others,
restless, driven, continually torn apart
and reassembled by a shifting of plates
grinding beneath the surface like nervous molars.
The globe itself a work in progress
with its iced poles wandering
and its fires bubbling below the seas.
Even its path through space
is an egg-shaped, elliptical orbit, hardly circular.
It is here on what used to be called solid ground
that we live—fragile, torn by our need
for love, food and mercy.
Most of us worried there will be too little time
to light the lamps of our fingers
and walk the narrow path in the rain.
But what of the earth? Who can find it out—
embrace its drifting continents,
who can love it as it is—unfinished,
smudged with the dust of rare constellations,
flickering on and off like a rain-drenched fire in the woods?

 Comments Off on J. P. White: In Ecclesiastes I Read
Dec 042018
 

Not because of victories
I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day’s work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.

 

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