Silence Wager Stories

By Susan Howe b. 1937 Susan Howe

When I come to view
about steadfastness
Espousal is as ever
Evil never unravels
Memory was and will be
yet mercy flows
Mercies to me and mine
Night rainy my family
in private and family

I know I know short conviction   
have losses then let me see why

To what distance and by what path   
I thought you would come away

            _____________


1
Battered out of Isaiah   
Prophets stand gazing   
Formed from earth   
In sure and certain   
What can be thought   
Who go down to hell alive   
is the theme of this work   
I walk its broad shield   
Every sign by itself   
havoc brood from afar   
Letting the slip out   
Glorious in faithfulness   
Reason never thought saw


2
You already have brine   
Reason swept all away   
Disciples are fishermen   
Go to them for direction
Gospel of law Gospel of shadow
in the vale of behavior   
who is the transgressor   
Far thought for thought   
nearer one to the other   
I know and do not know
Non attachment dwell on nothing   
Peace be in this house   
Only his name and truth


3
Having a great way to go   
it struck at my life
how you conformed to dust   
I have taken the library   
Volumes might be written   
ambiguous signs by name   
Near nightfall it touches it   
Nothing can forbear it   
So fierce and so flaring   
Sometimes by the seaside   
all echoes link as air
Not I cannot tell what
so wanton and so all about


4
Fields have vanished   
The Mower his hopes   
Bow broke time loose   
none but my shadow   
she to have lived on   
with the wood-siege   
nesting in this poem   
Departed from the body   
at home of the story
I'm free and I'm famished   
And so to the Irish   
Patrol sentinel ensign   
Please feel my arms open


5
The issue of legitimation   
Identity of the subject   
Circumcision of a heart   
driven outside its secret   
Elysian solitary imagination   
by doubt but not by sight   
Fear that forever forever   
perfect Charity casts out   
The Canticle is an allegory   
unchangeable but changeable   
Fluttering robes of Covetous
He is incomprehensible he   
makes darkness his covert


6
Ages pre-supposed ages   
the darkness of life   
out of necessity night   
being a defense by day   
the cause and way to it   
From same to the same   
These joining together   
and having allegiance   
Words are an illusion   
are vibrations of air   
Fabricating senselessness   
He has shattered gates   
thrown open to himself


7
Though lost I love   
Love unburied lies   
No echo newlyfledge   
Thought but thought   
the moving cause   
the execution of it   
Only for theft's sake   
even though even
perturb the peace
But for the hate of it   
questionless limit
unassuaged newlyfledge   
A counter-Covenant


8
Mysterious as night itself
All negligently scenery
if Nothing could be seen   
Sacraments are mysterious   
Ambiguous in literal meaning   
the Pentateuch the Angels John   
all men form a silent man   
who wrote the author down   
Sackcloth itself is humility   
a word prerogatives array   
Language a wood for thought   
over the pantomime of thought   
Words words night unto night


9
Drift of human mortality
what is the drift of words
Pure thoughts are coupled   
Turn your face to what told me   
love grazed here at least
mutinous predominant unapparent   
What is unseen is eternal   
Judgments are a great deep   
Confession comes to nought
half to be taken half left
From communion of wrongdoing   
doubleness among the nouns
I feed and feed upon names


10
Claim foreign order   
dismantling mortal
Begotten possibility   
plummet fetter seem   
So coldly systems break   
Fraught atvantaging   
Two tell againstself
Theme theme heart fury   
all in mutiny
Troubleless or sadder   
Estranged of all strange   
Let my soul quell
Give my soul ease


11
Antic prelate treason   
I put on haircloth
Clear unutterable
Secret but tell
What diadem bright   
Theme theme heart fury   
Winged knowledge hush   
Billeted near presage   
such themes do quell   
Claim foreign order   
Plummet fetter seem   
wild as loveDeath   
Two tell against self


12
Strange fear of sleep   
am bafflement gone   
Bat winged dim dawn   
herthe midmost wide   
I did this and I
But forever you say   
Bafflement nether elegy   
herthe otherwise I   
Irreconcilable theme   
keep silent then
Strange always strange   
Estrange that I desire   
Keep cover come cover


13
Lies are stirring storms
I listen spheres from far   
Whereunder shoreward away   
you walked here Protector   
unassuaged asunder thought   
you walked here Overshadow   
I listen spheres of stars
I draw you close ever so   
Communion come down and down   
Quiet place to stop here
Who knows ever no one knows   
to know unlove no forgive

            _____________

Half thought thought otherwise   
loveless and sleepless the sea   
Where you are where I would be   
half thought thought otherwise   
Loveless and sleepless the sea

Susan Howe, “Silence Wagers Stories” from The Noncomformist's Memorial. Copyright © 1993 by Susan Howe. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: The Nonconformist's Memorial (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1993)

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Poet Susan Howe b. 1937

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Susan  Howe

Biography

One of the preeminent poets of her generation, Susan Howe is known for innovative verse that crosses genres and disciplines in its theoretical underpinnings and approach to history. Layered and allusive, her work draws on early American history and primary documents, weaving quotation and image into poems that often revise standard typography. Howe’s interest in the visual possibilities of language can be traced back to her . . .

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POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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