from Hinge Picture

“Crawl in,” said the witch, “and see if it’s hot enough to put the bread in.”
—Hansel and Gretel

All roads lead to rooms.
—Irish Proverb

a stark

               a numb


               clutching my Crumbl
               Tombs and
               in Caves

               Oarsman, oarsman,
                  Where have you been?
               I’ve been to Leafy,
               I’ve dismembered the Queen.

               Oarsman, oarsman
                  What did you there?
               I hid in a cleft,
               I braided the air.

hearing our oars where their freed goatsteps sped   
and are silent
by an extinct river
O Babylon when I lay down
alert for sliding cataracts
where in corridors the print of dancing feet   
beyond poise I am prey
posing in snow-light
being of human form
clothed in the scales of a fish

Count him a magician
he controls the storm
walked on the sea shouting   
that he is the Logos of God
that he is the Word original and first begotten
attended by power
upheld by his mother
(a very active gesturing baby)   
what if Simon Peter Jesus himself   
walked among the cold stone faces
shouting NIKA
emptyeyed blanksmiling

                            Swiftness divination these false gods
                            their commerce is the cloud
                            so they can learn what is preparing in the sky   
                            Artificer of the universe
                            Magician who controls the storm
                            to see you in one spot
                            I count the clouds others count the seasons   
                            Dreaming of archipelagos and the desert   
                            I have lived through weeks of years
                            I have raked up fallen leaves for winter   
                            after winter across an empire of icy light

Light of our dark is the fruit of my womb
or night falling through the reign of splashes   
Liquid light that bathes the landscape in my figure   
Clairvoyant Ireland
eras and eras encircled by sea
the barrows of my ancestors have spilled their bones   
across the singing ear in hear or shell   
as wreck or wrack may be in daring   
There were giants on the earth in those days   
feasts then on hill and fort
All night the borders of my bed
carve paths across my face
and I always forget to leave my address   
frightened by the way that midnight
grips my palm and tells me that my lines   
are slipping out of question

Divorce I manumission round
with a gentle blow the casting branch
my right hand My covenant
was garment concealed or mask or matron
Proceed with measured step   
the field and action of the law   
Like day the tables twelve   
whip torch and radiate halo   
Sky brewing coming storm   
Faraway over the hill
when Hell was harrowed
and earth was brought to heel   
how the hills spread away   
how the walls crumbled   
deathcolored frozen in time
Where was the senate   zone and horizon
Where are the people   mountain of light to the east   
Tell them I sail for the deep sea rest
a painless extraction a joyful day   
bird of passage over all I love   
Goodbye to all the little fir trees   
of the future

               far   off    in    the    dread
               blindness    I   heard   light
               eagerly   I   struck   my foot
               against    a      stone      and
               raised    a    din    at    the
               sound    the   blessed    Paul
               shut   the   door   which   had
               been   open   and   bolted   it

Susan Howe, excerpt from “Hinge Picture” from Frame Structures: Early Poems, 1974-1979. Copyright © 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1996 by Susan Howe. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: Frame Structures: Early Poems 1974-1979 (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1996)