BEAMS 21,22,23, The Song of Orpheus



into the World,


the chosen

Rose out of Chaos:


Thunder amid held daffodil,
the hills of yellow celandine in sudden sun
‘when the light walk’.

When the light walks, clockwise, counterclockwise,
atoms memorize the firefly's wing
silhouette 20 foot elm leaf
(worm’s-eye view through three crisscross timothy stalks).
A blue hinged green at edge, the twilight
sinks as if half swimmer
— ankles in wrinkle through wood turtle
swallowing scarlet strawberry,
waist deep the warp then roof of star split clover, one pale
eye spool rayed Orion
thistle silk through soil particle —
to Euridice. Head deep
in neither
aether, nether:

“You will find, to the left of The House of Hades, a spring . . .

one white leafed cypress at its side”.

sometimes the prophet sees the image of Glory
in the midst of cloud;
but the angel-messenger is invisible
because the angelic fire is too pure for one to see.
When one sees the fire flaming
up from the distance
one is only seeing the smoke that
surrounds it.
Moreover the angel asks:
What do you see?”

“I have seen the Eternal
not ocular, vision



the man that walk in the way of day and night
like a tree of water, leaf
chaff which the wind
stand in
imagine the earth set against sun,
uttermost parts like a potter’s O: trembling sands round about
Arise, and ray.
Stand in
your own heart,
and be still.
the light upon us
in time to the voice of ice:
no throat out in the multitude of ions belled But shout
for joy.
save me for
the grave who
all the night make I my bed to swim
lion, compass
to an end but arrows sing
Out of the mouth of
moon and the stars,
What is man, that made him angels, beasts
to a perpetual end: the gates in the gates of net hid
snared in the turn into sight.
:let them be
moved in the secret ear to hear:
bird to mountain eyelid cup.
They speak tongue tried in a furnace of earth,
on every side,
I sleep the sleep of
all, not
The lines are fallen to me
in the night seasons.
as the apple of the eye under the shadow of wings,
lion in secret likeness.
shot out lightnings of many waters.
my steps under me,
rose dust before the wind
rock above those that rise up
edge to the world.
sun circuit it: eye in honeycomb heart, hand. name for
ever ever moved
in time the fire shall seed imagined form.
worm shake the womb: I am poured out like water
into the dust of death.
closed unicorn
the ends of the world shall turn
green shadow run.
earth flood into the head
gates; doors; gates; doors; all day enlarged:
an even lace in light and flesh,
the voice of
upon many waters,
The voice of flame shake wild voice from the grave:
down to the remembranch of morning. moved mountain to stand
in my blood, dust dancing:
and ear rock rock out of the spirit hand
out of my mind:
I have heard
My times
lips put to silence; a pavilion of tongues.
cut off from eyes: bones roaring all the day long summer.
in a time when place compass song
I harp an earth full of breath: the sea stood fast.
their works
magnify the exalt together.
matter open wide
clouds like great mountains the fountain of
light shall we see light.
grass-sword heart, time: not again the
seed tree my flesh
before love,
not continually
beauty to consume like a moth: but of the clay,
ears opened from great congregation.
whisper lift
from everlasting to everlasting
meat in praise,
within me: deep call to
deep harp
out arm, and the light
scattered with the forgotten
matter: writer.
though the earth be removed,
There is
a river, not moved:
were moved: in the fire.
with the sound of a trumpet wind ends of the round
ear to a parable:
I will open my dark
upon the harp
of compass
inward like the beasts shined before me.
I fold a thousand hills.
I would blood the most High:
frame silence as
set in order.
the inward parts: and in the hidden snow walls
the land of a green child is
gone back:
the altogether become one
the trembling over, a dove at rest
in tempest
:Day and night the midst of it.
thereof: magnify hid changes, words sword the swallow
from falling, light
the shadow lion set on fire, arrow an earth.
I will sing and
Awake my salt to the clouds.
speak to the voice of the great snail sun whirlwind blood
from the run return and go round scatter
the ends of the earth
return up and down.
I will sing
aloud in the morning: to tremble the breaches
of astonishment.
I shall be moved as a bowing wall
in the balance,
every man to his marrow
bend in secret at the perfect fall all flesh come.
waves, and the tumult in uttermost token:
morning and evening
river the year on every side
a joyful noise
through the flood on foot:
moved as silver net over our heads went fire-shine smoke, Sing
shook snow from the fountain of clouds.
I sink
stranger to prayer
out of the deep waters.
flow me, face to my soul, in my thirst
let it become
love turned backward love magnified: wonder lay wait
in the little hills, long moon, mown grass
showers in the dust gold corn
city of the sun all shall call a dream.
ignorant heart: I have put my trust in smoke.
axes upon axes cast fire
in the land.
signs: the borders of turtledove-dissolve: east, west,
full of mixture
ring out, the mountains of sleep.
The waters saw:
The skies sent out a sound:
thunder path the great know utter our fathers told
us divided
cloud, and all the night with light of
kindled doors
rained down as sand,
the years a wind in hand, locust,
sycamore frost.
the hail flocks to angels fire consumed blood
like water pointed to shine
Turn us again, O
to take deep root, filled with the shadow sent boughs out sea,
branch to the river.
hedge wood and the wild field look down
hand planted with fire,
Turn us again, O
noise to palm, harp psaltery.
Blow the secret place of thunder: wheat
foundations of silence not still, joined like a wheel;
stubble before wind.
flame flesh the sparrownest through; the rain spring out of earth;
voice answer me.
O turn unto her: instrument
I cannot come forth.
The north and the south
in vision alter the thing for ever,
void edge down to the ground how short time is:
What man shall not see death?
footsteps the years past, asleep: consumed by number
we have seen beauty in the secret place
shadow wings A thousand thousand
eyes in all ways.

against stone I will set sound.

as scattered with oil waves
noise waves things
father the ear, form eye,
thoughts slip the multitude delight
my soul frame
and rock psalm the hills from day to day beauty in beauty
Clouds trembled.

hills like wax Light is sown in the sight: all ends
Let the floods clap
the cloudy pillar: singing.

before eyes:
heart cut off perfect
I watch, and
am mad

mingled dust gathered throughout the changed:

frame flower the wind chamber
thunder lace
manifold leviathan play
turn the earth as long as being
face strange another

joined at the waters ruled east west north south stresses
bands bars waves rings multiplied crease
wake among great answer

compassed less
extend wing in tossed fusion
multitude hand from hand rod midst
willed womb of order strike all a head over wonder
mind forked fast in seed
for ever

light moved for heart fixed
time forth the sun
to behold in out of skip skip turned fountain formed eye
falling toward now as the fire head
us made
Prospero of wand word

hid works
accordion run incline chord law awe accord
harmonies dealt command precept sound
ash consumed settle
I have seen an end of all perfection loves ancient light path

flesh tremble statue
void above above fine entrance
light standing simple opened order face up river
and dawn draw wick to stand as one
great cord

all utter rose rise arrow
eye from foot to sun
going out and coming in from
compact of seed
file stream

I dream
the sheaves sleep quiver speak in furrow
to the mower by the depths
I wait and watch for the morning from all eyes
matter as swarm clothed with vision
each bud a lamp

the head stand in lightning
wind out of throughout for ever for ever for ever alone
out the water great lights stretched out
divided into parts through the midst ever flesh
rivers of willow song
against stone

magnified far off I walk
compass behind and before take wing about me
the dark and the light both alike
I awake
and know my heart
the way exalt

I looked on the land of the living
as those that have been long dead within within me
I stretch forth the morning
a song often strings
I will sing to all will hear their being
stars infinite
swift snow before wind suns flying
into a two edged firmament

Ronald Johnson, "Beams 21,22,23: The Song of Orpheus", from ARK, published in 1996 by Living Batch Press. Reprinted by permission of the Literary Estate of Ronald Johnson.
Source: 1996
More Poems by Ronald Johnson