If we meet each other in Hell it’s not Hell.
— Geoffrey Hill
How is it I can never find
Or call to mind
One image of Christ walking slowly in the rain,
In a steady, gentle rain,
The kind that shapes an afterimage
Just for a moment of the man
Like a cloak of shadow following
Or like a blank page
After it’s been turned?
The dead are concealed from us
But not distorted by the rain.
They remember our having remembered.
A woman curls up on the sofa.
Years before the fact she sleeps
Her death and drapes it
Even now, exactly as she must.
Just after dawn,
In the wren’s eye
There are no blossoms left in the trees,
And yet the sunlight blazons white
New flowers onto every leaf.
The wren’s eye gorges itself,
Bursting the new life.
The memory of a tree is the tree.
Christ could fly.
Impale upon him certain words
Good as Greek
For the impulse of the earth is to seek
A language of flowers
That do not die, turning
A hair’s breadth toward us
Even now, exactly as they must.
If it was justice I saw
Fall from the sun
Onto boys ruining the one
Flower shared between them,
So be it.
The woman on the sofa wears a little wing
In her sleep. When she awakes,
Its twin will be the wren in the dream
Nearly there, nearly all the way
There into the human day.
Rain falls out of brilliant sunshine.
For a moment, her window
Fills with catastrophe, boys
Torn apart and scattered, white petals
Blackening the glass,
Exacting recent justice.
So strange that the recent past,
As antiquity, as the orangery
Of a blind eye, should at once appear
Yet achingly tender.
Modern times are too cautious.
The boyish, florid love of catastrophe
Has thrust a fist into the dawn,
And the scent of that fist,
Whose citron betters daylight,
Is wasted on modern times.
Not long ago, you and I
Nearly captured a wren.
Christ lifted His face then,
And rain fell all day until evening.
In a corner of my garden, there is a spider’s web
Entirely armored in rose petals broken off by rain.
The spider will learn to eat roses, or he will starve to death.
This is political economy for modern times.
The planet dies. The planet starves its cruel interiors
First, with a blazon of colors and soft poetry. Next,
It apportions one small bird to every tree and sets fire
To the trees. The rest is the cold business of the oceans
Who have never forgiven us for breathing air.
Homer was tempted. Loose thighs of oblivion
Welcomed humanity away from itself and from life,
And only one of the Bronze-Age host refused that welcome.
He was the father of starvation, entirely armored
In the disguise of a real man, destroyer of oceans.
We have made ugly war upon distinctions.
Canon bleeds a wedding into the gigue, and “when
I try to imagine a faultless love or” the seedtime
Of my deepest convictions — that the soul is immortal,
That a woman couched upon a fragile little wing
Created the creator of the universe — thought,
Or rather the entire machinery of truth and terror
Usurps a newborn king, i.e. imagination.
Phaedrus, step down. There is a little wing wearing sunshine
Like wind in the white hair of the bee you never imagined.
An infinitesimal distance goes on forever.
At the moment of death, the light hand of Attic stele
Softly lights upon the shoulder of eternity,
And thought yields to flesh and flesh yields to imagination,
Sexing this or that unimaginable creation
With new hair. It makes a difference. We are bound to one another
And to God by harrowing, albeit helpless distinctions,
Impossible to bridge, imperative to love well.
We are free, but briefly. The pattern of a leaf branches
Out from human hearts, and the blood spills
Into the pattern a stone makes crashing into windshields.
God follows. The wrist and wing of the beloved follow
Close behind, and not even Hell prevails against
This new extinction. Slow time is the beginning
Of no time at all. The light hand of Attic stele
Wrests me from the sleep I’d imagined life to be —
The walking stone, the irreparable Gethsemane —
And I am awake, wearing a green flesh newly fashioned
From my heart.
Should the bird outlast the blossom in the tree?
Keep faith, but keep it silently,
I keenly remember there were two of us,
And a stand of poplars like a kiss
Upon the shade of the earth where no earth was
Ready to bear the weight of us
Soul for substance, pistil of white campion
For color, continuance and one
Substance of perfect memory.
There were no trees.
The sun was shining.