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The Glens of Cithaeron

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Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry “We are ripe, reap us!”
—Ted Hughes

I begin to think Actaeon never changed.
The words that followed him, the poems
That leapt upon him and left him for dead
Were difficult exactly to the extent
They were rational. It makes perfect sense
For nakedness to give way to frenzy.
And the poems, let’s be clear, were naked.

Time was, questions were put, clear as water.
The Goddess bathed, and time was the soft smile
Of water catching the sunlight on her.
And the sunlight, let’s be clear, was sheer murder.
Into the same creature, no human word
Leaps twice. Given to frenzy, nakedness
Smiles upon the breaking of men and dogs.

How easy to lose all patience with chaste things!
Christ, I am hoping to hear from you
Before the hunters and suicides make off with me.
Christ, I am hoping to take your weapons
To a tarn freezing in the death of me.
I shall harry the moon there. I shall halloo.
Bayed in the cross-tree is a lion too.

In 1969 a red stag made
A cobweb of moonlight in his antlers.
For once in your life, pray without ceasing,
Pray the stag safely by the lion’s tree.
Actaeon never changed. Predator
Is simply prey to nakedness and reason.
The poems have been out hunting all the time.

Then it is Friday. Frisk. You might as well.
Seeing as the rapeweed, you might as well.
The lion is no stranger. The belling
Stag is as familiar as the moon, but a strange
Suicide. Taken by legs, taken
By sinews, kissing the cobwebs of moonlight,
He prays the prayer I was not quick to say.

Berries and hoardings, ermine horseplay short
Of the new, short of poems no longer old
As I knew them, leaving the small schools
For the main campus rapeweed climbing, pale.
It is Friday. Stars won’t cross. Actaeon
Never imagined the frail, sheer speed
Of meat. Christ, eat me. Nothing else makes sense.

On the far
Safe side of becoming,
Metaphor

Is all love,
The pure being of each
Nude above

Perfect sense.
I begin to hunt words.
The tension

The soft smile
Of the Goddess eases
A short while

Reappears
In a red stag’s terror.
Metaphor

Leaps and eats.
It is not difficult.
Love is meat.

The dogs leap on Actaeon. He is human.
I begin to think of Time as anything
In the gift of humans or as sacrifice
To the long uplift of lions in the blood.
Now dogs tear deeply into the living flesh.
Each moment is a visible agony,
And still the godly human nature remains

Unharmed. I never imagined the sheer frail
Of fear so powerful. Legs and sinews turn
Into flowers. Between her breasts, the Goddess
Shelters one such, one blood violet alive.
The porch of heaven is littered with color.
As familiar as the moon, our humanness
Crosses into heaven as the new poem.

On the far side of becoming, a life’s work
Begins another kind of work, but naked
Of change. There are animals, water and trees.
Nothing is recognizable in its old
Skin, yet everything shimmers. I am afraid,
Shrinking from the teeth of the cold water
And from the howling trees. I perish at this point

Down among dogs and upwards beside lion.
The pieces of me are carried fast away
By plot and rhyme. See Artemis bathing.
The moonlight on her body is the mother
Of God. It makes perfect sense. I am eaten
And fed changeless into her breast, blood
Violet alive. I remain your friend.

Source: Poetry (November 2016)
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The Glens of Cithaeron

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