Journey

 

In this year I felt fresh things
And the alien smells and sounds around me.
For my ears were not covered nor my eyes
And my feet trod the path set before me.

 

Thus entered into Hell's paradise and fled
Flailing and falling amongst sights and sounds,
Feet following no footprints.
The climate grew and surrounded me
Allowing no turning back,
No face-watching in silent pools.

 

O that black shape was real and had the best of it,
For we touched and its finger was fire,
Leaving a gray, dead mark in my guts forever,
And the frame of its face before me,
And the clutched cry that drives out sleep.
For we were together like lovers.

 

Then when I looked at last my face
Was behind me and the pool
Was dark and, oh God! my own song was silent.
For the land rose up and smothered me
With distant mirages and other songs,
And the temples closed and the skies opened,
And all about were spearshaped shadows.

 

How then shall I find my song
In this peopled wilderness? How shall I
Sing with no voice? Cry with no eyes?
Touch with no hand? Laugh with no laughter?

 

Shall I allow no passage out of this night?
No wandering bells to ring?
No passing minstrel singing his own songs
To touch my sorrow?
For silence gives back silence and allows
No turning toward the window's light.
This is the shape of God's frown.

 

But light crept to my turned face

For there was light, and the trees knew it,

And the people knew it. For the sun's shape was

A roundness pressed into the dark's empty center.

 

But the black shape stirred with the light's coming.

 

Thus went I into that black hour again,

The exquisite god-form thrumming through mildewed nights,

Rain dead in the rafters and stagnant rice

Putrefying the streets,

And laughter bubbling at the bitch's maw.

Until, for its very success the skinned shape

Stepped away smiling

And found on turning, an empty form.

 

Numb now in the stunning silence,

Alone now after the winning,

But drowning in depths

Where there was no blood to cry,

No song of my own to remember, nor heart to seek,

No sunshape pressed on the retina,

No remembrance of God's frown,

No God, no shadows,

No hope.

 

And no light crept, for there was no light.

 

Yet in absolute darkness towns took shape,

Clinging to the banks of green rivers. There were people too:

Girls and men, young and old, shaped like rainbows

In darkness.

 

And they sang their own song. I, who had heard

No music, my ears new and flesh formed freshly

Could hear this: the tunes

Reaching through time: forward and backward,

Beyond reach, beyond seizing,

Beyond imagining the sound strings number

Laced through eternity.

 

What is the song of a girl's touch when she touches not,

Nor brings her cool face close in the darkness?

What is the heatlessness of fireflies

Who light not in their flashing?

What is the odor of flowers nameless, for you know no name?

What is the flavor of fruit you have not tasted?

 

I looked with no eyes into the depth of their treasure,

And felt without touch the shape of their fleshlessness,

Tang of bone and sinew trilling,

And tasted tongueless the spices they savored without me,

Nor failed the thrust of pride they sang me.

 

In this year then I lived with these people

And the heatless fireflies that flashed in their air.

 

And being finished now it is all to be forgotten,

For the goodness of grace

And the strength we yet must give to all our generations.

 

In this year I felt fresh things

And the alien souls and sounds about me,

For my ears were not covered nor my eyes,

And my feet trod the path set before me,

Which leads to the light.

 

But God, I will not tell you how often I wake again

Hearing their thin sounds sneaking away.

And should I yet die a thousand years I shall not repent

Any of this, nor repudiate,

Though I regret.

 

Much revised August, 2016

June 30, 1966