Thursday, February 11, 2010

the things we know

This is part two of a two-part series. I'm thinking Valentine's, but they aren't doggerel for the holiday. More like, ways of speaking to or thinking about the lover in one's life.

Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972) was an early Beat Poet, a factory worker, itinerant, jazz stylist and artist who wrote remarkably complex love poems. This one reminds me of the first on in the series (Tennyson) in that it is a male voice, a seeker, and the seer in a garden. The poet is perhaps equally mystical, but his sense of beauty does not require the exotic. 
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The Character of Love As Seen As a Search for the Lost

You, the woman; I, the man; this, the world:
And each is the work of all. 

There is the muffled step in the snow; the stranger;
The crippled wren; the nun; the dancer; the Jesus-wing
Over the walkers in the village; and there are
Many beautiful arms around us and the things we know. 

See how those stars tramp over the heavens on their sticks
Of ancient light: with what simplicity that blue
Takes eternity into the quiet cave of God, where Caesar
And Socrates, like primitive paintings on a wall,
Look, with idiot eyes, on the world where we two are. 

You, the sought for; I, the seeker; this, the search:
And each is the mission of all. 

For greatness is only the drayhorse that coaxes
The built cart out; and where we go is reason.
But genius is an enormous littleness, a trickling
Of heart that covers alike the hare and the hunter. 

How smoothly, like the sleep of a flower, love,
The grassy wind moves over night's tense meadow:
See how the great wooden eyes of the forest
Stare upon the architecture of our innocence. 

You, the village; I, the stranger; this, the road:
And each is the work of all.

Then, not that man do more, or stop pity; but that he be
Wider in living; that all his cities fly a clean flag. . .
We have been alone too long, love; it is terribly late
For the pierced feet on the water and we must not die now. 

Have you ever wondered why all the windows in heaven were broken?
Have you seen the homeless in the open grave of God's hand?
Do you want to acquaint the larks with the fatuous music of war? 

There is the muffled step in the snow; the stranger;
The crippled wren; the nun; the dancer; the Jesus-wing
Over the walkers in the village; and there are
Many desperate arms about us and the things we know.
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