from ‘An American in Augustland’
Stumble out of the black and silver water,
Throw yourself on the green bank,
Fit dripping limbs and belly there,
Eyes closed in wet elbow pit,
And let the fire-strings of the sun
Play down your spine.
Go to the world of resolution done,
In cloud and wind accomplished.
The morning fell upon the flowers long ago,
And was drawn back into the air
Over the black and silver lamps of water,
Over carnelian points of water lilies.
We had sailed for somewhere else,
Through fogs told off through groans of steam
Till icebergs stood like moral continents,
With sparkling harbors, winter-blue;
With time upon their genuine shores
A double line of foam;
While all about spray rattled, and whales
Lumbered under their delicate fountains.
We never did arrive at what we knew.
We docked against an alien people,
Against a place no map had colored;
I learned to call it Augustland.
It is good to strike a balance.
We shall take a long fast walk
Through the wet mist-lighted grasses by the river,
Into the mist, and out of the mist,
And hear our voices struck by flinty pebbles.
We shall play endless sets of ping-pong after work,
Watching that white ball.
We shall taste the fresh paint of fruity bosses in a cold cloister.
We shall look at dizzy gutters from a tower,
And watch green vines wander into sand at the automotive works.
We shall take a bus to the museum,
Swim our way through the Greek statues
To the Egyptian room, where it will be good
To look a long time at a black vase
Four thousand years old.
We shall go off to a strange altar
And genuflect in the orange coolness
And splintering rack of night.
Faces, faces, voices,
Now on the girded star, over the wracked realms
Dipping to the uneven of the cloud course
Are the millions of the smoke-blue flags whipping,
Calling, crying, gasping for help in the elms,
To the unison
Of the trinities
Of the defensive
Wind blow dark,
Turn the shackles,
Night spring on a hawthorn lever,
Sky hedges burn,
And mind be running water.
The lime tree blossom falling, where the air chills in the branches
And falls down with the blossom
And springs from the chilly ground
And winds to the alien and odorless,
The undermist light of the purple.
Not knowing where the dream leaves off
Or the stiller dream begins.
Through the dazzling stripes of the shade, the sun, the shade,
The unison of bombers, gods apart, gone drowsy down the horizon in deception,
This joy, this can’t be true. Only this is true.
The smell of the blossoms we walk through
Is avenue having no end, only beginning—
We cross it from shade to shade;
It catches us, we who had struggled free
From the clutch of the stiller dream, at right angles.
We follow it, forever, immortal, soul from body, now in the crossing.
Now in the crossing, all other smells, definable, we can resist or mingle.
This is becoming; and all else is senseless.
In the darkness of the lime tree, in the brightness of the lost and open moon.
Part 1 – MOUNT HOOD
The peculiar fact that we lower our eyes when a stranger’s eye meets our gaze is not a sign of remorse for a fault, but a sign of that shame which, when it knows that it is seen, is reminded of something that it lacks, namely the lost wholeness of life, its own nakedness.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: ETHICS
(after the reduction of Echo to an invisible mimic)
four of them
round a corner seriously
confront the facts and form the
squarey square of
good and evil
two of them
two are plenty
circle in and
rise up over
slip the tension of
triangular two threesomes and
tensile not to judge
invent the roseate inventory
haul it up
guardians of angelics flailing
are sub-divided into groups of
faithful to the voltage the
crisp you know if tiresome
there is no occasion for the I
chestnut rig veda
searching for something demonic enough
to abhor (read adore)
(there was this and that they couldn’t stand)
O to reach the
not-becoming one’s satanic
Climbing it two-thirds in our Spanish-black motorbus out of the July roses through the needled snowbanks of the giant firs. Facing up the sharpened peak. Slipping in the snow. Eating it… Night after night after sunset staring from fifty miles west through the glass of the twelfth storey hotel window in Portland. Watching the mount ghost and glow. Looking at the last of the rose cone of it over the English of the Glacier green in the night.
Open me, the blizzard says. You will find the blacked body of your dead love ready for yes ready for the resurrection. Pack and fling your snowballs up the slope.
wind un-name it
the gift of eyes
Part 2—MONT BLANC
Dost thou show wonders among the dead? or shall the dead rise up again, and praise thee? Shall they loving-kindness be showed in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall they wondrous works be known in the dark and thy righteousness in the land where all things are forgotten? . . . My lovers and friends hast thou put away from me and hid mind acquaintance out of my sight.
(after a cursing of God in the second person plural)
Domine Deus meus
Deus Deus meus
it is too easy to say
love in unison mount hood
danger in delight mont blanc
ethics angelics volcanics
how comfortable to think of green demonics
it is hell
away with good and evil
then how sorrowful to catch
one ash of the cremation in the eye
at that the bad eye
better find some Indian demonics
O captain my captain mount hood
mont blanc le grand mont blanc
the rattling of doors is an
the auto-biograph is such a
benedic anima mea
if we know the good we do
that’s pretty bad
stick with Lewis and Clark all the way
des alpes la mer
there is beautiful blood on the
hands of the young gynecologist
this one to war
that one to space
sprinkler system filled with blood
Seeing it all of a sudden away up there—French actually—white and rose from a dark street corner in Geneva just after sunset . . .Flying straight up the white hill zone the next morning out of the July roses along a rush of milkwater. Heading sunnily and straight into the blind snows of the Massif. Daredevil pilot banking at the last moment . . . Translating us—breathful over its rounded crest—into Italian.
Tall black-haired slim
snow-barked, her eyes full of green
sparks in the emerald floodlights.
Tall gold-haired slim
rose-barked, his eyes wells of blue
in the sapphire floods.
we made companions in green dreams
killers and savior
subpoenaed from the cold of hell
the rose demonics
Elliott Coleman was the founder and longtime director of the Writing Seminars at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. These poems appeared in Coleman’s Rose Demonics 1936-1966 (Baltimore, 1967), edited by his longtime friend and student, Stephen Wiest. An appreciation of Elliott Coleman by Myra Sklarew, with contributions by several others, appears in The Fortnightly Review here.