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Four poems from ‘Credo’.

By STEPHEN WIEST.

John Locke Said
In the beginning all the world was America –

Refined as in Columbus’ dream
Thinking greatness needs no choirs
By those thinking to live on a gilded forever

The spirit has been draining from our ideals
For many seasons and owing to our salt and fat
We wear soft clothes and watch ourselves be entertained
Mediocrity does not astonish us.
The fault we bear is not measured or admitted.
We fragment our goings about
Slinging laws rather than holding spirit.
The old weep and the miners are dead
And gold chills the hands

As Columbus explained:
At dawn we saw naked people,
and I went ashore in the ship’s boat,
armed

.

Let Us Begin to Sing of Younger Men

I can’t escape myself enough to write
What I somehow sense to be true
I grow cold and thoughts become tentative.
Life itself is laughing in its own celebration

Age may bring that distilled experience
Becoming more concentrated more complex
Looking for additions from other perspectives

Are we really made of the dust of stars
So complex a mixture of cataclysms
And are we so grand and meaningless as this

The need to hope, to speak to something unseen
Is our best imaginations’ greatest achievement
To create a divinity, to build a system of living
Then deny it and then wish it and hope it
And then die somewhere on that spectrum
Of belief and hope,
And the unknowing is how we live
Keeping us alive by asking or accepting
Until it kills us all

.

Sweetheart have Pity

When the weariness surrounds me,
Silently holding hands with time,
I crawl out of myself
Too late to follow an understanding
To create more than a theater of better things

The scribe of my unconscious or a spirit
More ancient, knowing my yearning
Reaches deeper than some for songs,
Saying all that sing should be praised today

I have lived and watched my ignorance growing
And what should I care about a choice recombining
My many atoms as another consciousness lurking
In a body when where I have no choice or care
Everything is Here or There

.

Grace

I try to imagine the feeling of grace
Were it given to me as an old man
Who feels the need of that state
Without trying to create it on my own
Through fear, not finding it through hope.

Sometimes I feel a spirit so close
That my blood runs cold and my hands hurt
Sometimes I feel familiar with death
A presence that does not explain
As though hearing angelic voices
Deep within a lovers’ yawn

Seasons of experience orbit the rhythm of life
So understanding turns more acute
And the afternoon of simple joy might arrive
Some afternoon become tomorrow’s today
With images we have never seen
To find our past in plundered tombs
To fashion tools for making myth
To entertain us or explain
From broken shards with missing words
Or on the shelves in the book of old names
of births and marriages, but mostly deaths
who was left with lands and streams
whose boundaries are lost or changed
and their worth is unremembered coinage
the food the wine the sex the love and death
the intimate aspirations and despair
in this salad of invention all lost

in a halogen brightness of a city night.

The moon, even full, is a dim reminder of another time
When thoughts floated on surprises of night
And the eyes of the hunters adjusted to darkness


A. Stephen Wiest was poet-in-residence at The Johns Hopkins University from 1970-1975. He lives on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Credo: Exhibits and Other Poems is a 2020 title from Odd Volumes. A previous collection, Screeds, was published in 2013. An excerpt is here.

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