Missouri, Midsummer, Closure
To Bridget

East our rented field slopes down towards trees,
common Missouri trees rooted in poor soil,
chestnut, walnut, sycamore, elm,
sugar maple, honey locust,
mulberry, persimmon,
willow, cedar, oak,
set by casual fall of seed
near a clear spring.

Roughed by winter, unleaved all but the cedar,
they showed to a pale March sun
lack only, no splendour.
April speeded astonishing rise of sap
to swell with growth the farthest reaching buds.
June summer now and the perfect leaves
compose with boughs and branches
the vivid temple poets contemplate.

Forty-eight years after my birth, tonight,
when faint heart counsels
my concerning me
with family cares and crises
and decline, tonight
I write verses at my desk.

* * *

I have grown slowly into poetry.
Early on, if snowflakes bruised eyelashes,
what was a hand brushing them away
to the predestined?
When eyelid was closing on eye
by early nights early to bed,
a white knight rode his white horse
against the dragon in my five years head.

Bleached of yellow was the hair,
but she wore green, she wore red,
of who sideways glanced at him where
disarmed, he crossed, lost, a stream
after later. And was it a dream
confused for him an afternoon
with key to open silver moon?
But always eyelid lifting on eye
offered me love's every shape
in all earth, all sky,
until I ceased to think of escape,
until I sit here solely,
damp in strident summer's
cloud of small pests,
making poetry.

* * *

If my wife suffers now
like any girl one knew
whose children did not eat,
our friends are friends to us,
they have their cares too,
if I am victim,
as I judge, of men
who owed me respect.

Useless, useless it is
to ask what was done:
celtic anger ruined me.
Busy men see
what it profits to see,
malice in them as hard to prove
as asininity.

Our eyes do not see
the act's issue in the act.
Beginnings we see,
and continuings,
and endings in due course.

Will, we know, if good will,
wills beyond what thought holds,
so present joy
assuages earlier or later woe,
so, if one fail,
others onelike fail.
But beginnings entrance us,
breed our hopes,
dispel our fears.

And so, seek wisdom wholly always,
refuse as you must
the shape that will not feature you,
nothing withheld give,
give love.

Out of such patience
I am seated here
hoping the weightless flight
of a poem born aright.

* * *

Once long ago
a girl was crowned
queen of a pale people.

Hers the home of clever ones
scarred with wounds, returned
from droghedas of shame
behind devils of deceit.
It is not new
and they were old.

Their young queen
rose to greet them
like a snowdrop opening
to outface black winter
in a grove of stripped trees.

She was the violet beneath the aged oak,
the promise in April apple bloom
of fruit in the ripe season,
the rose that crimsons June to match
December's white chrysanthemum
in splendour.

Unseen the real action moves
like its currents deepest ocean.
Desert popples in rare rain,
her people joyed
to meet their woman,
girl, wife, mother and queen.

Who could have refused to wish
that gracious creature well
in her eerie hour?
What, what of decency?
Now even nobody can say:
"I am young today,"
with his best before him,
willing to begin again
with failure for her: "Yes,
I will be queen."

Some are chosen, whereupon they choose
to go their lonely path.
There is the exact relation:
none chooses who were not first chosen
to greet fairly their cross.

The snowdrop rising from the snow,
the violet returned beneath the scarred oak,
the promise blooming in April and
remedial for lessening strength,
all poor alien symbols these,
they please, they do not temper
the desperate will
like the eath of a young queen.

* * *

And poetry, what of poetry,
without which nothing exact is said?

Poetry becomes humankind.

Only it charms us
knowing in loving

Any loving soul may share
what the rose does declare.

The habit of withholding love
unfits us for poetry.

Watch the slender swallow flash its wings,
dive, sheer sky in two,
never before, never again,
and such is poetry.

It bears the truth of all,
freely attends on who
keeps constant watch,
lives whenever everywhere,
awakens when our love
says yes to all, accepts
even the viper vibrant in the vine.

* * *

So, and so,
and what of loving?

Many loves exist,
concur concretely
in this pendant world.
Only in twisted man
does love scatter and disperse.

And is man hopeless?

Never was despair imperative,
never are we grown so old
we cannot start our journey
bound to find
an eternal note of gladness
in loves true for men,
the source whence they flow,
the ocean whither they go.


(Footnote: In Missouri most people pronounce Missouri to rhyme with Shenandoah.)


© Brian Coffey