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Garland for You


ISSUE:  Spring 1959

1. A Real Question Calling For Solution

There is however one peculiar inconsistency which we may note as marking this and many other psychological theories. They place the soul in the body and attach it to the body without trying in addition to determine the reason why or the condition of the body under which such attachment is produced. This would seem however to be a real question calling for solution.
Aristotle: Psychology, 8,22–23.

Don’t bother a bit, you are only a dream you are having,
And if when you wake your symptoms are not relieved,
That is only because you harbor a morbid craving
For belief in the old delusion in which you have always believed.

Yes, there was the year when every morning you ran
A mile before breakfast—yes, and the year you read
Virgil two hours just after lunch and began
Your practice of moral assessment, before the tooth brush and bed.

But love boiled down like porridge in a pot,
And beyond the far snow-fields westward, redder than hate,
The sun burned; and one night not quickly forgot
Pity, like sputum, gleamed on the station floor-boards, train late.

When you took the mud baths you found that verse came easy.
When you slept on a board you found your back much better.
When you slept with another woman you found that the letter
You owed your wife was a pleasure to write, gay now and tease-y.

There once was a time when you thought you would understand
Many things, many things, including yourself, and learn Greek,
But light changes old landscape, and your own hand
Makes signs unseen in the dark, and lips move but do not speak,

For given that vulture and vector which is the stroke
Of the clock absolute on the bias of midnight, memory
Is nothing, is nothing, not even the memory of smoke
Dispersed on windless ease in the great fuddled head of the sky,

And all recollections are false, and all you suffer
Is only the punishment thought appropriate for guilt
You never had, but wished you had had the crime for,
For the bitterest tears are those shed for milk, and blood, not spilt.

There is only one way, then, to make things hang together,
Which is to accept the logic of dream, and avoid
Night air, politics,French sauces, autumn weather,
And the thought that on your awaking identity may be destroyed.

2. Lullaby: Exercise In Human Charity And Self-Knowledge

Mr. and Mrs. North and South America and all the ships at sea, let’s go to press.
Greeting of Radio Broadcast by Walter Winchell

Sleep, my dear, whatever your name is:
Galactic milk spills down light years.
Sleep, my dear, your personal fame is
Sung safely now by all the tuned spheres,
And your sweet identity
Fills like vapor, pale in moonlight, all the infinite night sky.
You are you, and naught’s to fear:
Sleep, my dear.

Sleep, my dear, whatever your face is,
Fair or brown, or young or old.
Sleep, my dear, your airs and graces
Are the inner logic History will unfold,
And what faults you suffer from
Will refract, sand-grain in sun-glare, glory of that light to come.
You are you, all will be clear;
So sleep, my dear.

Sleep, my dear, whatever your sex is,
Male or female, bold or shy.
What need now for that sweet nexus
In dark with some strange body you lie by?
What need now to know that contact
That shows self to itself as only midnight’s dearest artifact?
For you to you, at last, appear
Clearly, my dear.

But are you she, pale hair wind-swept,
Whose face night-glistened in sea fog?
Or she, pronouncing joy, who wept
In our desperate noontide by the cranberry bog?
Or merely that face in the crowd, caught
And borne like a leaf on the flood away, to which I gave one perturbed thought?
Yes, which are you? Yes, turn your face here
As you sleep, dear.

No, no, dearest, none of these—
For I who bless can bless you only
For the fact our histories
Can have no common bond except the lonely
Fact of humanness we share
As now, in place and fate disparate, we breathe the same dark, pulsing air.
Where you lie now, far or near,
Sleep, my dear.

Sleep, my dear, wherever now
Your shadowy head finds place to rest.
Stone or bosom, bed or hedgerow—
All the same, and all the same are blest
If, receiving that good freight,
They sustain it, uncomplaining, till cock-crow makes dark abate.
Whoever I am, what I now bless
Is your namelessness.

3. The Letter About Money, Love, Or Other Comfort, If Any

In the beginning was the Word.
The Gospel According to Saint John.

Having accepted the trust so many years back,

before seven wars, nine coups d’état, and the deaths of friends and friendships,
before having entered the world of lurkers, shirkers, burkers, tipsters, and tips,
or even discovered I had small knack
for honesty, but only a passion, like a disease, for Truth,
having as I have said, accepted the trust
those long years back in my youth,
it’s no wonder that now I admit, as I must,
to no recollection whatever
of wens, moles, scars, or his marks of identification—but do recall my disgust
at odor of garlic and a somewhat perfervid eye-gleam beneath the dark hat of the giver,

Who, as I came up the walk in summer moonlight
and set first foot to the porch-step, rose with a cough from beside the hydrangea,
and thrust the thing out at me, as though it were common for any total stranger
to squat by one’s door with a letter at night,
at which, in surprise, I had stopped to stare (the address even then but a smudge),
until at the burst of his laugh, like a mirthful catarrh,
I turned, but before I could budge,
saw the pattering V’s of his shoetips mar
the moon-snowy dew of the yard,
and be gone—an immigrant type of pointed toe and sleazy insouciance more natural by far
to some Mediterranean alley or merd-spangled banlieu than to any boulevard,

Or surely to Dadstown, Tenn., and so I was stuck,

for though my first thought was to drop the thing in the mail and forget the affair
on second glance I saw what at first I had missed, as though the words hadn’t been there:
By Hand Only, and I was dumb-cluck
enough to drive over to Nashville next day to find the address, but found
you had blown, the rent in arrears, your bathroom a sty,
and thus the metaphysical run-around
which my life became, and for which I
have mortgaged all, began,
and I have found milk rotting in bottles inside the back door, and newspapers knee-high
the carrier had left and never got paid for, and once at a question a child up and ran

Screaming like bloody murder to fall out of breath,

and once in Dubuque you had sold real estate, and left with a church letter,
Episcopal, high, and at the delicious New England farmhouse your Llewelyn setter
was found in the woodshed, starved to death,
and in Via Marguta you made the attempt, but someone smelled gas at the door
in the nick of time, and you fooled with the female Fulbrights
at the Deux Magots and the Flore,
until the police caught you dead to rights—
oh, it’s all so human and sad,
for money and love are terrible things with which to fill all our human days and nights,
and nobody blames you much, not even I, despite all the trouble I’ve had,

And still have, on your account, and if it were not

for encroaching age, new illness, and recurring effects of the beating
which I took from those hoods in the bar in Frisco for the mere fact of merely repeating
that financial gossip, and from which I got
this bum gam, my defect in memory, and a slight stutter—
but, as I was saying, were it not for my infirm years,
I would try to deliver the letter,
especially since I was moved nigh to tears
myself by the tale you’d been caught
crouched in the dark in the canna bed that pretties the lawn of the orphanage where it appears
you were raised—yes, crooning among the ruined lilies to a stuffed teddy, not what a grown man ought

To be doing past midnight, but be that as it may,

there’s little choice for my future course, given present circumstances,
and my conscience is clear, for I assure you I’ve not made a penny, at least not expenses,
and so on the basis of peasant hearsay,
at the goatherd’s below timberline, I will go up, and beyond the north face,
find the shelf where last glacial kettle, beck, or cirque glints
blue steel to sky in that moon-place,
and there, while hands bleed and breath stints,
will, on a flat boulder not
far from the spot where you at night drink, leave the letter, and my obligation to all intents,
weighted by stones like a cairn, with a red bandana to catch your eye, but what

Good any word of money or love or more casual

comfort may do now, God only knows, for one who by dog and gun
has been hunted to the upper altitudes, for the time comes when all men will shun
you, and you, like an animal,
will crouch among the black boulders and whine under knife-edge of night-blast,
waiting for hunger to drive you down to forage
for bark, berries, mast,
roots, rodents, grubs, and such garbage,
or a sheep like the one you with teeth killed,
for you are said to be capable now of all bestiality, and only your age
makes you less dangerous, so, though I’ve never seen your face and have fulfilled

The trust, discretion, as well as perhaps a strange shame,

overcomes curiosity, and past that high rubble of the world’s wrack,
will send me down through darkness of trees, until having lost all track,
I stand, bewildered, breath-bated, and lame,
at the edge of a clearing, to hear, as first birds stir, life lift now night’s hasp,
then see, in first dawn’s drench and drama, the snow-peak go gory,
and the eagle will unlatch crag-clasp,
fall, and at breaking of wing-furl, bark glory,
and by that new light I shall seek
the way, and my peace with God, and if in some tap room travelers pry into this story,
I shall not reduce it to drunken marvel, assuming I know the tongue they speak.

4. The Self That Stares

If there are gods, you, being righteous,
Will win reward in heaven; if there are none,
All our toil is without meaning.
Iphigenia in Aulis, by Euripides

(a)

Have you crouched with rifle, in woods, in autumn,
In earshot of water where at dawn deer come,
Through gold leafage drifting, through dawn mist like mist,
And the blue steel sweats cold in your fist?
Have you stood on the gunwale and eyed blaze of sky,
Then with blaze blazing black in your inner eye,
Plunged—plunged to break the anchor’s deep hold
On rock, where under-currents thrill cold?

Time unwinds like a falling spool:
All are blockheads in that school.

Have you lain by your love, at night, by willows,
And heard the stream stumble, moon-drunk, at its shallows,
And heard the cows stir, sigh, and shift space,
Then seen how moonlight lay on the girl’s face,
With her eyes closed hieratically, and your heart bulged
With what abrupt Truth to be divulged—
But desolate, desolate, turned from your love,
Knowing you’d never know what she then thought of?

Time unwinds like a falling spool:
All are blockheads in that school.

Have you stood beside your father’s bed
While life retired from the knowledgeable head
To hole in some colding last lurking-place,
And standing there studied that strange face
Which had endured thunder and even the tears
Of mercy in its human years,
But now, past such accident, seemed to withdraw
Into more arrogant dispensation, and law?

Time unwinds like a falling spool:
All are blockheads in that school.

(b)

Time unwinds like a falling spool:
All are blockheads in that school.

Have you seen that fool that is your foot
Stray where no angel would follow suit?
Have you seen that knave that is your hand
Slily abrogate your command?
And felt that fatuous dupe, your heart,
Stir, and lift again, and start?
But who are you that you are victim
Of fool’s, or knave’s, or poor dupe’s whim?
You have not learned what experience meant,
Though in that school all is exigent.

Have you seen that brute trapped in your eye
When he realizes that he, too, will die?
Then stare into the mirror, stare
At his dawning awareness there.
If man, put razor down, and stare.
If woman, stop lipstick in mid-air.
Yes, pity makes that gleam you gaze through—
Or is that brute now pitying you ?
Time unwinds like a falling spool,
And all are dullards in that school,

And nothing, nothing is ever learned
Till school is out and books are burned,
And then the lesson will be so sweet
All you will long for will be to repeat
All the sad, exciting process
By which ignorance grew less
In all that error and gorgeous pain
That you may not live again.
What is that lesson? To recognize
The human self naked in your own eyes.

For Time unwinds like a falling spool:
All, all are blockheads in that school.

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