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Before Dark

ISSUE:  Winter 1937

Her Distress

The garden turned towards winter and the night Full moon ascending, sun declining there;
And in the middle air we sat, where long The sun and moon opposed and neutralized.
And she had heard her spoken name, she said,
And wept the wild-goose calls, not knowing why;
She wept in winter southward-flying wings,
Alone, as though she cried for a lost past.
Another time I might have comforted,
With careful reasoning, the time of snow;
That time the conflict in the middle air Outnoised my speech and silenced me to fear.

That Day

Beyond departure there must be a word,
A word in darkness said, and I spoke out Your name beside the river as I watched Steady to water, stiff the darker hair.
That day I noticed how the night came down: Past cornstalk, flight of crow, and hostler’s cry,
Wheels scraping axles over roads that go Diagonals against the brown of hills.
We worked as mindsmiths with a candle flame;
Our simple words came hard and pressed the fire Bolt upright; heat was doubled in our eyes To forge the marks of torture into grace.

Then by the river I watched out your joy,
Your shoulders bent to water, and your arms To current subtly rhythmed.
And exact At parting was the commonplace of breath,
Where in the hollow afternoon, between The dream and daring jump of sky,
Clouds knew our parting and the stranger night Rolled up with stars and moon beyond the hills.

One Mode

A way from sunset, black against the east,
They saw no bird yet watched the flight of bird. First flight alone, one said; and, Capable, Another said.
It was not strange to them.
Nor were they more than capable in ruth When, like a chimney-swift, they saw the plane Turn sharply earthward in the gathering night.
The chimney-swifts turn earthward without sound.
But Dean had fastened furious eyes upon A distant reason.
The fathers do not rest;
They swallow peace but do not like the taste;
They swallow peace like medicine, still vexed.
And Dean had sought the timely patterns of
The fathers’ haste toward death, till air became
The one mode left for valor’s masquerade
Where dusk reeled backwards, blurred in cloudy shade.


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