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Group Portrait, The Family of Man

ISSUE:  Spring 1960

1. The Hearth

Flagging, the fire survives—
Wind in the chimney and gusts
That sough against the walls—
To warm whatever lives
And moves
Into its radiant flux
That flares and falls
Where the hearth
Is another star in the dark of the earth.

2. Woman Waiting

A face, of one who trusts
The unstable flame,
Ancient with loves
That now need no particular name,
Listens in light—
Which darkens and glows,
Making of hands and face worn cameos—
To hear the tick of time
Within the night
Or the chair that rocks
Like a nursery rhyme
And, empty, knocks
Inquisitively at the house
From the windy porch.

She sees, but half aware,
Shadow and firelight browse
Over table and clock and chair
And hover
And seem to search.
And she can hear
From another room
A sigh
Of a young girl who wishes she had a lover
And the cry
Of a waking child.

The firelit thoughtful face is mild.
Waiting and remembering
That the dead will sleep,
The dreamers wake
But the dream will keep;
That the day will come
And the light will break
And the cock of living sing.

3. Man Returning

Still unheroically turning home
Heroically to face
Necessity and the commonplace,
The dreamer who still seems to watch
The wrack of clouds across infinity
Lifts the familiar latch
And uses the well-used key,
To tell those waiting of a shadowed woods
Where something nameless moved
Which seemed to wear felicity
Beyond earth’s ordinary moods;
And, as though offering
A sacred thing—
To those beloved something also loved—
The hunter who must hunt again and fail
Reveals, for compassionate awe to see,
The jeweled beauty of a lifeless quail,
As though the body in his palm might be
The naked venus of the Medici,
Until at last imagination and desire
Are embers dimming in a flagging fire.

4. The Wedding

Day has begun
And the time of summer has come.
The honeyed fig hangs ripened in the sun;
The body stands honeyed in the mirrored room
Considering its own loveliness.

A flowering tree
Is delicate with white bloom;
The bride puts on a veil and a white dress.
The universe is a bubble where children see
The church and the village shining in the noon.

The graves attend,
The steepled bells rejoice;
And the company is gathered soon
With a murmurous voice
From a luminous street and country grove
To witness that living shall have no end
And that man is moved by love.


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