Collected Poems of John Holmes
Holmes, John A., Jr.
Judgment and cash and health and faith in God go wrong.
Venus the queen of love and lovely Mrs. Adams age,
Of which men weary. Water gets in behind the stone,
A stain; and the wars that were to end the wars rage.
When was it we spoke saying terrible things aloud,
And any honorable man could beat his breast for woe?
The meat at my table lies cold on the plates, uncut,
If one there names cancer or a divorce all there know.
Nobody wants to hear of hard times the heart has,
How grief stops it, how it fails when an only son
Stiffens in paralysis, how death has taken it aback
Doing to dear friends what elsewhere death has done.
Old Testament Job is my familiar respectable neighbor.
Who would have thought his fortune could fall so low?
I went to see him sitting dirty, crazy, in a rubbish
And ruin of himself. There he was; who else would go?
Shall I not name him? May I not speak of the spirit
He burned with, so like fire consuming a hard wood,
And the wood the world burning, and the flame my hurt?
But uncomfortable. Not usual. As conversation not good.
Outlaw it, then. Keep your sweet selves to yourselves.
Yet I know a dreadful story you must stay to hear.
Sit on the rock. Suicide. And by what act of faith
Have you never heard music smoking the midnight air?
I heard water open like an upturned tree. Have you heard
Water that green way? Have you dived naked into a tree?
I know an intelligence like a torch in a slow wind,
Feeding itself on joy, on its pride brightening to be.
Sirs, ladies and sirs, the wind hears you, do you not
Hear the wind of time listening to everything you are?
Time troubles its course with your color of glory.
My own ribs under the glass skin of history stare.
You were there when the map crawled, the flower spoke.
You broke your own heart and bandaged up your hand
That struck blood. I stood a tidemark in the sea-tide.
I had mountains under me once. The great air drowned
The distance from me down, three hundred miles an hour
From west east toward home, as if from doom to life.
I flew through my own brain-cap, arched over the world.
And you. You blew there. You know. What can we save?
But I'll tell nothing, or talk like you in nothings
Of no pain, no unwordable wild delight, of life no news.
Have you read Yeats? Have you heard Job? Or Ariel?
Die as you are, or living speak like them. But choose.