Memory is full of Providence

                           i.m. Henry Shelton

Fall steps softly to the door
beside the river now.
Memory, somehow
is full of Providence today – your

little hideaway of brave
adorable & free
spirits, whom to thee
were given – opening, wave on wave

sea-gates of joy & liberty.
Like that dear one
on Petersburg pontoon
floated to town – Elena, she

of the midnight sun – as if an emerald
kamen-ring of Gumilev
(tattooed ghost-brave)
stood there, incarnate – held

my hand, like Word made Flesh – began
to dance & sing; as if
Columba on his acorn skiff
arrived in New York harbor – shine,

Franco-Irish lantern – beam
your torch around the globe!
Moss-copper robe
whose folds encompass freedom’s dream

whose web of mutuality
is wind-blown sail
on cosmic Ocean trail
chaste vision of equality


tall northern pine who will prevail
like massive cedar tree
in Puget Sound   like she
who danced the Shaker upland trail

to soul freedom, with John Slocum
or Henry Shelton in
Rhode Eye   Franciscan
mule of social justice   plumb

spine of Blackstone’s Catholic Oak
or Williams’ open hand
give me your poor... stand
in my healing shade... Manitou spoke

on Wisdom’s dancing-wheel of joy!
& my hoarse scar-tattoo
on Queequeg’s silver-blue
casket – my burbled Jaybird cry,

confessional – only an ochre scratch
on earliest cave-wall;
only a golden ball
of Ariadne-wool, wet sheepish match

balled-up by selfishness.  Who lit out
for that stony kingdom –
ancient Big Rock Mountain,
deeper firmament, beneath the shout

of pokey politics – that Cosmosphere
of lovingkindness, where
the soul finds Primavera air
& breathes... & sighs... & lives forever.


4th of July, Providence harbor


Yves Bonnefoy, encore

Another attempt at translation.  This is Yves Bonnefoy, "Le Pays Découvert", from his sequence A une terre d'aube.  (The last word of this poem seems nearly untranslatable, since le temps can mean both "time" and "weather".)


Star on the threshold.  Wind, held
In motionless hands.
Word and wind in a long contest,
Then there was this gust of silence.

The open land was only grey stone.
Very far and low lay a flash of empty stream.
But night rains over the surprised earth
Awoke an ardor that you call time.

bronze mood of river


The crickets’ eerie premonition.
The bronze mood of snaking
river, mirrored in
cottonwood’s heart-shaped fallen

shield.  Identity’s an equal sign
in autumn – twin banks
the Mississippi makes
to fringe the tender almonds of a span

darken toward evening, of a year.
That wavy, sooty smudge
afloat below the bridge
no raven now, but King-bird, here –

old Balder Will, majestic, serene
sailing with the wind
downstream.  You’ll find
his imago, dispersed, unseen –

scattered in brown eddies, copper jags...
the soft green lichen
of anonymous kin-
folk.  King Who-He-Who-She brags

like Pharaoh, but it’s all a masque –
autumnal Shakespeare,
smiling through the year-
dregs... tears toward Phoenix-Pasque.

Chaste vision is an equal sign.
Justice like rain – drifting
magnanimous wing
from Cosmosphere, where all things shine.


bald eagle in flight, reflected below bridge


an aria of Ariel


On the vast floor of the nave at Chartres
a golden labyrinth
circles the square.  Myth
of primal clay, where everything starts

over... springs up from the ground;
even the epic poem
circles back toward home –
Thanksgiving hearth of heaven, lost

& found.  It is an Ithaca
where Daphne-laurel molts
back to Penelope – bolts
from the yarn, like Minnehaha

laughing upstream toward Itasca –
primeval Persephone
(O veritas caput).  She
looms at warp speed, like an aria

of Ariel – zips through the Gateway
Arch, to Providence –
races around, from Florence
to the Golden Gate, where she will play

out safety nets, & save the day –
& from Pacific to New York
lift up her blazing fork
of sea-green, Lincoln-penny Liberté.

She is the almond in a nest of nests –
a hollow echo-tomb
from which Columbia will bloom
again, spring-fed by Galilean breasts.



down a river to the Keys


End of summer on the river path.
Light almost plaintive
through cottonwood leaves,
a frieze of tall pillars.  A froth

of rambling wildflowers, tender lavender
nameless to me – it’s not
rhodora, in this woodlot
astride mud-coppery earth-bender...

So Hobo goes mumbling along.
A road of melancholy
adoration (holy
fool, remembering a door, a song-

agate)... rowing, rowing down
a river to the Keys.
Angling through trees,
light rhymes with breeze (a wind-sown

octave); a fleet bird whistles
through hearkening cedars.
Her labyrinth of tears
might be a simple maze of thistles –

a hobo circus of circumference
around the dense mast
of a coracle.  Its ballast
is adhesive mutuality – love-sense

smiling through some kid’s affection
for a friend... Mendelssohn
in harmony, one
ark out of many waters (milky lesson).



not made with hands


I’ve spun a zigzag ziggurat
not made with hands, muttered
Oblomov-Hobo – squared
round Galilee with palmy lariat

lime-green & violet.  With Okeanos
built a pineland font,
a Big Rook Candle Mint
that floats majestic Liberty to Rus

by U.S. Forest Service (Lincoln
would).  There’s still life
in a copper penny, if
you’re willing to be leaf – we can.

Disenchanted materialists
unlock a spiny Jenny
idle now for many –
Berkeley’s little tree twists

like Atlantic rotor, like Bermuda
paddleboat... clap hands
& sing, who understands!
A dream – dream-songe (Ojibwa)!

Great Manitou be Hole-in-the-Sky now,
mind – love’s apple-tree
a laurel (Victory).
She beams from the heart of Notre

Dame, my voyageur, extending her
green crystalline moss-
copper palm of sobornost
Rhodos-Colossus 56 (soul harbor).



Bonnefoy, la traduction du jour

Here's another fling at translating Yves Bonnefoy... the poem is "L'Éternité du feu", from the sequence Le chant de sauvegarde.  (see original below)


Phoenix says to the fire, which is fate
And bright landscape throwing its shadows,
I am one who awaits you, says he,
I come to lose myself in your grave land.

He regards the fire.  How it comes,
How it plants itself in the gloomy soul,
And how dawn breaks at windows – how
Fire goes mute, falling to sleep deeper than fire.

He feeds on silence.  He hopes
Each fold of an eternal silence,
As it descends on him like sand,
Will aggravate his immortality.

down to St. Lou


Henry’s Chair is in the woods,
beside the Rio del Espiritu
Santo.  Hobo to you,
mayhap – lost in his darker moods;

drawing a diagram in river-sand
of Ursiana’s barer pillars,
moss-bound Giuliana’s
pines (forlorn Ravenna swampland).

Emblems of spiritual epilepsy,
moon friar.  Lame lone wolf
Dante, crying for a proof
of integral radiance (nay, nay

sobs hunchback Leopardi).
Hiawatha whistles there –
follow the tripping Hare
Whirlaway to Itascasee?

The spring.  Mammoth drone of stream.
Down to St. Lou,
where airs axle true –
bloodveined grey sponge, clay dream...

tuning-fork in the river road.
Wheel, innocent rabbi,
through your Galilee
of primary colors – lift the load

from Henry’s sloping shoulders.  Bend
a prism to Columbia,
slate panoply of Jonah-sky –
who lights the harbor at grave’s end.


Henry's Chair


something not rotten


Two lean ancient red pines
standing blue-green beside
Grandpa’s old house, abide
fanfares of trumpet-vines

(pure orange bugling).  Something
not rotten in the state
of Norway, loco Hamlet –
needles for constant farthering,

an evergreen encounter with the Pole.
A fado rudder for America...
mercurial Columbia
glows with her dusky song, high, whole –

hidden in clouds of starry Eire
that slake eddies of fear
into limey atmosphere
like elfin emeralds from the mire.

These curves along Rhode Island Way!
Hieratical Byzantium
leans down beside a tomb
hunched in Ravenna tamaracks – Dante

& Roger shaking hands (the ghost
of Beatrice will not bow
before the imperial scow,
nor heed the plutocratic boast

of idle punts).  Just a bivalve ark
(tender ellipse of fatherhood)
redeems the bent wood
Caesar to seahorse – shark to lark.