Old poem from Way Stations. (note : "pass the torch to those who follow" - line from my high school's official song. Same high school poet Allen Grossman attended 20 yrs earlier - another poet obsessed with poet's "vocation", poetry's social authority or sanction. (cf. his remarkable essay in latest Chicago Review.))



It is no longer in my power
To pass the torch to those who follow.
Long ago I fell away from the steel
Fiber holding up the school gymnasium,
And years have obscured the clear
Path I walked, a serious child,
By the dreamy lawns, the sheltering
Oak trees of the suburbs. Shame
Weighs on me, tugs at my pride:
My tongue grows awkward, inarticulate,
Unable to confess in clever numbers
All the grotesqueries this antic mind
Would indulge - my soul, snagged
In a filmy web, in the seamy afterlife
Of manifest destiny, that central pomp
Of high-riding families, magnified
On the national screen. An irony
Hovered with dark wings over the slow
River of my growing, marking a sign
On the brow of the elder son.

We plant our feet on the boards,
And pretend a scene. But every word
Tingles with guile; the simple form
Of the body recites from memory
A better tale - more harsh, more
Innocent, exemplary. To be born -
To be thrown off-center - the rest
Is only lust, or circumcision -
And perhaps a morning breeze, echo
And reconciliation.

Enter Hamlet, reading.

Pray God, your voice, like a piece
of uncurrent gold, be not cracked
within the ring.

The envious ghost burns for his
Possessions - rattling armor there
On the far side of the battlements,
In the outer dark. Gertrude?
Ophelia? I remember Memorial Day,
Gathering families in the clear
Green stillness of the huge park -
And my brothers scampering, acting up,
Waving their tiny stars and stripes.
As in a grainy home movie, I can see
My meek father hovering over the grill;
Granddad motionless, his hearing aid
Turned off; and Grandma and my mother,
Laughing, bustling around, two bird voices
Diving into the water, where a bronze
Hiawatha carries Minnehaha carefully
Across the muttering stream...


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