Epiphany poem

My grandfather John Ravlin would have turned 130 today.  He was born in La Porte City, Iowa, and worked as an engineer with the Barnett & Record Co. in Minneapolis, building grain elevators & other big structures.  This poem is dedicated to him.

A grain elevator is a kind of gigantic silo, a barnyard building, a seed container.  Sort of a manger for wheat & corn, a rustic-industrial edifice.  This poem jumps all over the place - my grandfather's in there, along with Dante, Ravenna, Epiphany...  part of Ravenna Diagram, another large construction project.

                               i.m. J.H. Ravlin

Strings of tiny Christmas lights
buried in prickly green
spine-fans, almost unseen.
Grandpa’s Tannenbaum, his birthday

night.  Where trillions of miniature
Lincoln logs emerge
(Railsplitter’s urge
to mend all men, amen).  Within your

triple rainbow, Alighieri.
Omnipresent OMO,
eagle’s starry memo...
Beatrice glowing in your eye.

Starlight, moonlight, chill, ghostly
behind those tamaracks.
Swamplands (weathered shacks,
old rowboats).  Adriatic Sea.

You trace the ineluctable distinctions
of your fork-tongue land –
Chief Broken Hand
or Florence Ainsworth – widows, orphans –

Juliet, my lost Ophelia-
Ravlin – granddaughter –
twig-bent ever after
from that bridge – ey yo...

Wrath simmers in the stolen earth
many buffalo years.
Pathos echoes, whispers
from your ghost-dance birth-


star (veinous branchings from
on high thread winglets
for an infant Jonah’s
prow).  & each squaw-mummer

bears the whole universe
bundled on her back –
houseboat, tepee or shack,
motel or Royal Oak – all mangers

everywhere.  That gangly monk
with the blue-white beard
felt your pulse, heard
your wedding-sigh (on Black Sea bunk

in prison cell) – beheld the chaste
conjunction of a cosmos
with its heart’s anonymous
warm hand, bright eye...  Make haste,

make haste to find her here, him
there, hid in the vineyard,
my Beloved, O... (weird
Janus-coign of almond bloom,

warm elbow of imperial yardarm).
Charlie sleeps in the oak,
a slumber-king, a bloke
with head round as an apple.  Charm

in a name there be, like Charmion
or Charlemagne... a rose
smiles through its rainbow’s
reign, your charity incarnadine.


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