rattlesnakes & wild hogs

woodcut by Mary R. Gould


Hobo & Henry (mirror lakes of ice)
hunker down by the Miss
in apocalyptic freeze.
Global worming – ain’t nice,

offers Hobo.  Henry stands on a log
of spongy cottonwood,
to speechify.  I would
gather everyone in D.C. – slug

it out with themeny!  Hobo : Who he?
King Henny Gowanabe?
Beware Coatlicue,
m’deer!  She got that panoply

um rattlesnakes & wild hogs,
rootin’ all around –
Iagoons, Macboars... ground
Z for Camazone swamp hellhound dogs!

In the blank mirror of unconsciousness
the stone-cold powers
& the lotus-flowers
collide in a collusion...  Heartlessness,

she mutters.  Hobo sunk down.
Cheer up, old boy,
sez Hank.  My Book of J
opines beneath Cordelia’s Crown;

she shone me that Madonna del Parto
flaring like Indian mound –
high Sophie’s dancing ground
(who shall restore our humane Beneficio).



like a lost Osiris

photo by Aaron Siskind (Cuzco)

On the coldest night in a generation
on a bridge in Minneapolis
one delicate snowflake melts
into her crevices of Inca stone.

Berryman, like a lost Osiris
wavers on the railing...
& maidens will be wailing
in Ramah, because she is

no more.  A forgotten Muse
of Memory – figure
of a little almond tree –
stays hidden (somewhere in D.C.).

I gather the limbs of Osiris
whispers Isis (under
her obelisk of wonder
blundering toward Sirius).

She remains behind her veil
out there in West Branch,
like a soft eyelash
encircling the ark of Israel –

like the cow-eyed prow of Argo
or sea-tossed glance
of Magdalen-experience;
the wavy lips of the vessel flow

into a primavera Ocean State...
your dream-song Jonah
breathing – hallelujah! –
from polar ice to coracle checkmate.



wheezing in an iron lung


Utterly subjective universe
of the poet, Hamlet
dreaming action... what
was I thinking?  A serious nurse

stood by my cradle (Abbott Hospital).
I was four years old,
wheezing in a cold
iron lung.  Paralysis (total).

1956.  Guillain-Barré.
Dr. Pohl – I
don’t remember (sigh).
Osiris in his casket, hey

ey yo.  The photo in the Star-
Tribune – toothy Henry
hugs his scarlet monkey
in a wheelchair.  Recovery! (Bizarre.)

Like the slight son of Giuliana
in a clinic in Ravenna.
Watch her parabola –
purple violet (or cypripedium

reginae) fringes the pottery;
congregate, massive
unguent jar, evocative
lure (hand of Lippo Memmi)

harboring anointment oil.
Milk, sap, honey,
wine, blood...  See
the star-eye riding the sea-roil


on her prow, lancing the Black Sea!
Magnet of gold foil,
handle for plow-soil –
wave of personae-galaxy!

As if the searching character of Isis
were encapsulated in
this matryoshka-queen.
Vierge Ouvrante (Hagia Sophia’s

magnifying glass, or Henry Church)
sums up significance
of eucharist – each instance
in a suffering kenosis, the human lurch

(from safe beatitude to surf
beat attitude)
leading to passionate
étude (H. Gorecki... – it is enough).

Prow like a beak, eye like star,
the solidarity of Polar
Bear – it is our
birthright, people everywhere!

Metaphysical, incomprehensible
Love, that finds an echo
in the infinitely patient burro
suffering everything.  Your fable

inches toward the human heart
on light footsteps...
so Nora’s rose keeps
Eros innocent (sweet garden violet).



oracles from the Henry Couch


While the planet bakes, heats up
like the moon... Henry,
like Winnie the Puer
Aeternus, idly rotates his kaleidoscope

full of little bits of brass cymbal.
Hibernal, he turns
this way & that; his urn’s
an ointment jar from Mary Magdala

full of tiny frozen stars of royal
palm oil.  His screech-owl
habitat’s a cypress bole,
an Erica-tree (washed up by Nile).

Osiris is a long brown river
searching for the sea.
A muddy throne for Henry,
couched like round-headed Cavalier

in the living room of an argot Argosy.
Whose vessel wavers
on the waves, & shivers
when the keel spokes (glossy Lady) –

a buoyant kind of synagogue-canoe
or pileated coracle –
high honeycomb cenacle,
multiocular almond (with ox-eye prow).

The Golden Fleece dangled in Providence
like a unicorn in a cloister;
in Sheep’s Clothing (her
murmur nest) Francesca wove the dense


gold poncho for young Dionysus
out of San Francisco.
Light moves now
through the window, Theseus;

Ariadne is a widow, & young Helle
sleeps with the shellfish
south of Phrixos (Frisco);
all shall be well, & all thing shall

be well, &... who shall lift up
the great acorn of light?
Not Henry, with all his might –
but Grace (who bears the Bear-man cup).

That donkey-man of Apuleius,
cousin to St. Francis,
steered the figurehead of Isis
to the throne of Henry’s soul-crisis.

Pressure from the Left to dispossess
the thriving bourgeoisie
leads (see 20th century)
to misery.  Children, beware forgetfulness!

Pressure from the Right to still maintain
luxurious plutocracy
leads (see 21st century)
to misery.  Children, beware unrighteousness!

Old Coke & his disciple, Williams
joined ancient lawful right
with each & all – O passionate
recognition!  Love neighbor, & be happy clams!



the public good is an intellectual thing

                                                      i.m. Sister Pat DeMoully

Hobo, that disintegrating Henry
sank into Mississippi
bottomland.  Big Muddy.
Like Lucius with his wayward donkey

rescued (finally) by Isis-Psyche.
The mule wanders Badlands.
Civic twilight (all hands
off deck).  Some refusenik-refugee.

Henry recalls the Brown & Sharpe
machinery complex
where young Rex
mingled with VISTA volunteers, harp

tuned to Dionysian thunder drum.
Green genius JFK
chanted (head all bloody)
Camelot concept.  Whole sum

of common good (an intellectual thing)
for young collegians,
braving their joy-dance
from campus triangle to iron ring;

the commonwealth is worth defending
whatever happens to me
(beam, solidarity).
Like Sister Pat in Jonestown, bending

from Minneapolis to Mississippi’s
veritable excess poverty.
To be there, every day...
a live-oak Galahad, touching the keys.



I stir the Pythian gumbo of Apollinaire


The Palladium forsook Byzantium
on a Black Wednesday
near Pentecost (hey
yo).  In the old Orpheum

Theatre (off Hennepin) Stravinsky
leads Ballet Russe
to rude cathartic truce
around the bonfire of a galaxy –

a human maypole (at the end of May).
She’s only Morning Star.
The young Apollinaire
is debonaire... they waltz away.

Salt sea-wash on another shore
throws up a Kennedy...
Melchizedek?  O, he
will pass through temple walls before

bronze annals of the oak tree close.
A little emerald windlass
winds your thread, Theseus.
A Selkie off the Newport coast,

a water-sprite from far-off Ocean...
laving heart of Berryman,
& salty Hart (Ohioan);
lifting Juliet from self-destruction.

Ineffable ark of Vierge Ouvrante,
imperishable human smile –
Love’s gentle campanile,
lofting aforesaid acorn-infant.



to Nathan Phillips

                                    to Nathan Phillips

The Mirror Lakes in Mendelssohn
were smooth & clear – were
mirrors of the weather,
mirrors of each other (twins).

Your mind’s a mirror too (cloudy
today, with intimations
of its limitations).
Looming earth, a child’s infinity...

In his mandorla of Ferrara
Giorgio hooked the canoe
against a garage wall (you
remember, Micòl?).  Observe, selah

its simple elegance & rightness.
Mirror of itself –
bowstring of Guelf
& Ghibelline.  O blessed senselessness!

I surmise the one you call Jesus Nazir
arose not in hothouse of fear
but a rural atmosphere –
full of parabolic melodies, limpid, near.

The Son of Man... the Son of Man...
not him, but you – & you...
like Hagia Sophia in a crew
of galley slaves.  Their submarine plan

winks from searchlight eyes – their fleece
the gold thread of Ariadne,
knotted in Rhode Island
Black Ships (ocean’s milky matrix


poured from ineffable Promised Land).
In Siena, insouciant Pax
lounges by sober Justice
in the fresco of Good Government (hand

of Ambrogio).  That thread from beyond
exotic Trebizond
plummets, au fond
to Minotaur’s despair – demented Roy

Dumonde; yet we are gathered up
into another summa
body – solidarità
of Love’s affectionate grail-cup.

It was not price nor money could have
purchased Rhode Island;
Rhode Island was purchased
by love.  So step into the rawhide nave

of Nathan Phillips’ Wakan Tanka
Spirit beyond each sullen
pond of identification.
Spring winds the rust of iron rancor

into another, more spacious America –
florid green habitat
of Uncle Weaver Rabbit,
Auntie Corn Gatherer (limestone Columbia).

That mud-brown mirror harbors hidden
depths.  & yet she’ll float –
Nile-Isis, river-mote –
your eye-in-hand (nearby, Cahokian).



inside the coracle


You hear the rustle of a spring
in the moss forest;
in the immaculate nest
inside the coracle.  Outside, nothing.

Milton tutored Williams in Italian;
Roger taught John a mite
of basic Narragansett
collecting firewood around London

to banish winter at the poorhouse.
Here in January ice
beside the river, ICE
is on my mind.  The Emperor’s

in league with Herod, every infant
trembles for her life;
Virgo is mummified by strife;
grieving, she murmurs her dissent

from frozen exile on external heights.
Meanwhile sweet Providence
searches for evidence
& Lincoln coins... irrevocable rights.

Your imago, moss copper-serpentine
(between Son of Man
& some unbending pine
of immeasurable heaven) is Washington

redeemed, again; your Virgo (hovering
ethereal triangle
o’er Spotsylvania) might mingle
with Virginia clay... Jonah, recovering.



to restore a soul


To restore a soul, to mend a broken heart
out of the wells of memory
for relief of misery
for your grace we pray.  A crane bone flute

keening her lonely call might still redeem
the wind that carries it
on the storm-clouds.  Fiat
lux – though the darkness loom.

This primitive wooden Vierge Ouvrante
unveils her secret world
with a copper hinge.  Old
masters of le Verbe significant

carved, flickered into form
a buoyant microcosm
within her oaken beam –
a human shelter from the storm.

Cicadas buzz amid burnt branches
of a poem framing history.
It is a mystery.
Isis on her throne, Ariadne’s hunches,

spider-Minotaur in his plangent web...
the sacrifice of innocence
behind a screen (some dense
thicket of Pig’s Eye Social Club).

The wind is clear & clean tonight.
Whole homesteads rise
toward ordinary Paradise,
warm lips forging a female Paraclete.



leaves of shades


Snow was gentle over Rhode Island
on the birthday of MLK.
It fell on tenement & highway
& on the gravestones (Irish & Italian)

near Mashapaug – where Narragansetts
warmed by winter fires
sang for their ancestors.
Henry remembered how sun sets

there, flaming the cauldron west of town –
suffusing with rich violet light
(flower of Ocean State)
seven hardscrabble hills.  Raven has flown.

Memory like a lonesome sepulcher
is quiet as the dust.
His loves (merged in one ghost
dance) circle Blackstone’s Catholic Oak.

& he walks by dark brooding Mississippi
through brown scrub
like Hobo in an empty tub,
or Orpheus without his head – see

the Maenads turn to friendly tadpoles
wriggling alongside, as
he wails downstream?  Alas!
High in his Ravenna dome, haloes

of milky starlight crown a shepherd’s brow.
Mosaic over Memphis
(or Atlanta)... Isis
enthroned, or Miriam?  Jonah’s almond prow.



ancient West Branch watercolor


Everything gets more simple
in old age.  Trust me.
Thanksgiving pumpkin pi =
two stone pillars, plus an ample

roof.  Henry Mewl, hee-hawing
NNW (out of Apuleius)
checkmates template Isis 
planted in West Branch (settling

in river-bronze).  Like that watercolor
Mary Negus limned
in high school – skimmed
from unlocked memory (her

Grant Wood brain, a dusty library).
The curve prongs back to earth
west of St. Lou. – Ft. Worth.
Van Cliburn Plumbs to Victory.

I was walking up from the Mississippi
this afternoon, & met
(in Voronezh sunlight)
an ancient babushka, smiling at me.

Thinking of Nadezhda, & of hope...
of Mary Magdalen,
who witnessed Russian
irony in the garden (roped-

off Gesthem – Tsarskoe Selo).
The dream song blinks
until your lighthouse winks.
Wry rosy Providence (all systems go).



bottled in an oak-knot


A silver filigree of January ice
atop the Mississippi.
An eye from remote milky
paradise congeals mid-stream.

In the mandorla, the king smiles
who must die.  Rain
wells from Magdalenian
locks, sways down the aisles.

Reality’s an unctuous parasite
whose masculine will
melds to feminine style.
Psyche’s a rose (hermaphrodite).

You search the scriptures, yet
you do not come to Me.
My mother is a refugee,
her kid’s a goldfinch in a net.

Light shivers off the snow, & down
the stream.  Only a dream.
A 3-dimensional scheme
with vanishing pt. in Providence town.

They chased that woman to her grave,
who danced in Paris on the eve
of the Great War.  Her wave
of splendor... Morning Star’s mild sleeve.

La Mancha waits like Camelot
for the happy restoration
of good ship Madeleine
Marie’s cosine (bottled in an oak-knot).



milk of Melchizedek


The aftermath of Epiphany leaves a trace
on the phosphorus snowpath
to the river.  Wrath
versus innocence, my Falcon-Ace

overcome, once for all – in the grace
of a tumbledown guest room
south of Cairo.  (Khartoum,
Alabama?  Memphis?  Someplace.)

Milk of Melchizedek, from starry heights.
Flows through the stone
like Horus off his throne –
like that downward eagle (sights

set on Last Things, Illinois)
Joachim (Francisco boy)
daubed once (with joy)
on Dante’s lambskin rainbow eye.

Henry crawls to the riverbank,
with Hobo.  His numbers
match that Mediator-
Aviator’s, by the grace of Frank –

Tuscan Jesus-mime, Povertà-
swain – Hobo’s Frisco
fresco-twin (hey yo).
The word is cryptic in Columbia

(District)... flies back to mountains
overlooking Red Wing,
Galilee.  So sing,
old Rhody pioneer – Astraea understands.



12th Night fol-de-rol


This airy painted Christmas ball
with its river of snowflakes,
twin gondola remakes
wobbling between the RISD Market Hall

& Industrial National Bank –
old Providence downtown.
Little lonesome microcosm
some winter night.  World on the brink.

In New Orleans, in the French Quarter
they’re rifling a king cake
for the royal bean.  What make
& manner of lass or laddie shall be heir?

Assail the wassail; mayhap we’ll see.
Everything is topsy-turvy.
Plastic Jesus is a curvy
smiley-doll – wee replica of you & me.

Let’s party.  Okean River flows
down from Milky Way
to Ocean State... happy
birthday!  Queen Flower-Child knows

all about Path P; X mark ze spot
where little Charlie’s acorn
sprung into a tall greenhorn.
Watching over still – almond knot-

maze in flutestones of Chartres
(her name is Jessie)
wavering out of Galilee.
Canoes bear her palladium (& ours).