Lanthanum, bk. 1


Snow is falling over Providence.
The year draws down toward the shortest day.
The gloom of winter coming on. Away, away...
Memory gathers – grasps the future tense.

Yesterday. The park beneath gray skies.
Where Roger Williams leans from his canoe –
his hand held out, hieratic as a pharaoh.
Tall, hovering with blessing, promises.

Below the cliffside (like that park in Rome)
the city vista hovers, too. Old New England
bank buildings. Hunched shoulders blend
together, bunked along a sunken stream's

circumference. The tiny rectangles
of starry flags flit from City Hall,
State House (below the clouds' gray wall).
Here's government and history (all's local).

What governs in my heart remains unseen,
unspoken (furled). So I would (slowly) let it go.
Speak like that shady river down below,
and roll the circuit round – the what-has-been

might be, this way, the has-been's medicine.
Imagine him slumped there alone, on his seedy
hobo throne – the derelict, bereft (weedy,
windblown). His heart can't win

(she's gone). Only gray wisdom of those roving
clouds bends low to be with him, their fellow
traveler – stirs disremembered willow-
breaks, soft-muttering (and stray dove-wings).



Muse, be with me now... so the old ones sang.
So many planes and facets of the town
we could explore, just rambling around –
wondering, admiring, measuring the long and

short of every nook-and-cranny neighborhood.
A sideways glance, the touch of hands,
the rapid quips in undertones – what bends
this gray concrete toward something understood,

adorable, held nigh. Your native home.
And so we travel in a ray of memory
upward toward everywhere, this way –
ring-tones (faery theremin) – an Argo-beam

that groans so deep just as she launches out
(toward the constellated rim). Marina
in the Sparrow Hills, twin mariner,
dear consort... compass-gyroscope... my heart...

What is the summit of our knowledge, then
but shadow of Love's pathos-prow? That surges
every vein of one small Cretan labyrinth
(Time's brainstem... old familiar Providence...

your memory). Friend, boon companion,
kindred spirit (sister-dove) – long-lost
and bright refraction of one crystal
hexagon on high (rare earth, white stone) –

you are the measure of my own perception,
canon of my understanding, graven
statute in my heart – whatever's given
haven there (O, everything). My sun.



Each wave curls its own limestone Dover cliff
of snowy foam. Each day a microcosm.
Holds tight its mystery, beneath the chasm-
vault of milky sky. My little skiff

with its keen keening keel sings blind
into the wind. . . I ride along her sea-road,
blinded too. Eros, playing with his golden-
cobalt ball, unbalances mankind –

love stung me in the eyes, and swelled her sails
(away from home). Memoirs of a Vagabond
(foolish desire). Confessions of a Fond
(a little touched). The Voice that Fails.

A mute remorse, a comprehending silence.
Foot-pedaling gymnast, pianissimo
satyr (impaired biped, recycling) – O
animale compagnevole – get thee hence.

Ice-boles in the trees are tears, glinting
in low December sun. If there be Life
(for such as Berryman, Henry) – if
there be Someone in the Whisper (hinting,

glancing) – would be like this sunlight
through the icebound branches – would be
happy ending to a Winter's Tale (of misty
breath – Look there, look there!)... all right,

all right. Beyond these galaxies of Sorrow,
Shame and Fear... a turning wonder, there
in the beginning – with a childish air...
a choir that shanties through the winter snow.