Sunday, April 05, 2020

April

I

I have asked how not to become morose
at a time when all lights flicker, a time

when the sky hesitates, the sun
avoids my glance, and the moon

pitches after a restless night into
the sickly western haze.

The dawn is not cool; the afternoon
has no warmth; evening brings a glare

of streetlamps, blue and unlovely,
that give false counsel to the moths

and little of use to my feet.
I have asked, and receive your silence.



II

Well, I will try my own answers.
To live at times of crisis is the common lot:

we are not singled out. Boccaccio 
pulled his hood over his nose and hurried away,

Chaucer put off his trip to Paris, and wondered
if his butt of wine would come this year.

Peevish princes, venal and unwise
are not a new invention of our time,

nor are mobs that drag a man
with the wrong name off to death.

These are old, old stories. 
Often told, half-listened.



III

And no answer. Let me try again:
all this fret and unease comes

because we think we know:
and we do not know.

There are better times and worse times, perhaps;
certainly lives happier, lives more distressed;

but we are swallowed by the fish of the future
and what we will find in its belly

we do not know. Not what we thought.
Did we really love the lineaments 

of the made world so much, that we must
fear to lose them? Let them go.



IV

Democracy, the rights of man, 
the golden rule: they will all be found

and lost again, broken and restored.
The storytelling apes will have 

their algae-bloom, their die-off;
the rains will come and the seas will rise.

Is it our business to know, or even to attend?
Yesterday at twilight an apple tree

was heavy with white blossom,
whiter than could be believed, so that I stopped

and tried to tell how mere reflection 
could be brighter than the dimming sky.


V

The wind rises. Branches toss their heads,
a ruffle runs through the ferns; sparrows

jostle by the pool. There is a new front,
slate gray, implacable, moving inland:

too slow for the motion to be seen, but eating up the sky.
Still silent? Or is this your answer? Rain,

a day-long, week-long rain. The crows call
each to each. All my failures are laid out

before me, but even those
the rising wind lifts, and carries away:

it leaves only this blessing, 
this enormous blessing, of the rain. 

6 comments:

Pascale Parinda said...

This is very beautiful, Dale.

Dale said...

Thank you Pascale!

Note: Chaucer was granted an annual butt of wine by the King, which would have been, I guess a couple hundred bottles' worth: a significant part of his income.

Larry said...

Very eloquent and thoughtful, Dale!

Dale said...

Thanks, Larry!

Anonymous said...

Hi, sir. You don't know me. I'm actually in the process of doing research for a final I have to write for my Chaucer class. I got half-way through your article and decided to google you and surprise! Look what I find? Beautiful - amazing - esoteric poetry. Normally, I would just close my browser window and think to myself "that was an incredible find." But I'm in the mood to let you know to your face. This poem is stunning. Thank you for your voice. You wrote this article in 1991. And this poem just recently. Anyways, keep looking at the stars and sending you and your family good vibes. ts.

Dale said...

Hey, thanks so much! Heh, my career as a Chaucer scholar was very short and very long ago, but I'm glad to know people still stumble across it every once in a while :-)