LOVE'S LABOR FOUND
a romp through retrieved forms and loves
He—shallow, callow with no rightful truthful name,
He—trapped and shackled in the white man’s sinful rule,
without the chance to laugh or understand, so lame
I was—society’s begotten shameful tool,
while learning how to be a god-damned simple fool;
sweet innocence already lost while still a youth,
was rope stretched tight and squeezed around my school,
and torn beneath the raving savage moral tooth
that chewed my lies, denied and swallowed my one truth.
Before I knew just how to laugh, or weep,
or sin, or be, with ignorance no bliss to me,
gray shadowed robbers crept into my waking sleep
to blind, to bind, to find and close my eyes to see
that every gift contained its sad and secret fee
which writhed and strained beneath its covering lying wrap;
so all I knew and felt was not to trust—but disagree,
reject at once each offered tender waiting lap
as but a silly smile—a silly baited trap.
Wild boy of darkness both in day and night;
dry tears he pumped within that fell without
and came in nightmares, even as the light
of reassuring sun spread all about
and in the hearts of men put fear to rout.
This boy who could not sing his sorry song,
ears granite deaf to all but threat and shout,
whose every right was somehow turned to wrong,
no place, no folk—where he could quite belong.
His panic blast increased hard alien space
that differentiated him from all
but few within the fellowship—this human race—
that could not speak to him or hear his call,
his howl for rescue in the downward fall
of aimless heart that wandered in a maze
to grab at this, or that, or anything at all,
that might relieve hallucination’s craze,
blow out the veils and fog, release his stone black gaze.
Yet something, something in him would not die—
hung on, lived on, unthought of and unknown, to him,
to them, to all, to anyone gone by,
or anyone still left to sense his whim
that this was not the death that dies in sin,
does not succumb at last in dull fatigue,
afraid to loose and yet afraid to win.
His unknown nature made its own intrigue—
weaving silent plots beneath his conscious league.
Now say this song is mine to sing and mine alone,
for I am neither he nor she—indeed just me;
I write these words and sing this song—
my own emblazoned jamboree
that sends my soul aloft and sets it free
to seek an answer to its hungry quest;
Oh! Feed this seeking mouth and let it be
all nature’s pain and pleasure—thus expressed.
Find what I will, accepting as my all
the varied spices, sweet and bitter, salt
and sour, all distilled from out of Hell’s own gall,
without a caveat, without a halt
that might deny or shade a single fault,
or measure out the same whatever’s blessed,
enjoying every truth that might exalt
all nature’s pain and pleasure—thus expressed—
savor, taste, life’s every given flavor
presented and distributed to me
as elements considered thus a favor;
as water swells and melts into the sea,
all creation’s laughter, all creation’s glee
continues as a flow without arrest
in princely generosity to me
all nature’s pain and pleasure—thus expressed.
Sweet girl, I give it all to you sans fee—
for your full giving breast
which spills the milk of all eternity—
all nature’s pain and pleasure thus expressed.
Explaining what and why and how we are
made and born and under just what star
from destinies which help or those which mar
whether here or there or near or far
from destinies that help or those which mar
our singular persona, or could jar
or halt or speed the progress of our car
thundering to break through each and every bar.
This singer seeks to understand the maze,
that strangles and entangles my vision’s searching gaze
my quest to comprehend, at least accept
with grace all things presented; none reject.
Was I so arrogant or foolish made
to think that I might grasp the all of this and all there is
in some preposterous and unfair beggar’s trade,
where I’d receive it all with naught to give
of love or wisdom’s best of which we’re made,
I might consent to be and do and live
in thrall to time and serve as custom’s slave,
no errors of ambition to forgive—
but errors of the heart I quick forgave—
for not to bend to these is not to live
with tenderness and fire, for which I crave
no kind release and no ameliorative.
Therefore, dear friends, I would not be a knave
encountering her eyes with no return
of my own heart’s reciprocating gaze,
and be a willing student, and intern
myself to my own self, and self amaze,
enduring answers I have yet to learn -
enduring questions I have yet to raise -
what knowledge I do find within her eyes
which I will use to glorify and praise
the very one from which it did arise.
Receive this kind intention and be brave
enough my lady, and with grace enhance
these lines with all the blessings that I crave,
when I have risked my best for just a chance
to draw my image deep within your soul
as any troubadour of ancient France,
winning your affection with yourself my goal.
Consider this my pledge and promise won,
to keep my fire burning with your sun.
The Whole of it All and All of it the Whole
Canto the 1st
Where and when existence sought me out and said; come in
and make a home among the rest; and why my name was called—
this summons not a little thing—no idle "just perhaps";
this birth might be decreed in full with no exception granted;
where choice is silent not esteemed nor heard or known,
not recognized at all in fact, unseen by any dwellers here
or other dwellers hereabouts; unknown, at least unheard
by any we might know that could announce ourselves to us.
To qualify or quantify or explanation tell—
and who besides would listen?—with some unknown dictionary
of a language never heard to spell out my presumed existence
is more than I would dare to undertake or try to comprehend.
But here I find myself quite unannounced, a guest of some
as yet unmanifested host who may, or may not be,
within the house, or anywhere about these vast uncharted grounds,
who has not even deigned to introduce himself to me.
What can I do but search among the minutes of my time?
wandering through my vast uncertain unknown past terrain,
misunderstood, and sometimes not quite understood at all
by my own hard bought cognizance; forget then any others—
what do they see, or think they see, how shall they speak to me?
when deaf and dumb as I? The knowledge that I seek within
cannot be found without; and peace I must then make with this
stone circumstance that will not give to sweat and strain and push
and shove, not just for me and not it seems for any other.
Must I forever tremble in the corridors and graveyards?
without a Virgil to instruct and count my miss-placed steps
and point with his prophetic finger; "look, this is the way—
where everything must link and come together in a better scheme—
a finer answer than a man can dream who only looks
through windows of his brain". Perhaps in reminiscence lies
a thread to weave into still other threads, bind into rope,
self-binding patiently reveals itself—the form and web
which is the whole of everything I seek. If I begin
to read the catalogue of volumes in the library
that stuffs my mind, perhaps I’ll find a book of dusty photographs
and come upon the one in which will shine my own Beatrice,
there in her visage recognize the soul of all that I desire.
Poetic prescience is the thing allowing me to cheat;
but I will not reveal just yet whose picture I have seen.
Canto the 2nd
Light came to me in those first stirrings of my childish heart
that even now I well remember; dumb-struck joy and silent dreams
both day and night that visited imagination, first awakened me
in leaps of fantasy to close the gaps between desire and apostasy;
poetry that did not know the how, the place, the why from whence it came.
but come it did, without an invitation; and first showed hint of pleasure
locked inside the person of another without the show of how to take it out,
a shining guest arrived too early at the tender ball,
sewing clouds of sweet confusion, legs that stammered
but did not altogether fail and fall; not yet, not yet.
I, for one, will hold, defend, and celebrate the love
that comes too early to be reconciled with any act
of graceful satisfaction, will not be praised by poets,
will not be part of masculinity’s too loud and trumped up boast,
embodied as it is in childhood’s panic years; the cause
of later laughter, the cause of later tears, when later is the time
those things have names and places in man’s older schemes.
I remember all the seizures, all the pleasures, all the mindless glee,
and all the treasures of the blameless mind that she in all her innocence
bestowed on innocence of mine. With my maimed entrance
into the worlds society, this girl, this waif of kindergarten,
enlightened me and blinded me with all the savage spells
later I would use to fuse my heavens and my hells.
And every night before I slept we did heroic things,
we danced, we sang, perhaps,—we kissed, we flew on childhood’s wings;
and all that time within my mind although she stayed the same
she never once addressed me and I never knew her name.
Somewhere before that time of sweet regret and dizzy pain
I must have savored something else as do all mortal men -
that first milk-song that too soon died yet left a deep refrain
of blood-notes that echo in my mind that swell and come again
in amber tones arising from the soundless sea, preserved,
bejeweled, and dimly glows with memories of origin,
prepared to make their presence felt and leave their host un-nerved,
uncertain jewels that anchor in a more uncertain diadem.
Though from this marker I have often fled or swerved
or backed away; still buried there are all my kith and kin
that hold some places, persons dear, where time has gently curved
upon itself; memorials in flesh and blood and bone,
exceptional and singular for being well considered,
well held, and thus, well standing, justly by themselves alone,
unlike the rest that left me restless, crying, and embittered
to early in the morn of life to grieve. How should I then have known?
shamed and wounded in my soul all understanding far,
too far away, with such a pain-embroidered path to trod,
this serenade played loud upon an iron-bound and spiked guitar
that’s strummed by sharp and saw-toothed cold steel rods.
Then whenever light breaks through that blast, that furnace of black smoke
that kills, destroys, and annihilates whatever trust I built,
and turns and points a spear-like finger making me a joke
to find my own fool-self alone, none else to bare the guilt.
Who understands the pain I give is pain that I received,
which does not fault a current source who cannot know my ills
or know that every blow I give has left me sore and grieved.
All these awkward trips, these clumsy stupid blood - soaked spills
come all unbidden to my knowing mind and shoot in crazy shocks
through all my feeling system. They blind the aim of actions
that eliminate perception’s well meant foolish blocks,
and hold my good intentions chained by foolish factions.
And thus what I would cherish, hold and only praise this while
I cause regret—resentment’s bile with every inch of love a desperate mile.
Who can see this cut-throat winter far ahead?
While wrapped in sunshine’s mantle of gold fleece
who is so prescient when lying soft in bed
to know that present joys in melancholy cease;
will prophesy, blown down like walls gone dead
with stones of sorrow’s rubble built to piled increase,
where former comfort’s walls once stood now heaped below—
crushed monuments entombed beneath Mar’s waste—
pale torn-down petals buried in the snow.
When once you gave me heavens cup to taste
and bade me drink 'til I was drunk with you,
now all that was and could have been is waste.
Your name is the summation of my love,
summation of my sorrow and my grief;
this I cannot push away or shove
into oblivion or hold beneath
some monument or bury in a grove,
these memories I wear—a funeral wreath.
Sweet mother, girl, and wife, and friend,
who nurtures me and buries me the same,
and makes for birth or death my start and end?
Whose magic makes me straight or turns me out
and halt, like some blind beggar who at will
all gods and man and nature put to rout
with his unnecessary cup to fill
in mimicry and cheaters skill.
Were I so blessed to keep my love
would then my love keep me?
Depends what she is made of.
Will my fingers fit her glove?
Will she drink my private tea?
Were I so blessed to keep my love.
Will she find my love enough?
or to avoid it flee?
Depends what she is made of.
Will she find me sweet or tough?
How then, I ask, tastes she?
Were I so blessed to keep my love.
Will we argue to agree—
agree to arguments of love?
Depends what she is made of.
Who can say she’s quite above,
or lying just below me
were I so blessed to keep my love?
depends what she is made of.
Canto the 3rd
What madness turns a fiery heart to shame
all yesterdays tomorrows and today?
when lips that touched between each uttered name
and could not cease their blushing reddened play,
that for themselves and not for any aim
felt pleasure’s rule; did not admit display,
did not assume some noble handsome creed
to justify both mind and body’s need.
Each truth as hurled by its internal sling
cannot deny its point of origin—
that cord in tact, by which it still must cling
at end, a part of where it must begin.
Not water separated from the spring—
the good not separate from the sin—
the road describing all and everything
continues as a circle fast within.
You best not keep your blameful attitude
that shows your heart to be a platitude.
No shame is found within the depth of love
that must refuse to swim against the tide;
exemplar I, as one caught in the flood
feels all excepting one is slipping by;
not caring for the flower or the bud
inferring what the other might imply.
A reckless pact kept only with myself
to spend today tomorrow’s wealth.
Because I sat beside the evening fire
bemused in spirit, censors all asleep,
becalmed, not knowing what would soon transpire,
not quite aware the vigil she would keep,
or what defense my safety would require
against the machinations of the deep
determined aim her reckless lust pursued
without regard, where judgment should intrude.
I know I stayed, and stayed, and stayed,
in tired fascination all unknown,
unrecognized, with certain fears allayed
if not by words then by the tongue licked tone
that paralyzed my guard and much amazed
reflection when at last I was alone;
a sfumatora made of my desire—
this I wore instead of smart attire.
But no! no, no! I will not castigate
my love, but rather turn my memory
to realize such passions are innate,
immune, against banal reality;
Indifferent to the call that says deflate
illusions of desire and of vanity
that make the worth of what you will decree
suppress the judgment of humility.
The worth of what is worthy to desire
and place within its matching frame, obscured
by lust goes undetected by its sire;
a vessel uncontrolled, no longer moored
within the dock that safety would require,
constraint no longer kept that would ensure
discernment or discretion in the choice
of song that should be sung and by what voice.
But I for one would never recommend
a love that could be bent, or made to serve
a vain philosophy that seeks to end
the pitch, the height, the thrust, the verve
of all the reckless melody, that must attend
and orchestrate the song of every nerve—
a chorus of a thousand Romeos
that bleed and die in love’s sweet throes.
Is that the reason this man’s passion
jumps its traces , bolts beyond the track
of its just course? A maverick wild within
the train of thoroughbreds, it will attack
its sweetest mare, spend too free its ration
of brute anger? Would not he take it back
and end the jealous wasteful thrusts he spent
which wound himself not her, and close his bad intent.
To end this sweaty history and breathe
instead the perfume of her love and dwell
on mysteries her body taught me to achieve
that ring my black depression’s final knell,
spit on the rest! and take my final leave
farewell, farewell, farewell again farewell.
look on my lady’s face and not return,
reject past pattern’s plight, disown, unlearn.
It’s long past time, and I have come to tell
in words however poor—no, no, to praise—
allowing passion’s tide to raise and swell
a rocking, racking, sea-foam’s bursts and waves
in chanteys never heard before, pell-mell
impelling its sweet notes along the staves.
now sing that song that rising to the heights
my glory girl’s magnificence invites.
How well I know what they all say
is vain chit-chat, all vain display
they cannot see her in my way
how well I know what they all say
is limited by disarray
of all their vision gone astray
how well I know what they all say
is vain chit-chat, all vain display.
what if I failed to recognize
her glance, her eyes, her tender smile
that charmed my words, removed the guile
from my sore heart and cleansed my wounds
of all infection,—to release
and launch this soul’s perfection.
Canto the 4th
to what use put this correction
what better use than recognize
she who brings me this release
than I return her loving smile
forgetting all my painful wounds
forgetting what I had of guile.
beloved tends me all this while
treats with wisdom’s own selection
all my nights and all my noons
all my infections sterilize
sees through illness’s disguise
and bids them tenderly to cease.
beloved with your other hand
tending to me all this while
and thus bring tender thoughts to rise
you keep me back from the connection
of what I see with my own eyes
and hear as quite another tune
the notes belonging to this rune
that spells affection spilled in sand
so truth won’t thus to me apprise
when with each inch I see a mile
gravestone seen as resurrection
so you lead to false surmise
a sunset as a dead sunrise
and sanity cries like a loon
seeming born in its demise
bizarre dance of mad inflection
that you conduct yet all the while
you play at love my love deny
so I surmise to me applies
midnight heated by bright noon
understand? it’s your reflection!
Just like a shuttlecock that lost its loom
My darting thought and so uncertain trust
That trusts not even of itself, too soon
Obscures pure thought with opaque lust
And sees you in the mirror of my doubt
That doubtless does not see your truth is true
Distorts reflection's own perception out
And far beyond the image it once knew.
Proportioned of one’s own well trusted heart
Now rebuts its own intended aim
And for the whole accepts the lesser part
Of all he loves and then regrets the game.
There is yet time; there is yet time, dear friend
To hold, and kiss, and cry, and make amend.
Away is not a place within our world
you and I and here is every day
furled is not a shape our banner ever is
it stays uncurled
its life without the smallest question
surety is what it gives
makes no selection
that separates or fails to understand
is the only plural
we accept in our command.
Pointless efforts made against our whole
to separate and keep us joyless
the clowns that wield their envy as a hammer
in their self made prison; grant them no parole
as they will and claim their judgment just
wrapped tight in all their moral armor
corroded is their righteous dumb protection
they die as die they must
for songs they never learned to sing
useless in their self proclaimed perfection.
I know that we have rolled across creation
love-sweat, tangled hair, and tangled limbs
then we are glory’s best summation
where nothing ends and everything begins
I know rain and grass and sleep
as we, they, they are and know no sins
a tree, a cloud, have never need to weep
they are and that is all they need to be
no time for waking and no place for sleep
your breath, your breasts need not explain to me
why justify the miracle with fact
or limit that which is with what should be
while we perform our most creative act
and swim inside the others moving sea
we are that sea and with our mother made this pact
we will stay so long as blue shall be.
This poem won the 2005 Margaret
Reid Poetry Contest sponsored by Tom Howard Books. Author Osmond Benoliel received a $1,000 award. Winning Writers assists this contest. Copyright is reserved to the author.