Cape May, NJ: Memoirs of an Old House, Shakespeare’s Moths
CAPE MAY, NJ: MEMOIRS OF AN OLD HOUSE
Ah, but I talk too much for an old house.
Enough now. Understand the rest on your own.
Take the Saturday tour. Meet my friends.
Some are well cared for, others rundown.
But all, like me, are well past one hundred,
with the sun still hot, the rain still wet,
and the termites gnawing.
Yet, with brick and mortar souls,
we stand the watch like knights of old.
Oh, but how the stars tease us
when the night rises
like a lover from their bed,
and they comb the silver light
let it fall in laughter
from their hair
while we look up,
our eyes aglow in varnish,
our smiles framed and stiffened,
the green of summer once unsettled
now forever stilled.
Our worth is of another day,
its measure penny nails
and yards of wood,
the morning's beauty born of hammers
their cawing noisy, iron, birds
on scaffolds raw and climbing,
each new angle given lift
by a merry burst of song,
the midday vine-like ropes and veins
the carpenters' sleeves rolled up
his strong arms set to working.
But his whistling is over,
his day is done,
his lunch pail forgotten
left to rust,
its reds running like mice
under the porch.
Oh, but how the seasons fell,
oak and pine in one green chord
of perfect days.
How I miss their dog
old and gentle
she brought the autumn in
on her paws.
Five blocks long, with ample trees,
we form a shaded line.
On windy days we clutch our roofs like hats,
and look out to the sea.
Our silence in perfect compliment
to the cries of the gulls
and the Cape's afternoon light.
I. The Swarm
We fight in blinding, searing arcs that cut like swords.
Our souls half insect, half man, angels slaved
to engines of ill design
that compel us to rise each night
in wild careening flights. Our faith is the bomber's—
a religion of beads and relics held in hand
as we circle, in ships with masts like crosses.
Black sails, grim flags, dark prayers,
the words unfurled in war.
Who will be our God? Silent, furious, we ask,
our wings beating against the flames
until in singing ash we fall,
our hearts in embers to the ground's cruel swordplay
limbs hacked and carried off by crawlers,
our wings their blood red trophies on the sill.
II. Mortal Combat
Juliet! Juliet! I have fallen!
My love for you is sweeter than all the fields of France.
You are Eve's garden ripe and wild,
its rich life spilling over in colors that stain the ground.
The curve of your wanton hip shames a guileless god.
Your hands let flowers fall in colored petals
to a green, green, earth.
I dream of you as a saint.
Your grace transforms these words to birds,
then to children, then to stars.
My death is nothing now, a drug I take
that tastes of blood and dreams.
When I wake, I will stand on different shores,
my sword raised against the sun.
III. The Raid on God's House
I saw Him once.
His house beneath me on the ancient road
that rose and canted in the light like a dream.
As I tapped, He peered through the glass,
an invalid blind as the stars.
His face was disdainful as a king's,
the eyes, though, were a beggar's—
vacant, and milked over. Common.
Brown not blue. Divinity balding,
hidden under an old campaign hat.
He raised a trembling, veined hand
and with a shake of the curtain shooed me away.
Then without a word, as if I had never been born,
He turned His back.
IV. To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
Nineteen raids, twenty nights.
How I long for the end of summer's tapping!
Oh, to be a wriggler again, cocooned
and safe in the crystal bed of winter.
There to sleep, perchance to dream
the little dreams of shoots and leaves,
and there again, to hear the old ones
humming in their wells,
and there again, to watch them spin
their night sky myths of a heaven
careless and rich. Eternity calling
like a window left open.
My God, my God, why are sins so fast
and wings so slow?