Weeping Silver by Dan Graves
Copyright ÂŠ 2012 Dan Graves
Contents After the Quarrel Destructive pride
Christ’s Passion An overlooked dimension of Christ’s pain
Cosmos Within a Cosmos How can a part be greater than the whole?
In Brown December Fewer flourishes, more understanding
John Blakely Getting what you want…not how you want
Nightscape with Moon The poignancy of collapsing civilization
Prayer of the Besieged Suffocation by lies
Ten Thousand Miles of Loss A nostalgic look at Papua
Two Limericks Time out for fun
Weeping Silver An apt simile for sin
Moon over Water. Nasa photo.
After the Quarrel The spent words still stinging between us coldly settle, preventless as the evening dew: whey on grey metal. The moon is milk mirrored in ice of her own making so soon to be shivered my heart sheers near breaking. Why, why balk we tongueless and let distance thicken? Love dies, dies defenseless, proud-booted, mute stricken.
“After the Quarrel” was first published in The Lyric. I wrote it on a 1,000 mile trip back from seeing family in Oklahoma, and no, my wife and I hadn’t been fighting. I had just read Hamilton’s The Seven Principles of Poetry. A line occurred to me “The moon is milk mirrored in ice” and I decided to construct a poem around that image. Ice suggested a cold relationship and the rest developed from there. © copyright Dan Graves - 5
Christ on the Cross, Hans Holbien the Younger
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Christ’s Passion Smack in his face we dashed the hot, raw oil of sin: the careless oath, the easy lie, the scurrilous jest and smirk, the so-sly innuendo. Did he wince at Earth’s moil sharp-stabbing him? How could we not recoil in presence of one who spoke eye to eye with God? How not clip our tongues when by this man whom choirs hymned on Heaven’s soil? We speak with awe of passion week—the glare, the fierce priests, Christ’s sinless posture, the roar, the blood, the hidden God, the tyrant kings; Yet those brief hours scarcely can compare with thirty years of silent thorns he wore: our gaucheries, our facile palterings.
This sonnet originally appeared in Rolling Coulter. The editors wrote me they seldom accepted poetry in traditional forms, but felt compelled to make an exception for this. © copyright Dan Graves - 7
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Cosmos Within a Cosmos I am a cosmos within a cosmos, a box within a box a conundrum, a paradox. Less but greater, I than the galaxies I eye. That which contains me, I contain— infinitude compassed by my brain. I comprehend that which comprehends me not; nature’s age-old magnitude caged in ephemeral thought. The light that shines between the stars is blind— yet freights memory to my mind. How can this be? How can joy illumine an individual grain of sea-polished sand when the long beach knows neither joy nor pain?
This was the first of three poems that appeared in my withdrawn science fiction novel The Riftstone. It asks a question that naturalism cannot answer without destroying reason. © copyright Dan Graves - 9
Winter Cornfield. Courtesy of Chris Anderson stock.xchng
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In Brown December In brown December, when the winds and the rain bare branch and bank, and the brooks run swollen, and the trees stir leafless again; When chill air makes smoke of my breath, fraying out before me as a soul uncoils at death; When the dun stalks of grass in pale crispness are beaten down and the wild berry vines sag shriveled, their scant pips sere and blown; When hasty snows sun themselves a day but on the next are nowhere found save in the moist root hollows where thick roots grip the ground; When the bark-brown chickadee sings, claiming neither territory nor mate but from a throat too full of gladness to abate; When baroque Summer and beribboned Fall are past and the roots and arms and curves of things are seen— Earth’s unencumbered pattern plain at last, shed of cloaking leaf and guileful shade— then is God most justified in what he’s made.
This first appeared in one of the Test of Truth newsletters I published. My allergies permit me to walk in the woods only in fall and winter, so I have grown to appreciate those seasons. © copyright Dan Graves - 11
Prison, courtesy of Miguel Saavedra. Stock.xchng
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John Blakely Behold, John Blakely, cosmopolitan, Who leaped the ruts that curb the common man. Punch-clocks he spurned and puttering dull swabs For jesting comrades and audacious jobs. He honed his skills and climbed above the herd And purged all sentiments which interfered. He craved the best: a tailored suit, a belle, A Rolls to sport her inâ€”and play the swell. Yet as he struts, surveying his domain, The time he calls his own galls like a chain. Yesâ€”wags and wits encompass him around And in their clique no low-heeled girls are found; His clothes are suited to his social caste And, when he rides abroad, eyes pin him fast. But his success is bittered by this gall: His cosmos is defined by a cell wall.
I worked for nineteen and a half years as a prison librarian and could not help but notice the ironies herein. ÂŠ copyright Dan Graves - 13
Full Moon Near Horizon. Nasa photo.
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Nightscape with Moon: Impression on Soul The moon, if not full, is nearly so, Caressing apple blossom and plum To pearl. The blues and golds artists show Quite miss the truth by which I become Enchantment’s drunkard. Ah, brimming cup! Tranquility laps you rim to rim— Translucent, shimmering—fills you up To your mountainous brim. I yearn to draw into my soul light From mottled alabasters; from glints Of Dew; from silvered petals of night; From cinerous highlights that strike hints Of argent upon umbrous leaf-clots. I yearn to draw into my soul peace— Night-gleaned where whispering apricots Their flowering scents release. The hills are purple bedclothes behind, Carelessly rumpled; the lane before, That from my doorstep seems to unwind, Emerges its hollows little more Than a ghostly exhalation where It melds into the paved public way, Dissolving as the moonlight so fair Must dissolve with breaking day. In night like this, my lips should kiss Peace. Loss should not, a startled flock, rise In squawking flurry to shatter bliss; Or whisper cirrus-like through the skies With shadow. For my musings are grieved By a blind nation which, moonlike, sails © copyright Dan Graves - 15
To history’s horizon, bereaved When God’s day of wrath prevails. I managed to misplace this poem for several years, but found a copy while cleaning the attic in 2011. It expresses my sense of the tragic loss of our Christian civilization, the rejection of the memory of God which has turned past peoples into pagans.
Afghan Market. National Guard photo.
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Prayer of the Besieged Open your ears to my plea, O God; Close not your eyes to my prayer; Send truth to still my riot, Lord, And hope, to quell my anxious care. Wicked men besiege my mind, O Lord; Foolish men, claiming you cannot be known; They harrow my soul with a drag-rake of lies To uproot the truths youâ€™ve sown. You spoke the stars with a word, O God; With a word bestowed on man his mind; Breathe now! and silence the myths of men; Stop the babbling mouths of mankind. Feed me, Father, on unwatered truth; Smash the pagan shrines that wart my soul; Put singleness of heart in me And burn my wayward lusts to coal. Strike off my chains of errant thought; Turn me back from the market-stalls of lies; Bring light to me in this shadow-fooled place, Where my soul, but for clear-seeing, dies. Turn, turn, O Lord, and fight for me; Thwart lies with your swift-staving stroke. I will praise you, O Lord, when I see Lies shredded like fraying smoke. This was the second of three poems that appeared in my withdrawn science fiction novel The Riftstone. I am continually appalled by the lying spirit of the media. ÂŠ copyright Dan Graves - 17
Pumi region of Papua. Family photo.
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Ten Thousand Miles of Loss Across ten thousand miles of loss I cast my plea: Come, Spirit of Papua! Seize me by my hands. Speed me over the oceans. Bear me swiftly up your heights. Waft me upward, into the Southern Highlands. There I’ll hunt like a lonely pilot above the clouds Until I find a break and hurtle through, The trees spinning and righting themselves beneath me, Shagging the mountains I knew. I will stand an hour or two, filling my lungs With the redolence of red clay after rain. Faint with memories, I’ll stand, my eyes exultant, My face aflame with joy. I’ll be home, home again. Bring me under a spraying mountain fall— To shudder with shock from its grandeur and cold. Bid the sun loose me a startling shaft To paint the wet pebbles pink and gold. Press away the clouds. Show me cerulean sky With a single hawk spiraling its circuit in space; Ripple the now-glowing grass with an afternoon breeze To brush lightly its wing and my face.
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When I splash from the pool, I’ll pause Upon its ferny brink, drinking the smoketanged air. I will gaze across the Valley of Witus, Remembering the green vistas there. The white foam will drone into its bowl, Bubbling where sunlight makes play— Glinting from mica and glossing damp leaves, Sprinkling rainbows in the spray. Send a cessena to resonate the hills And bring boys whooping along a trail, Buzzing their lips with engine-like sounds, Grasping cane airplanes by the tail. Though all be ruined, yet show me Maio station. Set me invisibly down while the sun Drops in lemon, lavender and rose Beyond Ialibu, completing its westerly run. I will greet the wink of Coleman lamps, Marking the mission stations; And hear the hissing meteorites Plunge from glittering constellations. A torch will flare in a distant tree Where a bird hunter slowly climbs down; And bats will chug with leathery wings As the night melts mysteriously brown. Keep me, Papua, a little while longer (Hear, a yodeler sings-out some news!);
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Cloak the changes I dread with gossamer light; Let me wander till chilled by the dews.
This is my favorite of a cycle of poems from my memories of Papua, which includes lyrics on its mountains, rivers, rains, foods, forests and people. The cycle was written while I was under the spell of Vachel Lindsay’s “The Congo.” © copyright Dan Graves - 21
Hen, courtesy of Philip MacKenzie. stock.xchng
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Feeling the Pinch
Said one sore hen to her temporal lord (Farmer Brown gleaning his hennery hoard) “I’m egged-on to lay Shelled plasm each day And each egg leaves me feeling more bored.”
Down by the Frog Pond
The dreamy young Princess of Wight Claimed, “Each frog is a prince in a plight.” Her cousin, Hugh Linnit, Scoffed, “There’s nothing in it”— But he croaked in her pond all last night.
No publisher found these as amusing as I did.
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Moonlight Landscape by Washington Allston
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Weeping Silver Gentle is the caress of a kind woman on a fevered brow; gentler still the slow snow on a still day; but gentlest is the moon, weeping silver, upon sin’s mauve night-shroud.
The last of the three poems that appeared in my withdrawn science fiction novel The Riftstone. I call this form a “butterfly” for obvious reasons. © copyright Dan Graves - 25
ÂŠ copyr i ght2012 Dan Gr aves Trus t wort hyPubl i cat i ons