CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Praying for the Archbishop
This is my entreaty and my first word. The old
lacking in any charm, cars in the carport,
—such feverish violins—beyond established archives,
a silken paradise, overstuffed panorama.
Guns, knives, and fists prepare a brief eternity,
however it’s sliced, diced, or remembered.
Begotten by a world of forms, one regrets
the lasting effects of a brief memorandum.
A refined woman may sing the filthiest songs,
her ragged lips, ripped young men, despite
the Puritans who wear silk stockings to bed, who lately sleep
within the dream of every well-tucked sheet,
for never is there cleanliness
without its rampant shadow,
and thereupon I pitch my tent and bravely sing
in the parking lot of a burning church.
Lost hopes ashen at every Sunday barbecue,
as in the cold breath of a mouse,
turn back from that nest, curl upon my chest,
and become the dancer of my distress;
eat the heart out of my breast; ripe with the crime
and planted in infertile soil,
it surmises all that isn’t; prepares the world-mess
for everything that cannot be, infinitely.
Yet within that city, we can always shake
a youthful shape from all our aging mirrors,
being of such curve as modern music makes
of peaceful hours and careless afternoons;
We can still regret the songs we’ve sung,
that put our sleeping friends into a state of frenzy,
those lovers, outlaws, and backstabbers
who are lost, or losing, or refused the invitation.
Insistently, in the evening, a book is singing to you,
pushing you gently along the cliff-edge of sleep, until clouds brighten
a tablet abandoned near the foundry, near a river of molten steel,
creating the gray sculptural shapes of a father who punishes when he blesses.
In admiration of itself, the restless aptitude of mirrors
carries you within, where the image of mother cries to no one
in the heartless parlors of West Virginia, with thunderstorms passing
and guns in the narrow hallway, the glistening rain her master.
Perhaps now it’s acceptable for the husband to crash over fields
in his fat black car, allegro. The clamor
of hysterical men is within us, their motors run
too loudly in the vestibule of sleep, they drive like children into the future.
The dog that walked (a belling hound)
To bewitch the night with galling sound
Is citizen now of the underground,
A movie star on the darkest stage,
One for whom no age remains,
No thought of loss or of gain.
Pre-existence has delayed your fate;
Eternity also lies in state;
Resign your smile, it’s quite too late.
Let the great green world go home;
If called, put the call on hold;
All that’s warm will soon grow cold.
Your friends will seem entirely new,
Enemies blend into the view;
Behold the false, it’s also true.
No more life of falling hard,
All distance near, love too far.
The worst wound is now a scar.
The highest prize has fallen low;
When the answer’s yes, it’s also no;
Where’s love now? Below, below.
She assented so quickly
to undress you, you hoped
the person you seemed to be
would hold her, and be
loved, and turn to the wall,
blow out, as she requested,
the candle, to darken
all shapes in the room
and those within the window,
her darkness, eyes,
the light she felt then
blindly, it was something
gathered deeply, in you, as
simply your being and hers,
and a wellspring so insistent,
yet of the world apprehensive, when,
while she slept, the wall
paintings approached too near
and spread then
within you, as she
darkened, faded, and
your true life was
benighted, enormous, rare,
bathed in time, and ending
or not ending, when, at that
time, you lost her, being
your right, and that was awful.
She undressed to sleep, reversed
your life, spared
nothing, it is now forever
all. She knows
it is gone, but you
insisted as you wept
and departed, no longer empty,
that here by your remaining
when all’s attained,
a darkness comes
of the night rising
and final evenings
in the room.
Paul Hoover’s most recent poetry collections are Desolation : Souvenir (Omnidawn), En el idioma & en la tierra, translated by María Baranda (Conaculta), and Sonnet 56 (Les Figues Press), consisting of fifty-six formal versions of Shakespeare’s sonnet of that number. A second edition of his anthology, Postmodern American Poetry (W. W. Norton) will appear this spring. He teaches at San Francisco State University. An excerpt from his Sonnet 56 was published on Web Conjunctions in 2007.