"For The Word Is Flesh"


O ruined father dead, long sweetly rotten

Under the dial, the time-dissolving urn,

Beware a second perishing, forgotten,

Heap fallen leaves of memory to burn

On the slippery rock, the black eroding heart,

Before the wedged frost splits it clean apart.


The nude hand drops no sacramental flower

Of blood among the tough upthrusting weeds.

Senior, in this commemorative hour,

What shall the quick commemorate, what deeds

Ephemeral, what dazzling words that flare

Like rockets from the mouth to burst in air?


Of hypochondriacs that gnawed their seasons

In search of proofs, Lessius found twenty-two

Fine arguments, Tolet gave sixty reasons

Why souls survive. And what are they to you?

And, father, what to me, who cannot blur

The mirrored brain with fantasies of Er,


Remembering such factual spikes as pierce

The supplicating palms, and by the sea

Remembering the eyes, I hear the fierce

Wild cry of Jesus on the holy tree,

Yet have of you no syllable to keep,

Only the deep rock crumbling in the deep.


Observe the wisdom of the Florentine

Who, feeling death upon him, scribbled fast

to make revision of a deathbed scene,

Gloating that he was accurate at last.

Let sons learn from their lipless fathers how

Man enters hell without a golden bough.

"The Portrait"
My mother never forgave my father 
for killing himself, 
especially at such an awkward time 
and in a public park, 
that spring 
when I was waiting to be born. 
She locked his name 
in her deepest cabinet 
and would not let him out, 
though I could hear him thumping. 
When I came down from the attic 
with the pastel portrait in my hand 
of a long-lipped stranger 
with a brave moustache 
and deep brown level eyes, 
she ripped it into shreds 
without a single word 
and slapped me hard. 
In my sixty-fourth year 
I can feel my cheek  
still burning.