EXPANSIVE POETRY ONLINE
A Journal of Contemporary Arts 

 

poems    

by
 

ROBERT DARLING
____________

QUEST

The wandering foot feels for its native sod,
as many prat- as footfalls on the way.
The hidden soul looks for the hidden god.

While finding every path already trod
and not one love that does not soon betray,
the wandering foot feels for its native sod.

Despite all promises of home it’s odd
how hoped-for hosts have always gone away,
(The hidden soul looks for the hidden god.)

and so once more turned out by some slipshod
drunken doorman condemning you to stray,
the wandering foot feels for its native sod

but finds that you’re more lost, so on you plod
as toward some promise you will have to pay:
The hidden soul looks for the hidden god

but finds fixed points have run rough-shod
through the flawed atlas of the everyday.
The wandering foot feels for its native sod.
The hidden soul looks for the hidden god.

 

ASIDE

She (and how could she not, knowing how lost
the world can come to be, or how his look
might take in more of her, that it could cost
her more than she could spend—what was he after?—
she who had with such difficulty tossed
aside so much that haunted her, resolved
to bury deeply each familiar ghost
that tortured her so long: his question seemed
so casual, and yet probed more than most,
flashing its light on darkened corners which
held gathered whisperings she once hosted;
or was his look mere lechery, asking
too much in its too little, or a line crossed
that savaged her in its undoing?) laughed.

IN THE PARK

A man is sitting in a park:
he sees, from his secluded bench,
trees, shrubs, a bed of orchises,
lilacs, another empty bench.
All is as it should be—objects
for deep and quiet contemplation,
the random bird or butterfly
mere grace-notes to deliberate
movements of the untroubled mind.

Suddenly she appears (who knows from where?):
beautiful, blonde, a waterfall of hair,
as if a sudden gift, seated across
from him. And yet he finds himself at loss
for ways of seeing her: though she may be
as lovely as the other things he sees
his view is altered by the fact he’s seen,
that he is object too, part of her scene:
what if she finds him lacking, obliterates
him with a blink? In his now-fallen state
of dual perspectives, his kingdom overthrown,
his thinking now turned dense as any stone,
he rises, leaves the stage set by her eyes,
as Adam left in shame from Paradise.

 

THE GREAT INDOORS

            In my opinion outdoors is often over-rated.
                                  
—Joan Mistretta

Of course that all depends on just whose doors
outside is outside of as in’s outsides
have greater up- and down sides. I have a fondness
for central air when summer’s outsides bake
our insides like a bloody microwave
though Auden said he hated central heating
because a room should have a focus (perhaps
he would prefer a fan in summertime).
I’d rather be inside than outside most
modern buildings so that I couldn’t see
their hideous outsides. If I were asked
to give inside advice: it all depends
on whose insides it is, if kindness rules,
if courtesy is in and anger out.

QUARANTINE

The plague came, Cambridge closed, Newton went home
and over eighteen months solved gravity,
showed motion’s laws, and then he next transformed
the science of optics and then created the
infinitesimal calculus, returned
to school, forgot it all for twenty years.
The world was altered when it finally learned
of his time off. Cartesians shed their tears.

I’ve not done quite so much, but then I’ve had
only three months. I’ve watched a squirrel fall
missing the feeder, plunk on the porch. (Just how
it’s meant to be, as Aristotle said.)
Perhaps I haven’t used my time as well.
I’m sure that Newton and the squirrels would know.

 

_____________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFTER THE WEEKEND

What a holiday! I can’t begin
to count the scattered bottles or
the butts in ashtrays strewn most everywhere.
(God knows what that is on the floor.)

But it was fun. And while it lasted we
were kings and queens of crapulence
and we enjoyed ourselves, as you can see—
we’ve left behind the evidence.

So, boys, pack up, it’s time that we were gone,
all things must end, don’t make a fuss.
We’
ve made amusement our accomplishment.
Someone will clean up after us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

__________________________

 

THE RAPTURE OF THE COWS

         after a painting by Paul Bond,
         “Ascending Cows aka The Great Bovine Rapture”

Rise up, cream of the herd, ye holy cows!
If the cows heard, few paid it any mind.
Swallow that cud! Lift up your bovine brows!

Then Bessie rose, awakened from her browse,
and dropped a plop on a group of the left-behind.
Rise up, cream of the herd, ye holy cows!

They were surprised what gravity allows
though Myrtle thought the sight most unrefined.
Swallow that cud! Lift up your bovine brows!

Some stayed behind, held down like mud-bound sows,
perhaps not quite the elevating kind.
Rise up, cream of the herd, ye holy cows!

You pasture-prophets who would daily browse,
who were to daily rituals confined,
swallow that cud! Lift up your bovine brows!

What if they’re headed to God’s slaughterhouse?
That would be different from the daily grind.
Rise up, cream of the herd, ye holy cows!
Swallow that cud! Lift up your bovine brows!

 

 

 

 

SCOTCH VERDICTS

                I
         
The Kirk

A few convenient deaths
and Scotland is reborn,
its god and weather both
clenched, Presbyterian.

Knox’s ardor, Beaton’s
mozetta a deeper red,
the galleys and Geneva,
Henry, the Marys dead—

surely the Hand of God
these deaths, surely God’s Will
to move a nation toward
the Inconceivable

but two brief years before.
The sword obeys the Word.
Jacob I love, Esau
I hate. I am the LORD.

                             II
                          Hume

A melancholy chore, the search for Truth
will shrivel skin, give pallor to the cheek;
that many-petalled rose defied the Greek
quest for certainty, withheld the proof.
My Treatise sapped the vigour of my youth

and after years fell deadborn from the press.
Unnatural birth. Far better time is spent
in conversation where words are kindly meant
for jocund company and friendly jest,
banishing the abstract to the wilderness.

The Deist god is false as any other:
The ball is struck. It strikes another ball.
Which moves. “Cause and effect,” we say. But all
we’ve seen are chance collisions and we infer
what always happened must always reoccur.
 

And what’s behind the intricate machine?
Always the stupid mechanic who fixes what
he little understands and never wrought.
Be humble: don’t expect the world has meaning...
Let’s drink one more—Truth will not intervene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A FUNERAL

 

Most of the newly-dead have just

accomplished the great event of their

  entirely forgettable lives,

leaving behind eventless days

and their unspeaking husbands or

  entirely forgettable wives,

and now a slab of stone remarks

on the unremarkable years that lead

  to this tiny plot of land

where the chance dates and empty words

seem less encomia of praise

  and more a reprimand.

 

And so, another funeral.

No tolling bell that I can hear.

  A prefab sermonette.

But we all loved old-what’s-his-name

and treasured most his (YOUR WORD HERE).

  Amen. Requiescat.

 

 

 

 

 

RETURNING TO THE HARBOR

 

                    I

What is a country for old men?

A place where song is banished, lust

abstracted, joy not to come again?

Drab, drafty rooms furnished with dust

where only numbness softens pain

and any act leads to disgust?

A fog-obscured and restless sea?

A monumental apathy?

 

               II

No one escapes from time in time;

no one can drop time's heavy burden

and not be crushed. The guilty dream

awakens, what cannot be pardoned

repeats in some chance face or rhyme:

a misbehavior in a garden,

a word, a love one kiss unmade,

a truth forsworn, three times afraid.

 

 

              III

It is the self that is undone,

unravelling throughout its acts,

displaced by deed, the nightmare son

who's guilt's cartographer, whose maps

chart failure's coast, the corpse once drowned

revisits as a living fact.

The mirror reminds: the face must learn

the emptiness of all return.

 

              IV

Were there a pure province of art,

a realm composed of timeless joys

far from the sewer where ladders start,

it would be airless. Time breaks its toys

and easy rhymes betray the heart.

But still the dream seduces days

to the false voyage whose lead star

but brings us back to where we are.

 

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Ceilhidh, 15, Robert Darling's dearly departed librarian cat -- here photographed while pulling out Gail White's Catechism, a cleverly concocted collection of cat poems, passed away on Dr. Bob's birthday

 

               

 

 

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