EXPANSIVE POETRY ONLINE
A Journal of Contemporary Arts 

 

poems    

by
 

ROBERT DARLING
____________

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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