especially when the october wind
with frosty fingers punishes my hair,
caught by the crabbing sun i walk on fire
and cast a shadow crab upon the land
by the sea’s side, hearing the noise of birds,
hearing the raven cough in winter ticks,
my busy heart who shudders as she talks
sheds the syllabic blood and drains her words.
for i have known them all already, known them all: —
have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
i have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
i know the voices dying with a dying fall
beneath the music from a farther room.
so how should i presume?
sophocles long ago
heard it on the aegean, and it brought
into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
of human misery; we
find also in the sound a thought
hearing it by this distant northern sea.
once again do i behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
which on a wild secluded scene impress
thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
the landscape with the quiet of the sky.
do i contradict myself?
very well then i contradict myself,
(i am large, i contain multitudes.)
will you speak before i am gone? will you prove already too late?
i too am not a bit tamed, i too am untranslatable.
shut, too, in a tower of words, i mark
on the horizon walking like the trees
the wordy shapes of women, and the rows
of the star-gestured children in the park.
some let me make you of the vowelled beeches,
some of the oaken voices, from the roots
of many a thorny shire tell you notes
some let me make you of the water’s speeches.
you will hardly know who i am or what i mean …
i’m nobody! who are you?
… i was only thinking
about the shakers of salt and pepper
that were standing side by side on a place mat.
i wondered if they had become friends
after all these years
or if they were still strangers to one another
like you and i
who manage to be known and unknown
to each other at the same time —
are you — nobody — too?
then there’s a pair of us?
let us go then, you and i
when the evening is spread out against the sky
like a patient etherised upon a table …
since then — ’tis centuries — and yet …
do i dare
disturb the universe?
in a minute there is time
for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
missing me one place search another …
oh, do not ask, “what is it?”
let us go and make our visit.
i stop somewhere waiting for you.