Ben Mazer

Necesse est Perstare?

Twenty minutes after midnight. The houses sleep.
And in them the tales of ships, of clocks, of houses.
The tales of voyages, and the return to houses.
One after another,
one next to another, or attached to each other,
their different shapes, or same shapes,
bigger, smaller. Longer, wider. Taller windows. Shorter windows.
Loud and crowded, or empty and silent,
with a telephone, a car in the driveway or out front,
and places to sleep.
You walk out (if you are him)
into the October evening at a brisk pace
with a newspaper tucked under the arm of your Harris tweed
looking about chiefly at wind
blowing dried leaves blue white brown
into or out of ditches or onto trees
till they're a little wet,
it is true.
But you and I, we meet in rain,
where we can come in from the rain,
and have a sandwich, and a coffee.
They telephone each other,
on regal steps, fast and alert.
From one to another, string trees with lanterns,
to God above, the son of an old love.
Morning. The leg swings forward long and wide.
Mariana Pineda is no longer trapped inside.
A Columbia student now, eyes roam the brick facade
of an apartment building, in the land of Nod.
Keystone cornices replace the God.
A son of the Alhambra declines to pack a rod.
A generation, scarred by ghosts of war,
meets on street corners, each greeting as before.
The whole great mix has been to the theatre,
read the papers, interrogated the interlocutor,
in closets with incense, in kitchens with bathtub whiskey,
B. G. Brooks, Zoe Hawley, Viola Tree.
Up drives with radios, in uniform,
to telephones, each waiting for the forum
to isolate with definition their indecorum;
they greet on corners, in guttural voices, ailing,
jolly, with teeth and uteruses failing.
And speak one language, good for spring canoeing,
after long winters of Napoleonic rueing.
Necesse est perstare? This too will come,
later in summer to most, in spring to some.
The college widow deftly sidesteps a bomb.
The student union sounds the general alarm.
There is no lack of things to look and see,
of books to read, of points to ABC.
Only the still window, in the unwitnessed hall,
must be susceptible to anything at all.
And will greet guests, in winter and in fall.
Each couple knowing the same modern dances,
and how the judeo-christian world enhances
the pagan rituals and rites of spring
the voice trapped in a gramophone must sing.

Cracked faces, aligned in a vacant ring.

Cracked faces, to battle ancient come:
brick buildings rise to God—a vacant emporium.
While trains rush out into the provinces—
old ghosts the armour in the hall commences.

       

 

The Glass Piano

 

Unfamiliar and incognizant
flat shadows dense oppose expanding time
light scurries there, essence prismatic blent,—
myriad and marmoreal paradigm . . .
come into focus, and demanding light!
night's clockless teleology of sight
assumes no history, but of wall's stoppage
and window's leakage flowers that are savage
ravage and rack and blight
some lost pearl harbour in the dead of night.
The bombs explode! Just so the glass piano,
which lies so still and patient in the hall,
the predicate of morning — bright Diana! —
lends harmonies to evocate the all.
Leaves flutter – why should they not? — reclaiming space
that scenes are cast in — who could not remember
the absolute interment of motion in place
where heart abided in some lost September?
The crowded episodes dry thunder havocs,
light dimming until old memories are unblind
with ritual escapades, exodus stratospherics,
redeem all distance, portents of the mind.
The hours they live in, empty shells, adornments
of simple wishes, mornings of coffee with friends,
project in violet visages their torrents
of supple lucidity where mind unbends.
They travel far — were distance not an illusion —
only to return, wearier, wiser,
a momentary stay against confusion,
heaped in vast relics absence solidifies there.
How can they be upheaved? — the droll bell drones
them whole again, lacking space to confine them,
as if some Europe sauntered to their homes
to rise again, to which the dead shall bind them.
The mind shall settle thus, in slim beliefs
exonerated by its supplication
to static roots, the true note of creation
falling blankly as spent and fluttering leaves.

BEN MAZER's new collection of poems is The Glass Piano (MadHat Press). This year also saw the release of his critical edition of The Collected Poems of John Crowe Ransom (Un-Gyve Press). He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and edits The Battersea Review.