Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Jean Valentine

Jean Valentine [Radcliffe Institute]

from Jean Valentine's Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965-2003:


Ask, and let your words diminish your asking,
As your journal has diminished your days,
With the next day's vanity drying your blood,
The words you have lost in your notebooks.
Ask — do not be afraid. Praise Him for His silence.

What I love to ask is what I know,
Old thoughts that fit like a boot.
What I would hazard clings in my skull:
Pride intervenes, like an eyelid.

All sound slows down to a monstrous slow repetition,
Your times of reflection become a dark shop-window,
Your face up against your face.
You kneel, you see yourself see yourself kneel,
Revile your own looking down at your looking up;
Before the words form in the back of your head
You have said them over and answered, lives before.
O saints, more rollicking sunbeams, more birds about your heads!
Catherine, more Catherine-wheels!

Sic transit gloria mundi,
The quick flax, the swollen globe of water.
Sic transit John's coronation, mortal in celluloid.
Underground roots and wires burn under us.
John outlives the Journal's 4-color outsize portrait
Suitable for Framing, flapping, no color, No love, in the
rain on the side of the paper-shed.
Into thy hands, O Lord, I commit my soul.
All Venice is sinking.

Let us dance on the head of a pin
And praise principalities!

Life is a joke and all things show it!
Let us praise the night sounds in Connecticut,
The Czechoslovak's parakeet, Whistling Idiot, Idiot!

The moon's disk singes a bucketing cloud
Lit by the sun lit by a burning sword
Pointing us out of the Garden.

Turn your back on the dark reflecting glass
Fogged up with the breath of old words:

You will not be forgiven if you ignore
The pillar of slow insistent snow
Framing the angel at the door,
Who will not speak and will not go,
Numbering our hairs, our bright blue feathers.

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