Spring 1988, Volume 5.1
Poetry

CLARICE SHORT*

Carved Door

When time is parceled out to me no more,
I shall carve a door.
The border will be an imitation
Of those in Medieval manuscripts:
Leaf and flower and animals strange,
And animals fearful, looking
Over their shoulder at hounds in pursuit;
Some birds will be biting the vines, or if bird and beast
Are too difficult, I shall fall back on flower and leaf.

The inner sections would pose a greater problem:
If one tried to abstract from a multifarious life
Some signs and symbols that would suggest the whole,
What would they be that could be incised on wood?
Of a certainty there would be linked acres of cloud,
Above thin lines of rain, and a winding thread
That might be an irrigation ditch, or the creek
Bounding my childhood, or river of my age.
There would have to be something representing mountains,
Houses, barns, and corn fields, always the corn-
Because if it did not grow, nothing would grow-
There would be skulls, perhaps with the crossed bones,
Or just the elongated form of a horse's head.
I would hope to find some reasonable pattern
That could be repeated with variations,
But how could one show the pervasiveness of love?
Would it soften or sharpen the outlines of all else?

Somehow I shall finish the door
And see it properly hinged and hung.
Then I shall open it, walk past it, and pull it shut,
And not come back anymore.

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*Copyright @ 1988 Emma Lou Thayne, Literary Executor

 

Credo: Museum

Just as I know
These barnacle-encrusted jars
Mingled their red wine with the wine-dark waves
Two thousand years ago,
I am certain that the vein
Along the belly of that marble horse
Bears blood; and that that lone patrician foot
Still feels the sandal strap across the toe.

The Elusive

In his last days
As he moved with great strides through the family history,
Playing all the parts in his life's drama,
My father was hard to follow.
He was master of the quick change:
Weeping as the family stood shivering in the cold
Beyond the holocaust of the farm house;
Laughing in remembrance of the neighbor who carried
His featherbed whenever he went visiting;
Speaking sometimes as his father,
Sometimes as his own son, always
Brushing away the years like cobwebs.
I watched amazed as he came from the field and unharnessed,
Fed, spoke to, calling each by name,
Horses sixty years dead.

"Said to the Wolf"

"Give me your paw,' St. Francis said to the wolf."
Out of the mass of the unmemorable
That bit of hagiology,
Picture and text, is like a smile of God.
The toot y wolf as terrorize the the town;
The scene is a narrow space of neutral ground
In which the central figures are wolf and saint.
Behind the wolf is the opening of his den,
And in that entrance dismembered villagers
Lie strewn about: heads, arms, unnameable parts.
Behind the saint in a mob are the suppliants
Who bear on their homely faces hope and fear
And in their hands baskets of various meats:
Chickens, and pigs and sheep. Some settlement
Of the old feud, the saint has brought about.
He recognizes it as lupine blackmail;
The villagers see it as pure bribery.

All sorts of questions arise in the modem mind,
One being why--with pitchfork, spade, and fire-
The inhabitants of the region had not combined
To smoke the beast out and then club him down.
Legend, however, must be less conclusive;
Evil is never so easily overcome.
But given a saint like Francis a wolf can trust,
Some truce may lead to a little betterment;
Just now a calf may die that a man may live,
And the children again be sent to gather berries.

On the Shore of Crete

It would not be unfitting
To die here on the shore of Crete
Between mountains that look like my own
And the sea whose rhythmic run up the smooth beach
Sounds like the calm breathing of a large beast.

I have prepared as well as I could:
Walked through fields of blossoming asphodel,
Saved the right coin for the fare of passage,
Laid by small stores of bread and wine.

But there is the problem of disposal:
International regulations are involved;
One may not simply be hid with a little earth
So as not to become the food of scavengers.
I have envied the sodden gull that for a while
Is decently covered with feathers until the whole
Is swept away by a wave to the great deep
Or assimilated by the. patient sand.