On the Decline of Oracles

O

Inside a ruined temple the broken statue of a god spoke a mysterious language.
–Giorgio de Chirico

My father kept a speckled conch
By two bronze bookends of ships in sail,
And as I listened its cold teeth seethed
With voices of that ambiguous sea
Old Böcklin missed, who held a shell
To hear the sea he could not hear.
What the seashell spoke to his inner ear
He knew, but no peasants know.

My father died, and when he died
He willed his books and shell away;
The books burned up, sea took the shell,
But I, I keep the voices he
Set in my ear, and in my eye
The sight of those blue, unseen waves
For which the ghost of Böcklin grieves.
The peasants feast and multiply

And never need see what I see.
In the Temple of Broken Stones, above
A worn curtain, rears the white head
Of a god or madman. Nobody knows
Which, or dares ask. From him I have
Tomorrow's gossip and doldrums. So much
Is vision good for: like a persistent stitch
In the side, it nags, is tedious.

Straddling a stool in the third-floor window-
Booth of the Alexandra House
Over Petty Cury, I regard
With some fatigue the smoky rooms
Of the restaurant opposite; see impose
Itself on the cook at the steaming stove
A picture of what's going to happen.I've
To wait it out. It will come. It comes:

Three barely-known men are coming up
A stair: this veils both stove and cook.
One is pale, with orange hair;
Behind glasses the second's eyes are blurred;
The third walks leaning on a stick
And smiling. These trivial images
Invade the cloistral eye like pages
From a gross comic strip, and toward

The happening of this happening
The earth turns now. In half an hour
I shall go down the shabby stair and meet,
Coming up, those three. Worth
Less than present, past—this future.
Worthless such vision to eyes gone dull
That once descried Troy's towers fall,
Saw evil break out of the north.
39
Rating:

Comment form:

*Max text - 500. Manual moderation.

Similar Poems:

The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
‘Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent:Σίβυλλα τίθέλεις; respondebat illa:άποθανεîνθέλω.’ For Ezra Pound
il miglior fabbro. I. The Burial of the Dead
Read Poem
0
75
Rating:

‘Thrush’ by George Seferis
George Seferis
I

The house near the sea

The houses I had they took away from me. The times
happened to be unpropitious: war, destruction, exile;
sometimes the hunter hits the migratory birds,
sometimes he doesn’t hit them. Hunting
was good in my time, many felt the pellet;
the rest circle aimlessly or go mad in the shelters.
Read Poem
0
56
Rating:

The Third Hour of the Night by Frank Bidart
Frank Bidart
When the eye

When the edgeless screen receiving
light from the edgeless universe

When the eye first

When the edgeless screen facing
outward as if hypnotized by the edgeless universe

When the eye first saw that it

Hungry for more light
Read Poem
0
57
Rating:

Five Visions of Captain Cook by Kenneth Slessor
Kenneth Slessor
I

Cook was a captain of the Admiralty
When sea-captains had the evil eye,
Or should have, what with beating krakens off
And casting nativities of ships;
Cook was a captain of the powder-days
When captains, you might have said, if you had been
Fixed by their glittering stare, half-down the side,
Read Poem
0
47
Rating:

Maximus, to Gloucester: Letter 2 by Charles Olson
Charles Olson
. . . . . tell you? ha! who
can tell another how
to manage the swimming?

he was right: people

don’t change. They only stand more
revealed. I,
likewise

1
Read Poem
0
49
Rating:

Andrea del Sarto by Robert Browning
Robert Browning
But do not let us quarrel any more,
No, my Lucrezia; bear with me for once:
Sit down and all shall happen as you wish.
You turn your face, but does it bring your heart?
I'll work then for your friend's friend, never fear,
Treat his own subject after his own way,
Fix his own time, accept too his own price,
And shut the money into this small hand
When next it takes mine. Will it? tenderly?
Oh, I'll content him,—but to-morrow, Love!
I often am much wearier than you think,
This evening more than usual, and it seems
As if—forgive now—should you let me sit
Here by the window with your hand in mine
And look a half-hour forth on Fiesole,
Read Poem
0
100
Rating:

Ben Jonson Entertains a Man from Stratford by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Edwin Arlington Robinson
You are a friend then, as I make it out,
Of our man Shakespeare, who alone of us
Will put an ass's head in Fairyland
As he would add a shilling to more shillings,
All most harmonious, — and out of his
Miraculous inviolable increase
Fills Ilion, Rome, or any town you like
Of olden time with timeless Englishmen;
And I must wonder what you think of him —
All you down there where your small Avon flows
By Stratford, and where you're an Alderman.
Some, for a guess, would have him riding back
To be a farrier there, or say a dyer;
Or maybe one of your adept surveyors;
Or like enough the wizard of all tanners.
Read Poem
0
67
Rating:

A Death in the Desert by Robert Browning
Robert Browning
[Supposed of Pamphylax the Antiochene:
It is a parchment, of my rolls the fifth,
Hath three skins glued together, is all Greek,
And goeth from Epsilon down to Mu:
Lies second in the surnamed Chosen Chest,
Stained and conserved with juice of terebinth,
Covered with cloth of hair, and lettered Xi,
From Xanthus, my wife's uncle, now at peace:
Mu and Epsilon stand for my own name.
I may not write it, but I make a cross
To show I wait His coming, with the rest,
And leave off here: beginneth Pamphylax.]

I said, "If one should wet his lips with wine,
"And slip the broadest plantain-leaf we find,
Read Poem
0
95
Rating:

Heart’s Needle by W. D. Snodgrass
W. D. Snodgrass
For Cynthia

When he would not return to fine garments and good food, to his houses and his people, Loingseachan told him, “Your father is dead.” “I’m sorry to hear it,” he said. “Your mother is dead,” said the lad. “All pity for me has gone out of the world.” “Your sister, too, is dead.” “The mild sun rests on every ditch,” he said; “a sister loves even though not loved.” “Suibhne, your daughter is dead.” “And an only daughter is the needle of the heart.” “And Suibhne, your little boy, who used to call you “Daddy”—he is dead.” “Aye,” said Suibhne, “that’s the drop that brings a man to the ground.”
He fell out of the yew tree; Loingseachan closed his arms around him and placed him in manacles.—AFTER THE MIDDLE-IRISH ROMANCE, THE MADNESS OF SUIBHNE
Read Poem
0
103
Rating: