John Frederick Nims

J
John Frederick Nims
Strange!
I’d have you known! It puzzles me forever
To hear, day in, day out, the words men use,
But never a single word about you, never.
Strange!—in your every gesture, worlds of news.
On busses people talk. On curbs I hear them;
In parks I listen, barbershop and bar.
In banks they murmur, and I sidle near them;
But none allude to you there. None so far.
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Gravity
Mildest of all the powers of earth: no lightnings
For her—maniacal in the clouds. No need for
Signs with their skull and crossbones, chain-link gates:
Danger! Keep Out! High Gravity! she’s friendlier.
Won’t nurse—unlike the magnetic powers—repugnance;
Would reconcile, draw close: her passion’s love.

No terrors lurking in her depths, like those
Bound in that buzzing strongbox of the atom,
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Niagara
I

Driving westward near Niagara, that transfiguring of the waters,
I was torn—as moon from orbit by a warping of gravitation—
From coercion of the freeway to the cataract’s prodigality,
Had to stand there, breathe its rapture, inebriety of the precipice . . .

Fingers clamped to iron railings in a tremor of earth’s vibration,
I look upstream: foam and boulders wail with a biblical desolation,
Tree roots, broken oar, a pier end, wrack of the continent dissolving . . .
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Blind Joy
Crude seeing’s all our joy: could we discern
The cold dark infinite vast where atoms burn
—Lone suns—in flesh, our treasure and our play,
Who’d dare to breathe this fern-thick bird-rich day?
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The Caveman on the Train
When first the apprizing eye and tongue that muttered
(Banished from Eden’s air? Or pride of apes?)
Sat clinking flint on flint, as they shattered
Snatched with a grin what fell in craftier shapes,
The law was move or die. Lively from tigers;
Dainty on deer. As weather called the tune.
Oxen, we learned, would bear us. So would rivers.
And that was science. On the whole a boon.
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Christmas Tree
This seablue fir that rode the mountain storm
Is swaddled here in splints of tin to die.
Sofas around in chubby velvet swarm;
Onlooking cabinets glitter with flat eye;
Here lacquer in the branches runs like rain
And resin of treasure starts from every vein.

Light is a dancer here and cannot rest.
No tanagers or jays are half so bright
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40
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Conclusion
legato con amore in un volume
ciò che per l’universo si squaderna . . . If what began (look far and wide) will end:
This lava globe huddle and freeze, its core
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Days of Our Years
It’s brief and bright, dear children; bright and brief.
Delight’s the lightning; the long thunder’s grief.
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Decline and Fall
We had a city also. Hand in hand
Wandered happy as travellers our own land.
Murmured in turn the hearsay of each stone
Or, where a legend faltered, lived our own.
The far-seen obelisk my father set
(Pinning two roads forever where they met)
Waved us in wandering circles, turned our tread
Where once morass engulfed that passionate head.
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Isaiah’s Coal
what more can man desire? Always, he woke in those days
With a sense of treasure,
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Madrigal in Time of War
Beside the rivers of the midnight town
Where four-foot couples love and paupers drown,
Shots of quick hell we took, our final kiss,
The great and swinging bridge a bower for this.

Your cheek lay burning in my fingers’ cup;
Often my lip moved downward and yours up
Till both adjusted, tightened, locksmith-true:
The flesh precise, the crazy brain askew.
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Parting: 1940
Not knowing in what season this again
Not knowing when again the arms outyearning
Nor the flung smile in eyes not knowing when

Not sure beyond all doubt of full return
Not sure of time now nor the film’s reversal
This all done opposite, the waif regathered

Like our lost parents in the blinded song
We bag in hand with wandering steps and slow
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Portrait
Seeing in crowded restaurants the one you love
You wave at the door, tall girl in imperious fur,
And make for him, bumping waiters, dropping a glove,
Arriving soft with affectionate slur.
As ladies half-turn, gazing, and men appraise
You heap the linen with purse, scarf, cigarettes, lighter,
Laughing some instantaneous droll phrase.
As if sudden sun came out, the table is brighter.
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