Robert Duncan

R
Robert Duncan
My Mother Would Be a Falconress
My mother would be a falconress,
And I, her gay falcon treading her wrist,
would fly to bring back
from the blue of the sky to her, bleeding, a prize,
where I dream in my little hood with many bells
jangling when I'd turn my head.

My mother would be a falconress,
and she sends me as far as her will goes.
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This Place Rumord to Have Been Sodom

might have been.
Certainly these ashes might have been pleasures.
Pilgrims on their way to the Holy Places remark
this place. Isn’t it plain to all
that these mounds were palaces? This was once
a city among men, a gathering together of spirit.
It was measured by the Lord and found wanting.
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from Dante Études: Book Three: In My Youth Not Unstaind
[Étude from the Fourth Treatise of the Convivio, Chapter XXVII]

In my youth, not unstaind
and in much ignoble; in manhood,
struggling to ring true yet
knowing often my defection from
these graces Dante lists
proper to Man: temperance, courage,
love, courtesy,
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from Dante Études, Book One: We Will Endeavor
[De Vulgari Eloquentia, I,I]

“We will endeavor,
the word aiding us from Heaven,
to be of service
to the vernacular speech”

—from “Heaven” these

“draughts of the sweetest honey-milk”,

si dolcemente
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Structure of Rime XXVIII: In Memoriam Wallace Stevens
“That God is colouring Newton doth shew”—William Blake Erecting beyond the boundaries of all government his grand Station and Customs, I find what I have made there a Gate, a staking out of his art in Inconsequence. I have in mind a poetry that will frame the willingness of the heart and deliver it over to the arrest of Time, a sentence as if there could stand some solidity most spacial in its intent against the drifts and appearances that arise and fall away in time from the crude events of physical space. The Mind alone holds the consequence of the erection to be true, so that Desire and Imagination usurp the place of the Invisible Throne.

It is an angel then, weeping and yet ever attending the betrayal of the Word I mean to come to in the end. For my sake, the blood must be somewhere in time and in its own naming of place actual, and death must be as my own awaits me immediate to undo from its reality the physical body, all there is of the matter of me that is mine from me. The would-be dialecticians—Inquisitors of the New Dispensation in Poetry and Historians of Opprobrium, the Realists and Materialists—come forward to hold the party line against his ideality. There are too many listeners. There are too many voices in the one line. They must enter the Ideal to do so, for he has changed his mind, as if the Eternal existed only momentarily and went out with him. The Chairman of the Politbureau gets his number and moves to isolate his heresy. The number is no longer the same. He has gone back into the exchange of numbers. The phone continues ringing in the pattern of the message they strive to listen to report to the Bureau of Poetic Numbers and Approved Measures.

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An African Elegy
In the groves of Africa from their natural wonder
the wildebeest, zebra, the okapi, the elephant,
have enterd the marvelous. No greater marvelous
know I than the mind’s
natural jungle. The wives of the Congo
distil there their red and the husbands
hunt lion with spear and paint Death-spore
on their shields, wear his teeth, claws and hair
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A Little Language
I know a little language of my cat, though Dante says
that animals have no need of speech and Nature
abhors the superfluous.My cat is fluent.He
converses when he wants with me.To speak

is natural.And whales and wolves I’ve heard
in choral soundings of the sea and air
know harmony and have an eloquence that stirs
my mind and heart—they touch the soul.Here
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A Poem Beginning with a Line by Pindar
I

The light foot hears you and the brightness begins
god-step at the margins of thought,
quick adulterous tread at the heart.
Who is it that goes there?
Where I see your quick face
notes of an old music pace the air,
torso-reverberations of a Grecian lyre.

In Goya’s canvas Cupid and Psyche
have a hurt voluptuous grace
bruised by redemption. The copper light
falling upon the brown boy’s slight body
is carnal fate that sends the soul wailing
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Poetry, a Natural Thing
Neither our vices nor our virtues
further the poem. “They came up
and died
just like they do every year
on the rocks.”

The poem
feeds upon thought, feeling, impulse,
to breed itself,
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from Rites of Passage
II

Something is taking place.
Horns thrust upward from the brow.
Hooves beat impatient where feet once were.
My son, youth grows alarming in your face.
Your innocent regard is cruelly charming to me now.
You bristle where my fond hand would stir
to stroke your cheek. I do not dare.
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Styx
And a tenth part of Okeanos is given to dark night
a tithe of the pure water under earth
so that the clear fountains pour from rock face,
tears stream from the caverns and clefts,
down-running, carving woundrous ways in basalt resistance,
cutting deep as they go into layers of time-layerd
Gaia where She sleeps—

the cold water, the black rushing gleam, the
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Such Is the Sickness of Many a Good Thing
Was he then Adam of the Burning Way?
hid away in the heat like wrath
conceald in Love’s face,
or the seed, Eris in Eros,
key and lock
of what I was?I could not speak
the releasing
word.For into a dark
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What I Saw
The white peacock roosting
might have been Christ,

featherd robe of Osiris,


the radiant bird, a sword-flash,

percht in the tree


and the other, the fumed-glass slide

—were like night and day,


the slit of an eye opening in
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Childhood’s Retreat
It’s in the perilous boughs of the tree
out of blue sky the wind
sings loudest surrounding me.

And solitude, a wild solitude
’s reveald, fearfully, high I’d climb
into the shaking uncertainties,

part out of longing, part daring my self,
part to see that
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Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow
as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
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