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The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1954]

Charles Doyle

Charles Doyle

Empirical History

Why should a man think because the heart is vulnerable
that he can beat the drum, make incantation
out of the names of rivers, the green thythm of love,
birds of flamed plumage in a sky of oil?

why should I be the one whose crucible
yields up the potent meaning of resurrection
or mouths the words of the orator that move
rough hands to the weeping faces, sway the will?

in all clew mornings the scuttling spiders' fingers
net up the wet, high hedges, glacial with diamonds;
and in the darkness hands move with their secret praise,
gentle but still demanding whose is the poem now?

o surely where the uncertain, poised hands linger
there is beauty there and a fire and wonder beyond
label; but there is also dread, pain, war, voices, the way
silence swings through that vast and empty house.

again the rose opens an unhealed wound and no sounds
mean, "rose", more than any other; nor is any white thing
that one can speak of as white as the mortal snow
melting in death's cauldron, drowning, flooding the flames.

no, though the heart is vulnerable the wounds
are their own lost voices; only they can sing
what they feel Whoever made us made it so
we have no more than an eye and a flair for names.

page 67

Seas and Black Houses

My heart sang as the waters when I saw her
And marked all innocences fraught in her face,
Light in a fisher's seine. All day the cruel,
Casual heart made mimicry of her grace.

And she was my love then, moving through a dream
Whose green hands touch her once, and never again
Quiet as a star to slip into the waiting
Empty room of the heart; but the waters' songs remain

Always, as simple as a crucifix upon the white
Pure plaster of some most ordinary wall,
A song of her three bones meeting, my ninth hour love,
A wine for the throat of midnight, a madrigal.

For my voice only. It was afterwards other voices
Echoed upon those hills, dream-calling her, and the wet grass,
And the rotted leaves and the dewed webs made the silence
One with her, conspiring in my senses of loss.

So I woke there, still in the night, my heart singing
For what I knew not. The hurt seas and black houses
Met in the darkness. She is lost. O touch her gently,
Wind in the trees, wherever she is. My body rouses.

Puppet Theatre

In the black dust the stamp of angry feet
Trampling the deft hands' makings, tearing down
All in the dangling world's slack, indiscreet
Bearing, shaking a cackle from the clown;
And outside, the door is locked to the rabid hordes,
But falling, Nemesis thundering on the boards.

Limp from snapped strings the tinsel men flop down
Bedraggled, bruised, unkempt under the feet
Of this one, ominous, evil-tempered clown
whom no brief, begged aside could make discreet;
And outside, the door is locked to the rabid hordes,
But falling, Nemesis thundering on the boards.

page 68

Blood's synthesis, a paint, more indiscreet
Than any stabbed man's shirt, kisses the clown
At laughter-absent eyes, ridiculous feet,
Who pricked his pantaloon and kicked him down;
And outside, the door is locked to the rabid hordes,
But falling, Nemesis thundering on the boards.

A last grim act, in sweated grease, this clown
Turns with his mimic gesture. A discreet
Curtain is poised to swing his doom, ring down
And end it, purpose wilted at his feet;
For outside, the door is locked to the rabid hores,
But falling, Nemesis thundering on the boards.

For my Father

(Buried at sea off the West African coast, Xmas Day 1947)

From you I reap the harvest of the blood
That beats within me as a wild bird's wing
Will wear away the wind; from you the shell
Carrying inwardly the surging flood
Conched at the ear of life, Like a great bell
From immemorial eaves your echoes ring.

Reverberant upon the muscled will
That moves me. Six long years have parted us
More than the oceans' swell; the incessant tides
Hiding the seasons in bear now no ill
To you above whose dreams the long wave slides
With slow compulsion, ceaseless and amorphous.

Yet there is more between us, Sir, than this
Deft separation at the waters' head,
And what remains is no mere silhouette
Shaped from your thigh and spirit. In the press
Time leaves us less than we would well forget
And much we lose is loss to self and pride.

Some few small details stand within the mind
Shaping our judgments. I remember how
We crossed a bridge in rain and you denied,
With bitter vehemence, the poet's kind
A berth to sleep in, water, thought, or bread,
Placing more worth in hammer, spade and plough.

page 69

This I could understand from you, whose days
Were ladled out in soup-tins, whose sick soul
Was nurtured on the thin tare of the poor.
Yet what we most despise sometimes betrays
Our outer semblances, for in your role
Was poetry in plenty and to spare.

Your stance upon the cross-roads of the years
Was literal and speculative, but grace
Endowed you with a more enduring gift
Than we who have the words to voice our fears;
Texture more subtle worked among the weft
Deep threads of sorrow in your heart and face.

Now I can understand who have ridden the wave
Heart-high with storm, and who have been the sport
Of the cock-fighting sea, from starving solstice
To flooded equinox, from the trades to the brave
West winds of death, who set my prow towards peace,
But wrenched by the waters limp for any port.