Ghosts in the gold, ghosts in the late
Grate growing wet from grey waters.
Ghosts in the water gushing its spray:
Men in it which men aren’t mainly,
Shadows and shades, shadows in spades
Twinned and twining, twisting liquid
Pining from physique, from playing rain:
Where are the men within? White water at
Nighttime walks is a newness to me:
Beguile and charm, enchant and bewitch
Illuminating liquid marvel,
For we have arrived to watch one another
Move from my side to madre’s porch.
I leave it, I leave things
Charged and I think of thunder.
Upon returning to the tempest the tinkers
Heavenward woke from hydrant halls
Their cap clatters, is cast away
By grey ghosts in the grizzled pipes,
By poltergeists who perk to fight
The Zeitgeist of the ziggurat’s kings—
Landlords and landlord things loved
Not by common creatures or their cats.
Mats are soaking. Maybe children
Choking goes unnoticed for tonight.
The streets, they melt. The streets, they smelt
Of sulphur, of piss, and perfume until
The ghosts grist us back our grates.
A native child takes note:
“You play? You playing in the puddle mister?
In the black river we built, we reached?
You’ve passed to my crossing con tu perra?”
Was Venice very varied like Brooklyn
Before it floundered in the foaming sea?
Was Atlantis loved by little kids
Who gave its flooding streets felicity?
This year, for the 58 @ 29, I plan to focus on alliterative meter. It’s the meter used by Middle English and Old English poets as well as Latin and Greek poets. Basically all epic poets use some form of alliterative meter and it hasn’t been used in English for a thousand years. I will be pulling from the rules offered in Lewis’ article on The Alliterative Meter:
In the general reaction which has set in against the long reign of foreign, syllabic meters in English, it is a little remarkable that few have yet suggested a return to our own ancient system, the alliterative line…. Alliteration is no more the whole secret of this verse than rhyme is the whole secret of syllabic verse. It has, in addition, a metrical structure, which could stand alone, and which would then be to this system as blank verse is the syllabic….
A few successful specimens of alliterative meter would be an excellent answer to the type of critic (by no means extinct) who accuses the moderns of choosing vers libre because they are not men enough for meter. For if syllabic verse is like carving in wood and verse libre like working with a brush, alliterative meter is like carving in granite.
“Vers Libre” for those who don’t know is Latin for “free verse.” Lewis has, ultimately, offered for my poetry just the kind of reaction I prefer in all of my life: a reaction that is, deep down, orthodoxy. A reaction to dead branches as radical as the radish itself is to its dead leaf: radical because it is the root of the thing.
Here is the table of contents for my 58 attempts over the next year. After the monogram, I’m including a quote from Chesterton’s An Apology for Buffoons because it defends proper use of alliteration in English:
cover image by RBerteig