Smoke from This Altar (1990) (5 page)

BOOK: Smoke from This Altar (1990)
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I try

To scratch out stories for my meat, And just perhaps a Sunday treat For Nature tells me I must eat

But Why?

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>OLD JERRY

old Jerry was a jolly man

Who knew the woodland ways, And used to trap along the creek Through cold and wintry days; He often told blood-thirsty tales Beside the roaring fire. Although the village folk would say

Old Jerry was a liar.

They had no sympathy for him Nor his hair-raisin' yarns, But we would often come to play

Around his ramblin' barnsIt may not he that Jerry told The strict, unvarnished truth But what was that to you or me, Or any listening youth?

He had a scar upon his cheek"A knife in Singapore;"

He had a bullet in his arm"I got it in the war."

It may be that his yarns were true It may he that he lied.

I only know that we were sad When Jerry died.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>PICTURE

Gray fog steals along

The waterfront and gathers In shadowed places . . .

Old ships doze beside the dock Dreaming lazily .. .

Damp lumber piles loom darkly Along narrow slips . . . Somewhere a deep-throated blast Echoes lonesomely . . .

With up-turned collar I slouch Away into mist.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>CALL OF THE TROPICS

There's a balmy breeze a-blowing Somewhere out across the sea, And it's there that I am going Where the tossing waves roll free.

There's a tropic moon a-shining Down upon the coco-palm.

And it's for that land I'm pining With its drowsy, sleepy calm.

There's a great white ship a-steaming Out across the bounding main, And its foaming wake is gleaming As it takes me back again.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>THE GLADIATOR

Mine is the glory of battle Mine whose reward is to dieMine is the ending death-rattle Without the one gift of a sigh; Mine never the glory of conquest Mine never the fires of a hate,

Mine only the pain and the death-restA bowing to powers of Fate.

Mine is the fury of fighting With nothing to win or defend, Mine is the heart that's inviting

That deathly inevitable end; Mine is the net and the trident Mine is the word or the spear, Mine were the lips the sigh sent I, who never knew fear.

Mine is the brain knows the ending Before the beginning has come, Mine whose prayers are ascending

From lips that were never so dumb; Mine is the heart that is longing For the distant green hills of my home, Mine is the life will grow thronging Through lips that are bloody with foam.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>THE PIONEER

Across these hills you roamed so long ago When ringed around mute hostilityYou blazed your trail to immortality,

And learned to know the bitterness of woe; You passed along, and yet you served to show The way you

came to all posterity, And in your passing left a legacy Of courage to the sons that were to grow. Where once your winding, rutted wagon trail Had left its scars upon the yielding plainA furrowed field lies waiting in the sun.

And grazing cattle wander down the vale

As slowly walking homeward through the lane They signify the peace your courage won.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>TRANQUILLITY

I wander down along the oak-clad hills

Where twilight lives beneath the tranquil trees, Along dim aisles untouched by passing breeze, Where perfume that the violet distills

Becomes the essence of the shade, and fills With fragrance all the gloomy corridorI walk along the shadowed forest floor

And th

ink of things that solitude instills. No sound disturbs the fading afternoon As mellow dreams come drifting down the years, Remembered thoughts, a half-forgotten tuneAn endless chain of

hopes, and smiles, and tears;

So turning from almost forgotten ills,

I wander back along the oak-clad hills.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>TWILIGHT

These are the restful hours After the day has gone, Before the buds of flowers

Have changed to the blooms of dawn; After the sun in setting Has brought the twilight calm When man can rest, forgetting, Tranquil as a psalm.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>FOREST PEOPLE

I read their story in the sand, Another in the snow, They write it with their tiny feet As they come and go; Here one stopped to eat awhile, There one paused in fear This was a sparrow's landing field With marks of his running gear; Their joys and woes and tragedies Are written clear and bold.

Their swift, minute biographies The tracks they leave unfold.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>WINTER WINDS

Now coldly blow the wintry winds

Across the fields, and whining, Sing through the trees like violins Some ghostly tune designing; And low, gray skies above the hills Where stormy clouds are racing,

Are warning of the wind that chills

Through branches interlacing.

Far down the avenue of trees It dashes sadly moaning, Along the stream where waters freeze

A plaintive song intoning; It whines and whirls among the leaves To send them madly sailing, Then swings around beneath the eaves The distant spring bewailing.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>LET IT SNOW

Snow in the sky,

Earth turning white

A tree like a ghost

In the gathering night; Low clouds above, White world below Barn roofs and houses

Covered with snow.

Deep in his burrow

The 'possum is huddled, Far in the bushes Snowbirds are cuddled, The creek in the morning

Coldly will gleam,

But I've got a hire,

A book and a dream.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>THEN CAME SPRING

The night before The sunset clear

Betokened that

The spring was near. When dusk came down The wild geese flew, And all night long A soft wind blew; When morning came We heard bees hum, And then we knew

That spring had come.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>RAIN

Wind on the roofClouds in the sky,

Close by the fire Contented and dry; Sitting and dreaming Of journeys afar, Under the sun

Or under a star.

Loafing alone

And watching the rain Beating itself

On the window-pane Dreaming all night

Of sun coming soon And listening to rain Singing of June.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>MUTATION

A fog is on the lowlands

In drifting, ghostly wraiths, The tops of trees like islands Or spires of vanished faiths;

There's silence on the river Like that of brooding death Where blades of swamp-grass shiver

In the slightest stealing breath.

There's something in the morning. A hint of changing days There's freshness all adorning

Along the woodland ways;

The pastel shades

of May-time

Will come and disappear Between the dawn and day-time And summer will be here.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>TO ONE WITHOUT FAITH

What shall I say of you in future years,

When at the bar of judgment memory stands? What of the hope I built on shifting sands Of love too weak to bear your faithless fears? What shall I say of youth and bitter tears,

Of words that struck my brain like burning brands? What shall I say of cold remorseless hands

That ground my lover's hopes like meshing gears? Where once my heart held naught but love for you And d

reams of days we spent in ecstasy,

Or vagrant thoughts of vanished hours we knew There now are ashes of your loyalty; What shall I say when asked if you were true, When faced with facts of your inconstancy?

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>ROSE OF MEMORY

I turned the leaves of an ancient book A book that was faded and worn And there 'tween

the leaves I found a rose,

A tiny rose, and a thorn.

Where are the lips that kissed that rose And the hands so soft and white, That gave to me that rose of love, The love we pledged that night?

Long since those days have passed away, And we have drifted apart, The blood-red rose has faded now

But the thorn rests deep in my heart.

*

Smoke From This Altar (1990)<br/>I LET ME FORGET

Let me forget the dark seas rolling, The taste of wind, the lure and lift Of far, blue shrouded shores;

No longer let the wild wind's singing Build high the waves in this My heart's own storm;

Now let me quietly work, for I have songs.

Let not my blood beat answer to the sea The beaches lie alone, so let them lie; Let me forget the gray banked distant hills, The echoing emptiness of ancient towns; No longer let the brown leaves falling

Move me to wander . . . I have songs to sing.

BOOK: Smoke from This Altar (1990)
5.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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