H e a r t   S o n s   &   H e a r t   D a u g h t e r s   of   A l l e n   G i n s b e r g

N a p a l m   H e a l t h   S p a :   R e p o r t   2 0 1 4 :   A r c h i v e s   E d i t i o n






Excerpts from Lit



From the Foreword


Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.

T.S. Eliot


These poems contain notes taken while reading The Norton Anthology of English

Literature, Volumes I and II, the Norton Anthology of Poetry, and The Norton

Anthology of Post-Modern Poetry.


In attempt to remember all of the wisdom I culled from these anthologies, I began

translating” the poems into modern language and idioms. But that quickly

proved uninteresting, as the poems already existed in superior form, and instead I

began writing a collection of poems written “under the influence” of specific

authors or poems or styles, or in answer to them, or as variations on their themes

and styles, or as attempts to complete or move the poets or poems forward in

time, or became some vision birthed in my imagination of the poems themselves,

as if I began living “after” them.  


When Jim Cohn asked for copies of the following poems for his magazine, I no

longer had them as e-documents and was not interested in typing them over, so I

found older versions and decided to submit them instead, as alternate versions of

the poems as published in Lit.



from Part I: Notes from The Norton Anthology of English Literature Volume

I: From Prehistory to 1800


Beowolf Faces Death


There is a shadow world and

night-terrors all around us, and

warriors too old for fighting


leaping from cliffs into

leaden waves, fire-hardened

in grim war-gear,


how their faces shine

for a moment, reflecting the sky,

their mouths full of rain


sliding into winter’s chill

how the stages of death progress,

beginning in the extremities,


their mind long gone, free and weightless,

the feared night opening its arms in welcome

to drag them slowly down.



Shortly Before His Death, Geoffrey Chaucer Comes to His

Senses and Reclaims at Least The Parliament of Birds


My weak sun has more than run its course

I am hollow and sleepy, a coral bead

upon a slender thread, remembering little,

mostly wondering what happened.


What I wrote remains unknown to me

the one who wrote themhow they

came to me more or less as pleasure,

or what little of them I can remember


but there was always a shadow,

huge and serious, overpowering my art,

until even the sparrows refused to fly

my responsibility was to choose


the right words for the most pleasure

no one writes or reads for any other reason

and now, numb as a stone, I speak only with

the stories I have toldwhich will never change


even as I go through a hundred incarnations

for time changes everything except what I have written,

and therefore I was angry with my stories then

thinking they were not enough art,


or that I was too much in them, or not enough,

or that the pieces themselves were at odds,

nothing more than a groping towards nature,

and how I’d gone to all that effort.



When Love Ceased to Sing


My mind is a hidden place that is most

unknown to me, although most myself,

and I did most harm where I most desired.


Everyone knows what kind of grace it is

when one has been humbled and bows

    (thus the fear I feel as I am humbled now)


And if I thought it would matter I would tell you,

    “See what it is to love,

    what sorrow?”



What Love Said in Reply (for Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey)


Love within me no longer fights, its purpose lost,

and I shut off my heart whenever it sings


spring will come, summer follow, and

then autumn, finally winter,


while the stars above us do nothing

and we continue to live without the one thing


that would rid us of our pain,

as if a candle fighting the sun,


and what I’ve said you know already,

and what I’ve said you’ve heard before.



Poem for the Moon


O Moon, who with slow sad steps climbs the sky,

how is it for you who watches the Earth spinning

do you wonder what you look like as you spend a month above us?


Tell us, O Moon,

do those above us love to be loved as lovers do

   and do they suffer too?



The Difficult Birth of Edmund Spenser’s Shadow


She’s gone so near my heart that I can never

love againbut what I got out of her is more

than I deserved. Her beauty she hammered

into me, turned me into a pearl, and I passed

that winter within the fear of what would be lost

when she was lost, with so much of her lost

already, and by the spring the rest of her

forgotten. Having kept too long in silence, I

adored her which made her sad, and in her yawn

everything I said disappeared, and suddenly she was gone.



John Wilmot’s Lament:

What Miracles We Harmless Lovers Wrought,

Who Knew Not What We Loved Nor Why


She makes me paleher cheeks, her lips

her hips, etc.,how like a breathing star

she is, until it is as if pure beauty has come

to me, and how in her I become pure light,

how in her I am almost eloquent, the way

lightning breaks from the sky and disappears

into black, the dense rain hurtles into nothing.



Christopher Marlowe’s Notes for a New Faust


“Then read no more when it is done.”


Why should heaven be melodious and obscure

as well as invisibleif it existed, wouldn’t it

weep for earth and extend its light into everything?

Any god who created the world would be responsible

for itany evil in His world could only come from

His head.


Why is it impossible to believe in justice in this life

how can a soul be corrupted by sins of the flesh

created in God’s image? Who would make possible

and then withdraw all pleasure? Why delay joy?

Why should the pleasures of heaven be withheld

for some higher heaven? What if this is the life

that’s offered for our reward, and if we miss

this pleasure it will be gone forever? Or what if

when we dissolve we’ll think no more about it?


It seems to me that if we could think straight

we wouldn’t be so worried about a world to come.

Why would even the lowest creature create a soul

only to know it will suffer after being abandoned

to a foreign world like Earth? Who would sow

distortion or add suffering to His Eden? Who

would think to judge and not celebrate His children?

Who among us canno matter the injuries we bring

to otherssee their own children suffer? And what judge

would convict anyone when all the laws are hidden and

deliberately mislabeled, when if it could be seen as one

couldn’t help but beI’m sure of itbeautiful,

and would make perfect sense, everything understood

and forgiven. Wouldn’t anyoneespecially God

choose to be just and trustworthy as would

the worst among us, given half a chance?



William Shakespeare Imitating Christopher Marlowe


Beauty’s fault is its best feature (that it ends)

for this is how winter becomes spring, so

sigh not so, summer was first spring and autumn’s

rough bitter sky is something unremembered now.

Winter always leads to spring and there is no end to it

spring is born as we are born and will come down

and sweet birds feed upon its bones, in turn

falling to a lynx, following some ancient design.

Each birth is out of darkness nearly total.

Thoughts like these are an old man’s warmth,

the rushing river silvered-over, cold as stone,

and yellow leaves or none or few do hang.



John Donne’s Complaynt


And for all that’s nothing we wept

until we drowned the whole world,

all for a shadow, all for no one.


We said nothing all day as if we had gone mad,

and saw and saw not what life had done to us

and what it meant in the this and that of it


and in another sense tooabout what’s ours,

about what works and what leads us astray,

and that we knew this and still did each other harm.


Let all be sad and confused and conflicted.

Let there be great darkness upon the land,

       never ending, all time running out,

unnecessary suffering, joy cancered with thorns;


then grant us light,

but only too late,

and only to cause each other pain.





Study the beginning of the world, from which

every dead and living and future thing is engendered,

all of history coiled in it as a snakethe quintessence

of nothingness that has engendered everything

is at war with the darkness that enters into dead things,

which are in death no longer what they were.



John Milton Takes Refuge in a Buddhist Monastery


I entered into a deeper sleeping and saw heaven

and how Hedefinitely Hedestroys everything

He’s created with less effort than a schoolboy

burns an antI saw for whom it was made

and why, and what the ultimate answers are,

and just as I was about to enter it,

he closed the door and disappeared.



So Rare a White (for Edmund Waller, Anne Bradstreet, and Richard Lovelace)


Althea whispers, entangled

in the sheets, her careless hands

thrust like roses into the pleasures

we both adore. She rises, disheveled,

her hair wild and spinning.


Soft is she, so rare a white,

whether I look or look away.

How small a part of time and space

we share, so certain to be lost, we both, we,

like this bed soon battered and destroyed.



I’ve Loved as I Have Loved (for John Dryden)


Whenever we hope for we fear for too

Jus so I’ve loved as I have loved, as long and as well as I could,

but what loves and what was loved has been loved out of me.


Her fingers were like everything all at once,

and the song within her was like the whispers

of the prophet’s visionary flights to God.


I saw madness rise in her until she caught

and drew an angel down, and grew big

with hymns, which is why I will never

leave the one who has undone me.



Before My Life Began (for Thomas Traherne)


Before my life began, in what abyss,

beneath what dust, in what chaos did I lie,

a piece of everything rising out of nothing

until awake, a stranger here strange glories shown

before being dragged back into the maelstrom.


How bright all things arethe sky’s magnificence

seen in its shadow on the water, and beyond it

stars and other heavens beyond the sun we see.



Alexander Pope Shoots from the Hip


She’ll adore you, then you’ll

be abandoned, or cursed

by every granted prayer that

descended on your head,

or, overflying you, alighting

on your friends, either way

everything eventually disappears

so why are you leaving

a thousand things undone?



Unquiet Dreams under Passing Stars (for William Wordsworth)


The sun has set, or is setting,

the amber evening somber

the dark wind cold and raw.


The moon above me glows

slowly rises or resumes rising

By what rules governed, with what end in view?


And all that I remember is

vast cathedrals filled with light

seen only in dreams.


Be that all forgotten.

Life’s mysterious joy is in the shadows

not the beaten-down way of those gone before


And its voice is still within me

the handful of light

that led me precisely here.





As the crackling leaves in blackest winter wither,

so in the bright eye of the universe there is a dizziness

         where shadow mountains interrupt the clouds

               and mists gather than once were timber,

timber that once was mistand that there are mysteries

     such as these at all times around me.



Far-Of Lights, Glittering (for Alfred, Lord Tennyson)


The silver-green satin of your bed

      your grey eyes singing,

   and in your song I died for a instant,

became for a moment a floating shape in the air above us.


How dull it is to pause,

to make an end. But the long night wanes

and washes your song away with it. We both know

where we’re headedthat by Fall it will be ashes.



The Hyacinth Bride (for Edward Fitzgerald)


At dawn around me danced some snow,

although the me within me was dead

and the sun shone through the clouds,

its beams widening from cloud to field

as if the sun had suddenly shattered into bits.



The Mystery of What We’ve Been and Why We’ve

Suffered (for Matthew Arnold)


The night in an ever-widening circle

creeping from hill to hill.


The way is harsh, heart-wearying,

everywhere I wander.


The light I seek is shining somewhere else,

but I have no energynone.



My Sister (for Dante Gabriel Rosetti)


I knew that she was dead

and there, all white, my sister slept


    My sister’s life had little incident

but her poems a varied brightness

and velvet intensity, with sadness as her muse.


She was the spirit of postponement,

the aesthetics of renunciation,

an air by Gluck.


Both as painter and poet

she could not cohere

for more than a few years

like birds of prey who feed upon dead bones,

or the autumn leaves we are standing on.



The Idle Singer on an Empty Day (for William Morris)


The white roofs grow whiter and the thrushes’

weary songs pierce the sky and made me glad.


I watch the sun climb like wine into my cup,

as the dead will pull others out of our world into theirs.



Resurrection (for Ernest Dowson)


Poetry as passion is obsolete

not as I was or as it was, but roses

twined around a polished skull.



For Any He Had Not Yet Written (for Wilfred Owen)


His poetry saddened the light blue trees

very far from here, so he wondered

why it did not move him more

and how cold and late it was.



The Grammar of Myth (for Robert Graves)


“I write poems for poets…. To write poems for other

than poets is wasteful.”

—Robert Graves, Foreword to Poems 1938-45


Many-gifted beauty sings as she flies

through the black wastes of evening sky


past the moon, ragged and silver,

her sea-green eyes glowing


and all of this I write in love,

in love of her.



[Originally published in NHS 2009, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs09/Randy_Roark.htm.]