Ruth Lepson (Massachusettes, USA): Four Untitled Poems

I.
Shelley was selfish--his m's give him away.

A few pages under glass--I had lost the faith that anyone should bother with them.

The women huddled together--Austen, Bronte, Browning.

The men not politic, perhaps, but political.
Yet many sentences are simple.

Merry Chaucer from family of wine merchants.

A note, the N-Town cycle, shows the performers of the medieval mystery plays a travelling company. "It was intended to be performed on a Sunday at N-Town."

The Anglo-Saxon Beowulf "is known only from this copy, written out about A.D. 1000…severely damaged, in 1731, in a fire."

Danish king Scyld Scefing’s body placed in a ship, "A gold banner flies over his head," "set adrift to be swallowed up by the sea."

Spenser's f like a tadpole, a medieval cross, two lines after it.

"As elemental fear" writes Sir Walter Raleigh in his Tower, in his History of the World.
Fills the left column of the left page and writes one stanza, bottom right.
Of Diana, Aurora, "Beauty that rumor made."

Donne, "son of a prosperous London businessman," "secret marriage to Ann More"; his father-in-law had him arrested. His g and his y begin the same way.

Philosopher Bacon "Found guilty of bribery and corruption." In his hand a moment of thickness, a moment of thinness.

Bricklayer, soldier, actor Ben Jonson--his page dense rectangle tiny words heading towards the binding.

(Herrick's manuscript "temporarily removed.")

Milton's "extracts from some 90 writers,” added comments of his own.

In Sir Thomas Browne's "Hydriotaphia, Urne-buriall," (1658), "a meditation on death," the movement of each stroke is from the bottom left to the top right, parts of the paragraph crossed out.

A parliamentarian "surviving the restoration to serve Charles II in several embassies" wrote newsy letters--page long, writing medium-sized full of affectation "deprived of the Poet Laureatship in 1688 for his loyalty to the Stuarts."

Dryden's heroique Stanzas to the memory of Oliver Cromwell--his f like an 8th note, his l like a snake moving toward a piper. His letters underline other letters.

"The largely self-educated son of a Roman Catholic linen-draper," Pope translated the Iliad at the rate of 30 to 50 verses a day; here are some copied on the backs of letters addressed to his mother and to himself at Twickenham.

Here the "final verses of Achilles' lament for Petroclus in Book 19, facing a rough sketch of the shield forged by Hephaestus for the Greek hero." The surprise of his childlike drawing of the shield "hidden as the word of love." Words are crossed out and others written above them, articles are taken out, the syntax changed. "sigh tear for what he left behind"

Defoe's long lines in large book straight as in musical staves, the letters rounded.

Swift's letter--hand tiny and light, long page, no margins.

II.
rice paper clouds barely covered a charcoal and off white moon some gravestone rubbing you were dead i was alive it was always that way brown that’s the way it happened ever that way lying on the rug in the heat of the night playing that’s left you were dead and i was dead was there ever another ever underside the handle of it under ever to take that charge every day every sans seraph no more type more hype might that be a chance to take blake runes of graves dead letters post haste hastes are you sleeping in are you in the sparrow that leapt in front of my path in the stone other dimensions now we will never see you there where did you go my mine left take me away take myself a living particle of right&left and shift and score and drift say enough and it won’t matter what have you this is old i remember this scene from twenty years ago i’m too old for it now it’s melancholy to think about this and some birds make two notes, simultaneously

III.
there he is on the
cover the shadow of a
fern on the left side of his jacket
you can't see his eyes, hooded by
plain thick glasses
nothing extra in his mien
a serious man from the east coast
trees in shadow behind him
it seems his shirt is white and he wears
no neck tie, his top button unbuttoned
physician
who thinks all things frivolous unnecessary
loves the
gesture of kindness, bravery, love and
is sure in his loneliness all is
imagination what is he looking at

we can't tell
his hair is cut short
his ears are prominent
he was listening for something american
finally heard something about patterns
why do we revere him
his words are sometimes embarassing sometimes
boring he never goes over into the dramatic
yet personifies his very city
wilder poets paid homage
he had facts at his command
that is why we revere him
he memorized flower, latin, symptoms, lived
day by day seemingly unafraid of the death that comes
unstintingly and so he cd turn to weed or
broken glass at the roadside
bowel or child or old man equally

IV.
it never goes away completely
like the usa in the 50s
in a poor small town in the middle of nowhere
in those weeds by the side of a house, its paint peeling
and nobody home I am sitting here and do not move
across the street 2 american flags
cheer like leaders in the wind
that brought memory and war again
jazz helps fast language helps
war wounds yelp men dead again
we went to strange places on vacation
it hurt to live with them
there was no way to communicate
blurting it out didn't help anything
they just say you're strange in the vest
in the sink poison in the purse
so rest, rest till all that talk of
's squeezed out of you


© Ruth Lepson 2007