There is a deep beauty in
things as they are
A GREEN MOUNTAIN IDYLL
POEMS FOR HAYDEN CARRUTH
Hayden Carruth . Lorine
Niedecker . Cid Corman . Theodore Enslin . Mary Oliver . Barbara Moraff
. Bob Arnold . David Budbill . Paul Metcalf . Joel Oppenheimer . Rene Char
. Sengai . Saigyo . Ryokan . Basho . Evan Strusinski . Issa . David Ray
. Geof Hewitt . William Matthews . David Huddle . Millen Brand . Alain
Bosquet . Janine Pommy Vega . Lyle Glazier . M. J. Bender . Peter Gurnis
. David Giannini . Barbara Howes . Samuel Green . Greg Joly . Michael Hettich
. Ozaki Hosai . Rocco Scotellaro . Peter Money . Terry Hauptman . Robert
From the Longhouse
archive we have selected poets & poems reflecting a Vermont residence,
now or once upon a time, or a friendship with Hayden Carruth, to align
with and boost a celebration of events and readings in November around
the state for Hayden. Ive edited this modest garland and it
is our first roll at this sort of thing on-line. Its clear purpose is to
share poems by Hayden from our pages along with many poets from the state
as if a visit at the town grange. Dip into it whenever you wish. A few
weeks ago I had mistakenly announced this November event as a poet laureate
position for Hayden. Kindly laugh this off as wishful thinking on my part.
Once upon a time Hayden would come to visit us in our cabin by the river
far down a back road, no literary strings at all, a couple waiting by the
dim light of a woodfire. I recall one visit he made when he read aloud
his entire long poem sequence The Sleeping Beauty that was yet to
be published from Harper & Row. And then he made sure we got the only
credit for a magazine that published one poem from the sequence and that
was the poem he left with me the next morning after a blueberry breakfast
with all the fixings. He inscribed in one of his books for us just that
flavor of Susan's home cooking. Soon after, he was gone from Vermont to
Syracuse, NY; finally a steady paying job, teaching at the university and
a whole new poem came flooding forth.
Ten years later we read together at The Clark Art Museum. Hayden started
off with a poem we first published in Longhouse, "Regarding Chainsaws".
We include it here. A dandy of a poem. I was always partial to the early
lean years work where the treasure-chest anthology The Voice
That Is Great Within Us was edited from his tiny cowshed writing hut,
over-stuffed with books, box woodstove and postcard photo of Ezra Pound
on the wall. Those elusive New Directions books of poems that came with
a certain haunting quality from a certain haunting existence forever making
ends meet; every single poem a gem in From Snow and Rock, From Chaos.
Only Hayden could describe for us just where he'd been, settling in Vermont
after illness, some mainstream publishing and as the editor of Poetry;
now in a tiny house bought for peanuts, but still tough when you are only
making peanuts, and raising a young family in Johnson, Vt. Back then in
the early 60s before the influx of communes and the long hair tribe
of poets one had to feel cut off from the literary world chopping
out as a full-time resident copy editing, review writing, any nickel and
dime chore and counting as your best friend a neighbor farmer called Marshall.
You bet it sounded that romantic to me as a young poet born in these hills
and coming to live deeper in. I know it did with some other poets who came
here about the same time rousing closing 60s and early 70s. It shows forth
in all our poems. What was once romantic and the struggle is to
hold onto that love was quickly burned off into a hardcore sense
of literary maintenance and making a daily living right where you stood.
A million miles from anywhere lodged with local farmers, mechanics,
loggers, dimwits, uncanny geniuses. If you listen just right today you
may just find a peep-hole left of that time. But back in that day, it was
the work of Hayden Carruth and Ted Enslin in Maine who were the man.
No small wonder that when Susan and I were married, like knuckleheads,
we went to look for Hayden on our honeymoon up in Johnson, and inviting
us in for supper and the night he and Rose Marie put us up on their screen
porch, by the brook. Like some ancient tale, we went to find that house
and brook almost thirty years later with no luck. As Hayden will grimly
remind us in his autobiography Reluctantly, scraping together a
living out in the country, one was lucky to have the time to lift one's
head to see the foliage, never mind the pretty countryside. Irony has always
made the finest country poem.
The following poems
have been culled from issues of Longhouse spanning from 1971 and
still thriving. Needless to say Hayden Carruth was an early supporter and
contributor to our pages, often tipping off poets to send us work, stamps
and any means of subsistence since we published forever without grants
or funding of any kind. His kindness to struggling poets is of legend rather
than any myth. And through the kindness of strangers we continue on and
share these many voices forever within us.
North people known for silence. Long
dark of winter. Norrland families go
months without talking, Eskimos also,
except bursts of sporadic errie song.
South people different. Right and wrong
all crystal there and they squabble, no
fears, though they praise north silence. Ho,
philosophical types, men of peace.
notice please of what happens. Winter on the brain.
Youre literate, so words are what you feel.
Then youre struck dumb. To which love will you speak
the words that mean dying and going insane
and the absolute futility of the real?
Something in the
like a flower
THE LONG RUN
Drink up - friend -
while you can.
in this is.
Rock holds dust -
hope a cup.
Drink to this.
Love in old age is a fire of coals
burns in to the core and becomes smaller
only to see it smaller it rises
in any sudden gust becomes larger
as the youth who kindled it
when he did not know the tending needed
now that he does one more stoking it bursts
in new flower the jewels of fire
any place any time
at the side of the road.
You take him up
in your arms and walk
into the shade
of the deeper trees,
beyond the blast
of the summer sun,
and curious dogs.
You hope it was quick.
You hope it didnt
hurt too much.
You know he is
your brother, you know
how many roads
flow through the world,
how many bodies
crawl toward the dark,
how many days
are marred by the bloody
flick of grief,
how many questions
will never be answered.
You put him down,
you cover him over
with thorns and leaves
and walk away
thinking, as you must,
joy to the leaves,
joy to the light,
joy to the cycles
c Mary Oliver
DO YOU MEAN HOW DO YOU GET TO VERMONT?
no one to dance
at woods edge
hallucinate water wind
fade into foliage
REASON I LOVE TO BUILD STONE WALLS
and have for so long
is that I need few
tools to do the job
I could walk to work
free at hand
until I arrive
( not wanting to
look too happy )
and the stones
are there lopsided
out of place to
as I kneel
maybe with a 3 lb.
hammer Ive brought
along for company
The springtime so impetuous. Already pink blossoms
Are drifting down, a flurry in the peach grove
At the high end of the vallon. Sometimes
They become less pink than mauve,
Less mauve than deep rose, when clouds hide the sunshine
And the mountains darken. Then again they are gossamer
Weaving in brightness, falling, billowing,
Wavering. The old brown woman below
At her goat-tending looks up to see them and to see
The mysterious wind spun
From mountain stone that takes them, whirls them free
And up, up, in a vortex. With them
Her eyes too move upward. For always there is a falling
And a rising within, this beautiful helical rhythm,
And always, it seems, a vision calling and calling.
READING MENG CHAIOS
SEEING OFF MASTER TAN
Theres never any money!
All my wife and I do
is worry and fight.
I suffer to make these poems!
I wish I could be like Master Tan and go from place to place
begging for someone to pay my health insurance premiums,
car repair bills and property taxes. But I cant. I have to suffer
in silence and alone, pretending there is nothing wrong.
I know that since ancient times real poets have never gotten fat.
What I cant comprehend is how Master Tan could grow old,
hungry and neglected because of poetry, yet never dry up,
never became ironic, nasty, sarcastic or bitter.
How did he keep his innocence?
How could his sweet and grieving tears,
even when he was an old man,
still fall like rain?
the depression of
a deep russian:
shy cunt, hunt
shy i, a.c.
ah, tushy, inc.
such tiny ah.
uh, i shy, cant.
/ THE LOVER
So much had passion seized me for this delectable lover,
I not exempt from effusion and vibrant lubricity, I was,
was not to have died quietly or toned down, acknowledged
merely by my lovers eyelids. Nights of a wild novelty
had rediscovered the ardent communicating saliva, and
perfumed her feverish belonging. Thousands of adulterated
precautions invited me to the most voluptuous flesh ever.
In our hands a desire from beyond destiny, what fear at
our lips tomorrow?
-translated by Cid
a thing of
by Cid Corman
You are so nicely
into the weave you wear and
ah to be woven with
you to have become that close.
by Cid Corman
Lost in a dreamworld
and once again the dream ends
grass for a pillow
awakening all alone
having to think of it too.
-translated by Cid
Forget alone and
forget you have forgotten
have it both your ways.
-translated by Cid
With snow fallen
field paths and mountain paths too
covering them up
who knows where anything is
all goings up in the air
-translated by Cid
Thats the trouble
-translated by Cid
MINUTE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BIRDS AND LEAVES
She lay unmoving
a moment longer, silver thighs
Still splayed, breasts tilted apart so that the bones
Of her chest showed like interlocked fingers while she looked outward
To moonlight and gleaming, billowing trees,
And then she turned on her side and said
he did not hear
The words flutter down on him, touching, tickling
With little brittle feet, pecking the meal
Of his arms and belly, the golden grain; he heard rather
The unspoken that is always eloquent, her few pleas,
Echoes very distant behind the lanterns of his eyes.
He rose then, scattering words, and went to the window shivering.
Cold boards fed the hunger in his feet. He looked at the trees
In silver frost, leaves falling, severing themselves and falling,
Their silence falling in moonlight, falling all night without wind,
Mouths falling, searching the whole body of earth with their kisses.
I say your name
its as if you
But youre not.
No one star
come or go.
for this hut.
--translated by Cid
Smoky Civil War woods,
teardrops of Issa
all along the rail,
a bit of mist, fog
of my own.
I could date it.
These electrical storms razz me
coming on at last after so much
holding off: high humidity, THI, & sweat
seeps in through bones
Zip crash lightning wont hit me
let the wet pellets rejoice
as I dance in the mud,
naked & pink like the pigs
& later, after dark,
the storm provides our clearest light
STRANGE IN DAVE JEFFERIES APARTMENT
Well, the phone
like an old boxers nose.
Ring, ring. Its Sugar Ray
on the nose. Jake, he says,
you cheap punk, your
cornflower blue trunks
dont impress me, you
wouldnt last three rounds
with Bucky Fuller.
Dave gasps, this phone call
is for Jake LaMotta, not me.
The rest of us are sad.
The nose is counting to ten
and sounds authentic; we hang up
just in time. Oh Lord how long
this gonna go on
elsewhere, always elsewhere.
If the whole
length of the white tableclothed
table my grandparents called each other
Old Devil, Battle Ax, Bastard, and Bitch,
if having stopped smoking for Lent, Mother
was in a pout, if New Deal politics
had my father telling us how much he loathed
Roosevelt, if Grandma Lawsons notion
that we boys needed a dose of worm potion
had Charles crying hard not to look amused
and Bill whining for dessert even though
he hadnt finished his beets, if all this
and Uncle Lawrences thick White Owl smoke,
Aunt Elricas hoots, and Inezs craziness
werent my one truth, Id ask to be excused.
art, zat strain
means a daft
and his dada
Fierce hand to hand fighting
as I go writing my poems
ON THE WHITE HOUSE
to kill all
in the head, where
the wrong dreams
is driven out to
with caisson or
It is a thought
that makes the
shake in the hand,
that makes the
creatures in the
I notice a paper
crane. I ask about it.
Im told this story:
Some ten years after the A-bombs
a twelve-year-old girl in Hiroshima,
Sadako Sasaki, who had been exposed to the bomb,
contracted leukemia. A friend
sent her a letter in the hospital,
enclosing--for health--a paper crane,
small, an inch and a half long
with a tapering neck and folded-over
sharp beak. The crane in Japanese legend
lives a thousand years, so a paper crane
is a symbol of health, and there is a belief
that if you fold a thousand cranes
you will get well. Sadako decided
to fold a thousand cranes. She folded
nine hundred and sixty-four
After she died, her classmates
at Nobori-cho Elementary School in grief and love
wanted a statue for her
and for all the children who died.
Funds were raised nationally,
and in Hiroshimas Heiwa Koen --Peace Park--
a statue was put up: high on a three-pronged pedestal,
a young girl who in her raised arms holds
the thin outline of a paper crane. At the statues base
in a rainbow torrent of color
are thousands of actual paper cranes and the words,
This is our cry, this is our prayer--
to establish peace in the world.
FACE OF A DICTATOR
( take your pick )
All that has made you
Sick in the past
Bosquet (Edouard Roditi)
SEVEN POEMS FROM: An Atheists Creed
Tell me why
Tell me why I think.
Tell me why I die.
If you can tell me,
then youre my god,
its because you believe in me
for I grant you so many powers.
Tell me why I walk.
Tell me why I dream.
Tell me why I am.
But if you keep silent,
Im your god.
I HEARD AT THE DISCOUNT DEPARTMENT STORE
Dont touch that. And stop your whining too.
Stop it. I mean it. You know I do.
If you dont stop, Ill give you fucking something
to cry about right here
and dont you think I wont either.
So she did. She slapped him across the face.
And you could hear the snap of flesh against flesh
half-way across the store. Then he wasnt whining anymore.
Instead, he wept. His little body heaved and shivered and wept.
He was seven or eight. She was maybe thirty.
Above her left breast, the pin said: Nurses Aide.
Now they walk hand in hand down the aisle
between the tables piled with tennis shoes
and underpants and plastic bags of socks.
I told you I would. You knew I would.
You cant get away with shit like that with me,
You know you cant.
Youre not in school anymore.
Youre with your mother now.
You can get away with fucking murder here,
but you cant get away with shit like that with me.
Stop that crying now I say
or Ill give you another little something
like I did before.
Thats better. Thats a whole lot better.
You know you cant do that with me.
Youre with your mother now.
Sing Sing entrance
stands over the shoreline
of the Hudson River
to the left
behind barbed wire topped wall
is a ball field
someone hits a triple as the sun
to the right
sprawled along the river
is lovers lane, a kid
peels out in a blue car,
the squeal of tires
and one side is inside
and one side is outside
the same plane passing through
the same sky over both
inside, walking out
through stone corridors
I rub a little lipstick on the wall.
- 1 -
West window looks to the river
strung on a valley road
east window looks to the mountain
We hear the drag of the saw
a long time before
we see the dustcloud
A team is unloading in the bay
Perry snags logs with a canthook
Maurice is sawing
Pop brings Mayflowers in April
swamp pinks in June
wild honeysuckle in July
- 2 -
Schoolnights early to bed
from the upper bunk
we boys hear voices
Keep your eye on this one, Harry,
my ringer will slip
between the legs of your leaner
without touching a hair
- 3 -
under apple boughs
April to June is muddy,
Mel and I carry lard pails
to the spring box,
spongy with bluets
mounds of stone
tear out the
mink otter fox each
off to market skin
perfect duty kersey
stammels shags and beys
chair on the peg of noon, eclipsed
built wagons, good gardens
in a church that lacks only
SILENCE OF STONE
Voice of the workman
sounding over his
idling tractor: "What
the fuck tip of rock
silence waits to be
What he unearths be-
comes a figure fit
to feel as sculpture
fingers of neighbor
kids playing on stone
valleys and chipped peaks
glinting and rain worn
but in stance still of
standing its ground rock
as rock must be: locked
voice of an ancient
future the ants walk
TO DO IN VERMONT
needs to be done.
Oh well, till that garden in October
and lay down vegetable debris which
with poormans fertilizer (snow) will
nourish the earth. Stack the firewood
in non-collapsible way. Clean out
the chimneys. Plant bulbs. Visit yr
downcountry neighbor & milk his goat
faster than he can, smile & stand back,
waiting for him to say cheese.
Getyr car an oil change, check the
tires & air filters. Sing a song to
yr steer before you shoot his brains
out. This is all called Giving Thanks
Properly. It effectively prevents:
earthquake, dropsy, cabin-fever and the other
winter ailments we northcountry folk
are heir to.
Its also a good idea to buy or make a good
wintercoat, epoxy the holes in those old
other things you can do in Vermont. So goes the
rumor: like observe how the clouds thin
deceptively before blizzard, let go of yr
natural hostility & dont accuse anyone of
running a junkyard; hes only making
his ends meet.
This too I affirm
beneath yellow birch and hophornbeam,
hiddenness in our discovered glen
when we see the snake gliding
from the rock pool, the Bo and I
snake gliding on crystal
in shaded sun, in sunsplatter, the Bo and i
we urgent and outgoing, intent now,
going down away through into
crystal and the snakes perfection -
our movement against leaf-shadow
and the mosaic of stone a blue world,
for all the colors of autumn, even brown
or the brown-gray, are purity,
blue on the boys arm taut
in extension, downward, a thought muted
in his movement to shadow and stone,
to object I too joined there inseparable.
He tosses back his blue-gold hair,
thought again transparent in movement,
his ecstasy, a being gone from itself,
tough in its way, and then smiling,
touching me oh from this my own dulled
edge beyond pain, melevasti,
my Bo this, this is the love that
transmutes thought beyond selfhood,
so now I say it, descending still,
leaf-fall, year-fall, the irretrievable
a boy and a man, son and father
in the blue world where a snake
glides from the rock pool.
Furry with sleep,
Up; shoved food; took off:
By 5:30, night still
Drooped over my window,
Then siphoning sound began:
Here, a junker swerving --
Each corner its last --
Now the idling hum of taxis
To La Guardia; later,
A BB gun -- a kid -- shot Roberts heifers.
Six prime bucks leapt our
Furry with sleep, he died.
Working with the bark spud
peeling cedar logs for the shed
I uncover white grubs,
wrinkled & thick as my little finger.
They have powerful jaws.
Working in the dark, blind, in faith
toward whatever they might become,
they leave delicate etchings
in the wood. I have to say
that I understood them
more than the squawking, squabbling
chickens who crowded to peck them
from my unprotected hand.
There is a spell
I see or touch --
not a usual magic.
What adheres is my own.
A simple fact of being.
the tree and shadow
You by me
have your own
version of what may not be
I ask jay
where he wants
the dirt dumped.
from spade work,
he eyes me,
We build them to get here.
At night we put up
our tents and lie thinking
of our families, listening
to bugs bounce off
the canvas. We dream of our new road.
A few miles behind us
Behind them others
fill the houses
with furniture, fill
the cupboards with food
and plates, make sure
Others build stores
and schools, and then,
way back, the families,
the number on each house.
In every garage
a shiny car. In every kitchen
a modern stove.
There are plenty of jobs
building. There are
plenty of toys
for the children.
Down by the
that has thinned to a single stroke
the bobwhites parched cry
Some streams run deep,
some run shallow.
Some summers are dry.
Oh, I think, standing in a dusty field,
what can beauty do,
that the simple rain cannot?
On one or two small berries the mockingbird
keeps his fires going. But his music all day
floats like smoke, remembering, extolling
the elusive crystal of water, the huge down-driving
resurrection. And the shimmering
taste of it.
c Mary Oliver
To one beat-up
Why do men split wood? Round, as it comes from the tree, one stick, unsplit,
will burn as long as two of the same size split -- often through knots
and twisted grains, to try the patience of the axeman. The midsection burns
fastest, as the moisture is forced out both ends -- so that eventually
the two ends can be raked together and burned again. I cut my wood, and
sort it for different size stoves -- the largest for the furnace, the next
size for the library stove, smaller sticks -- the branches that many scorn
and leave in the woods to rot -- for the kitchen range, and the short ends
left over for the Franklin stove which heats the bedroom on cold nights.
Unless a stick is too large to fit through the openings, not one of them
is split. I havent laid hand to an axe this season. But if I tell
an old-timer about this, he reaches for his wedges and splitting maul,
muttering about more heat from split wood. Nearly everything, down to two
inch sticks, is split, and has been for generations. At the end of the
year, if we were to balance accounts, I imagine I burn a third less, and
keep just as warm (unless part of the value in splitting is in warming
ones self at the chopping block) as those who burn their mountains
of splinters, for no good except that their fathers and grandfathers did
all in all
the snow that melts
GALWAY, MY VERMONT LANDLORD
You said to
pull the burdocks,
hear em crack.
And shoot the porcupines
that eat the house-beams down.
But one was quite enough,
my first and last.
He stared out from
the woodpiles top,
dared me to go ahead
and shoot. I did,
and watched him in his own slow
time uncurl my fathers hands.
A FRIEND NEVER SEEN
Words we are;
this bundle of blue
I imagine nothing, why
of tea, flowers
fat gongs, the god
at your elbow)
nothing, no face.
Nothing; give no face,
Two poets, worlds
Not man but mans
being, steadiness almost
The postmarks song: Kyoto
meaning steadiness, faded
now, dogeared but still
the same, calling my
Would not do for brotherhood
in the ordinary way, that
sweetness of knowledge.
To lack knowledge is more
rare. To know only what is,
to see, to see, between
vision and memory
panther on hemlock bough,
the crouching snow,
a miniature, glass
globe of the eye,
and the brief good scream
of the doe
sweet to mortality
No more needed.
This song, this fall
of the moment, being
sung only in words.
Without a bowl
-translated by Cid Corman
We are offspring
the earth as earth of sky and
sky of emptiness
coming to a head meaning
blossoms yet to fall.
Day is done, and we too have been brought to play
with the clothes and the shoes and the faces we had.
The hares have gone to their burrows and the cocks crow,
the face of my mother returns to the fireplace.
-translated by Cid
JOE SPENCE PUT DOWN HIS GUITAR
(after a painting by Barbara Jackson; for R.C.)
you go to this island & theres a road
& you take it and follow to the end
& across from Moms theres a little place
& you walk in & Maiziell feed you
fritters & fingers & in the back theres a jukebox
& you think thiss bettern Paris-
Miami-Florence, & you dont play
anything cause theres music all around
& its quiet.