Thin Blood

Hearts tamed of passion still feel, still love. Yet the blood runs thin there and the throb of the universe is a measured metronomic tick marking time in even steps. Their success is on its way to Byzantium where the passion of poets is enshrined in gilded automata, and Irish nightingales chained to a pedestal set in a page of history, and the pulsing heart of humanity commemorated in tapestries of dead thread hung upon the crumbling walls of the stone cold ages.

I would rather be a thief stealing from poets, stealing across grass green as fire, wild as the fire that first set fire to the stars, stealing fire from jealous gods. I would rather chant and throb in the campfire drums of joy where wine and laughter howl and lovers steal into shadows domed in stars, where the river slips and pools and churns down through rock to the ancient sea beneath the ancient moon.

I would rather children raised themselves and lived with wolves and mated for life and loped and ran down to death in fierce and gentle arcs across the hillside pines; I would rather be where the heart hears pain howling and moves gently to it to be near, where mind does not remove itself to a distance in embarrassment and fear.

These are the days of the gaijin zaibatsu and uneconomical genocide.

I would rather be dry bones cradling dry bones in a cave than a fleshly priest; I would ring the shivering bells and feel Esmeralda dance, and die, rather than kiss the cold golden crucifix.

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3 Responses to Thin Blood

  1. Louis W says:

    Years ago, when I was younger, I wrote a poem that I ended with some lines inspired by something you had said even more years ago. I don’t remember anymore what it was you said. I remember what I wrote: “When love does find me, I greet it not with a song but a smile. I would rather be than write a poem; rather touch the moon than trace it.”

    You mention Byzantium, and I now think of Yeats writing of his spiritual journey when he was approximately the age I am now. He was sailing away from a country that is not for old men

    The Irish Nigntingale was one Morton Downey, and not Yeats. Yeats, though, earlier sang of a somewhat different journey, with no sailing, “The Song of Wandering Aengus”:

    “I went out to the hazel wood,
    Because a fire was in my head,
    And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
    And hooked a berry to a thread;
    And when white moths were on the wing,
    And moth-like stars were flickering out,
    I dropped the berry in a stream
    And caught a little silver trout.

    “When I had laid it on the floor
    I went to blow the fire a-flame,
    But something rustled on the floor,
    And someone called me by my name:
    It had become a glimmering girl
    With apple blossom in her hair
    Who called me by my name and ran
    And faded through the brightening air.

    “Though I am old with wandering
    Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
    I will find out where she has gone,
    And kiss her lips and take her hands;
    And walk among long dappled grass,
    And pluck till time and times are done,
    The silver apples of the moon,
    The golden apples of the sun.”

  2. bobgriffith says:

    And I thought nobody listened to me in those days. Your recollection touches me, Louis. I remember saying something very, very similar to the line in your poem, “I would rather be than write a poem; rather touch the moon than trace it.” Yes, that’s it, a consistent theme which remains with me down through the years.

    I’ve read “Wandering Aengus” more times than I can count. All those many years ago at AWHS, after I won 50 bucks for 2nd place in the Jeffco JFK Memorial Essay, I spent the money on books at the bookstore in Arvada Plaza. I bought a thesaurus, The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, the Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats, and several volumes of collections of poetry and short fiction. The only original volume which has stayed with me down through the years, surviving the desolations and cleansings and one utter stripping of worldly belongings which occurred along the way, is the Yeats. It’s back is broken, the cover spine is a flap, and the dog-eared pages are old companions. I had to replace the Dylan Thomas twice, the original was drowned when I was “on the road” ala Kerouac and Cassaday and fell asleep reading it by a campfire and woke up in a gully washer. The second was more ignominiously just lost somewhere. Camp on high ground is a good lesson to learn, BTW.

    The reference to Yeats as the Irish nightingale must be put down to artistic license and given some shrift for obvious reasons since it points to Byzantium and Yeats observing himself in that form there. Yes, Yeats was sailing away from a country that is not for old men. He was also sailing into a place that is not for young men.

    And the way I take that these days – and it appears you do as well because “Aengus” came to your mind – is that while old men can be reconciled to the ages of humanity there is a pure, eternal, passionate being always present there. We are, as Dylan Thomas penned, reconciled to the fact that “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower… blasts the roots of trees (and) is my destroyer.”

    Yet we sing in our chains like the sea. Passion remains, untamed, unquelled, unconquered and unsubmitted to anything but love.

    PS: I still think I would have won first place in the JFK essay contest if I’d followed the rules and submitted two typewritten copies, which was written in stone according to the person I turned in my handwritten copies to at the last minute. It was submitted and word came back that a dispensation of some sort had been granted there, but that a great big frown about it was in play as well and there were no guarantees that it wouldn’t be summarily thrown out by one of the judges. The essay topic was Civil Disobedience (chuckle) and that may have worked in my favor. My handwriting script was very civil in those days. A great memory. A tip of the hat here to Christy Robbins, who won, and who could type.

    • bobgriffith says:

      The Cascadian Wandering Aengus (who is here, with her, my glimmering girl, where we have gone together)

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