Carl Rakosi Poems

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In What Sense I Am I

In what sense
I am I
a minor observer

Testing on Steel and Glass

"If you open the brain
from whence sprang Solomon and Aristotle
and separate the lips
in the fissure of Sylvius

Associations with a View from the House

What can be compared to
the living eye?
Its East
is flowering
and its North
dogwood bushes.

What can be compared
to light
in which leaves darken
after rain,
fierce green?
like Rousseau's jungle:
any minute
the tiger head
will poke through
the foliage
at experience.

Who is like man
sitting in the cell
of referents,
whose eye
has never seen
a jungle,
yet looks in?

It is the great eye,
source of security.
Praised be thou,
as the Jews say,
who have engraved
and delivered us
to the mind
where you must reign
as quiddity of bone
and ever without
bias or mercy,
attrition or mystery.


Am I the only one
my neighbour's
frolicksome goat,
tied to a pecan tree?
All morning
it has been examining
an empty bushel basket
and has lifted
one leg delicately
like a circus horse
as if to roll it,
but whether to do that
or to butt it
with its small horns,
that is the question.
Not of great moment,
no signing of the Charter,
but like air music,
quickest of the elements.
Towards which I leaped!

In form
its own grace,
as it passed
in retrospect, classical.

The real goat stayed,
the body solid
as a four-square loom
and delivered me
from abstraction.
His coloring,
greyish-soft shades,
their dark and light
passing into each other
as in an antique rubbing.

I now found myself
sitting so near,
my shade,
as in the Inferno,
sensed his,
but he gave no sign
of my presence,
even when I stroked him
and my heart leaped
at the gentle fleece,
too fine for a hard life.
He continued nibbling
on a dry bush.

I would not have believed
could bolster the man in me
and be so enduring.
Sic transit, not caring
whether it is recognized,
The Divine
(from another age).

He was poking
into the underbush now
and reached across my head
for the small spiny twigs.

At that the phase
and a sensuous trembling
hung in the air,
as when a bee is about
to descend
on blossoming clover,
and I
felt myself being pulled
as by a line
from the invisible
other side
to enter goathood,
deeper than sight.

The Lobster

Eastern Sea, 100 fathoms,
green sand, pebbles,
broken shells.

Off Suno Saki, 60 fathoms,
gray sand, pebbles,
bubbles rising.

and slow-
motion benthos!

The fishery vessel Ion
drops anchor here
plankton smears and fauna.

Plasma-bearer, visible
sea purge,
sponge and kelpleaf.
Halicystus the Sea Bottle

resembles emeralds
and is the largest
cell in the world.

Young sea horse
Hippocampus twenty
minutes old,

nobody has ever
seen this marine
freak blink.

It radiates on
terminal vertebra
a comb of twenty

upright spines
and curls
its rocky tail.

Saltflush lobster
bull encrusted swims

backwards from the rock.

The Menage

Up stand
in a
the stems
dark green,
as they descend
into the water/
seen through
a thicket
of baby's breath, "a tall herb
bearing numerous small,
fragrant white flowers."
I have seen
snow-drops larger.
I bent my face down.
To my delight
they were convoluted
like a rose.
They had no smell,
their white
the grain of Biblical dust,
which like the orchid itself
is as common as hayseed.
Their stems were thin and woody
but as tightly compacted
as a tree trunk,
greenish rubbings showing in spots
through the brown;
wiry, forked twigs so close,
they made an impassable bush
which from a distance
looked like mist.

I could barely escape
from that wood of particulars ...
the jonquils whose air within
was irradiated topaz,
silent as in an ear,
the stems leaning lightly
against the glass,
trisecting its inner circle
in the water,
crossed like reverent hands
(ah, the imagination!
Enter monks.
Oops, sorry!
on Japanese space.
Exit monks
and all their lore
from grace).

I was moved by all this
and murmured
to my eyes, "Oh, Master!"
and became engrossed again
in that wood of particulars
until I found myself
out of character, singing
"Tell me why you've settled here."

"Because my element is near."
and reflecting,
"The eye of man cares. Yes!"

But a familiar voice
broke into the wood,
a shade of mockery in it,
and in her smile
a fore-knowledge
of something playful,
something forbidden,
something make-believe
something saucy,
something delicious
about to pull me
off guard:
"Do you want to be my Cupid-o?"

In fairness to her
it must be said
that her freckles
are always friendly
and that the anticipation
of a prank
makes them radiate
across her face
the way dandelions
sprout in a field
after a summer shower.

"What makes you so fresh,
my Wife of Bath?
What makes you so silly,
o bright hen?"

"That's for you to find out,
old shoe, old shoe.
That's for you to find out
if you can."

"Oh yeah!"
(a mock chase and capture).
"Commit her
into jonquil's custody.
She'll see a phallus
in the pistil.
Let her work it off there."

But I was now myself
under this stringent force
which ended,
as real pastorals in time must,
in bed, with the great
eye of man, rolling.

Night Thoughts

After the jostling on canal streets
and the orchids blowing in the window
I work in cut glass and majolica
and hear the plectrum of the angels.

My thoughts keep dwelling on the littoral
where china clocks tick in the cold shells
and the weeds slide in the equinox.

The night is cold for love,
a chamber for the chorus
and the antistrophe of the sealight.

The Old Codger's Lament

Who can say now,
"When I was young, the country was very beautiful?
Oaks and willows grew along the rivers
and there were many herbs and flowering bushes.
The forests were so dense the deer slipped through
the cottonwoods and maples unseen."

Who would listen?
Who will carry even the vicarious tone of that time?

In the old days
age was honored.
Today it's whim,
the whelp without habitat.

Who will now admit
that he is either old or young
or knows anything?
All that went out with the forests.

The Old Man Drew the Line

The old man
drew the line
for his son,
the executive:
"I don't want you spending money on me!
(not as long as there are fathers)",
the line ageless
as the independence of time.
Musters tears
and overflows
the inner ear,
yet does not matter.
It can not cure frailty.

I seek him
who will seek me out
and will believe
what I do not believe
(that is my frailty).
"Sit down here with us,"
he says,
"You don't have to impress anyone.
Here is my hand.
Your age is of no significance."
I move closer to his mouth
and look into his eyes.
I do not avert mine,
there is no reason to,
or retreat
into a kindly smile.

Ah, companero,
you were born
on the wrong day
when God was paradoxical.
You'll have to
find yourself an old dog.


The ants came
to investigate
the dead
bull snake,
at the viscera
and hurried off
with full mouths
waving wild

Moths alighted,
beetles swarmed,
flies buzzed
in the stomach.

Three crows
tugged and tore
and flew off
to their oak tree
with the skin.

In every house
men, women and children
were chewing beef.

Who was it said
"The wonder of the world
is its comprehensibility"?