Poems by Robert Bly





--A Dream of Suffocation--
Accountants hover over the earth like helicopters,
Dropping bits of paper engraved with Hegel's name.
Badgers carry the papers on their fur
To their den, where the entire family dies in the night.
A chorus girl stands for hours behind her curtains
Looking out at the street.
In a window of a trucking service
There is a branch painted white.
A stuffed baby alligator grips that branch tightly
To keep away from the dry leaves on the floor.
The honeycomb at night has strange dreams:
Small black trains going round and round--
Old warships drowning in the raindrop.

--The Indigo Bunting--
I go to the door often.
Night and summer. Crickets
lift their cries.
I know you are out.
You are driving
late through the summer night.
I do not know what will happen.
I have no claim on you.
I am one star
you have as guide; others
love you, the night
so dark over the Azores.
You have been working outdoors,
gone all week. I feel you
in this lamp lit
so late. As I reach for it
I feel myself
driving through the night.
I love a firmness in you
that disdains the trivial
and regains the difficult.
You become part then
of the firmness of night,
the granite holding up walls.
There were women in Egypt who
supported with their firmness the stars
as they revolved,
hardly aware
of the passage from night
to day and back to night.
I love you where you go
through the night, not swerving,
clear as the indigo
bunting in her flight,
passing over two
thousand miles of ocean.

--In Danger from the Outer World--
This burning in the eyes, as we open doors,
This is only the body burdened down with leaves,
The opaque flesh, heavy as November grass,
Growing stubbornly, triumphant even at midnight.
And another day disappears into the cliff,
And the Eskimos come to greet it with sharp cries--
The black water swells up over the new hole.
The grave moves forward from its ambush,
Moving over the hills on black feet,
Living off the country,
Leaving dogs and sheep murdered where it slept;
Some shining thing, inside, that has served us well
Shakes its bamboo bars--
It may be gone before we wake . . .

--Moving Inward at Last--
The dying bull is bleeding on the mountain!
But inside the mountain, untouched
By the blood,
There are antlers, bits of oak bark,
Fire, herbs are thrown down.
When the smoke touches the roof of the cave,
The green leaves burst into flame,
The air of night changes to dark water,
The mountains alter and become the sea.

--It's hard for some men to finish sentences--
Sometimes a man can't say
What he . . . A wind comes
And his doors don't rattle. Rain
Comes and his hair is dry.
There's a lot to keep inside
And a lot to . . . Sometimes shame
Means we. . . Children are cruel,
He's six and his hands. . .
Even Hamlet kept passing
The king praying
And the king said,
"There was something. . . ."

--When William Stafford died--
Well, water goes down the Montana gullies.
"I'll just go around this rock and think
About it later." That's what you said.
When death came, you said, "I'll go there."
There's no sign you'll come back. Sometimes
My father sat up in the coffin and was alive again.
But I think you were born before my father,
And the feet they made in your time were lighter.
One dusk you were gone. Sometimes a fallen tree
Holds onto a rock, if the current is strong.
I won't say my father did that, but I won't
Say he didn't either. I was watching you both.
If all a man does is to watch from the shore,
Then he doesn't have to worry about the current.
But if affection has put us into the stream,
Then we have to agree to where the water goes.

--Snowbanks North of the House--
Those great sweeps of snow that stop suddenly six
feet from the house ...
Thoughts that go so far.
The boy gets out of high school and reads no more
books;
the son stops calling home.
The mother puts down her rolling pin and makes no
more bread.
And the wife looks at her husband one night at a
party, and loves him no more.
The energy leaves the wine, and the minister falls
leaving the church.
It will not come closer
the one inside moves back, and the hands touch
nothing, and are safe.
The father grieves for his son, and will not leave the
room where the coffin stands.
He turns away from his wife, and she sleeps alone.
And the sea lifts and falls all night, the moon goes on
through the unattached heavens alone.
The toe of the shoe pivots
in the dust ...
And the man in the black coat turns, and goes back
down the hill.
No one knows why he came, or why he turned away,
and did not climb the hill.

--Noah Watching the Rain--
I never understood that manyness leads to war,
Nor that stones are like gasoline on the fire.
I never knew that the horseshoe longs for night.
All through my twenties I worked in the opal mines.
No one could open the door to Saturn's house.
I had no choice but to live in my father's night.
I am still a mouse nibbling the chocolate of sadness.
I am an Albigensian reading Bulgarian script.
I am a boy walking across England by night.
Each time we fold in the fingers of our left hand
We bring our ancestors close to each other again,
So they can lie on top of each other in the bed at
night. Soon our grandfather and grandmother will kiss
Once more. Then death will come in his Jewish hat,
And tell Noah to start praising the rainy night.
Even though I know that whenever I say the word
"Abundance," I am laying up trouble for ourselves,
I have no other way to express my love for the night.

--Walking Backward--
Friends, there is only one joy and hundreds of sorrows.
We live down here in the Abode of Smelly Bones
Near the window's door, near Whitman's retarded brother.
Even though it's dawn on the rooftops, it's still night
Here, among cabbages and shoats, among
Glints from the wings of the mice-seeking owls.
Grown men are often strange. Savanarola
Was uncomfortable in a strawberry patch,
And Aristotle was uneasy beside the generous sea.
Something in mother's milk frightened both
The Italians and Greeks. A drop of milk
Creates a crown when it falls back into milk.
The Sumerians, pressing their stylus into wet clay,
Found their way to the sites of their great
White-walled cities by the smell of milk.
In our messy world, we all walk backward,
Each holding a potato that points to the grave.
The night of infidelity and longing goes on forever.

--Dawn--
Some love to watch the sea bushes appearing at dawn,
To see night fall from the goose wings, and to hear
The conversations the night sea has with the dawn.
If we can't find Heaven, there are always bluejays.
Now you know why I spent my twenties crying.
Cries are required from those who wake disturbed at dawn.
Adam was called in to name the Red-Winged
Blackbirds, the Diamond Rattlers, and the Ring-Tailed
Raccoons washing God in the streams at dawn.
Centuries later, the Mesopotamian gods,
All curls and ears, showed up; behind them the
Generals
With their blue-coated sons who will die at dawn.
Those grasshopper-eating hermits were so good
To stay all day in the cave; but it is also sweet
To see the fenceposts gradually appear at dawn.
People in love with the setting stars are right
To adore the baby who smells of the stable, but we know
That even the setting stars will disappear at dawn.