JACK FOLEY


 

SPEAKING WITH DANIEL G. HOFFMAN, WHO IS IN DIRE SICKNESS
 
God writes the world—the world’s alive with God
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God”
 
You can shake it out—“like shining from shook foil.”
The world’s a vale of trouble and of toil
Divine hand shapes, though it may rot and spoil.
 
“The end is near,” said Dan—not world, but Dan.
Why should God will the unmaking of a man?
 
“Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay
Do not go gentle”—is it a “good night”?
 
“Goodbye” means “God be with you,” but God’s the reason
We last barely longer than a season
 
“Pardon, great enemy”—God brings the night
And brings the light that follows on the night.


Copyright © 2013 Jack Foley




DANIEL HOFFMAN



THE COMING OF ROBIN HOOD

 

Given: that glebe     and gorse and grounded

be seared by scorch     of the merciless sun;

that hillock and ridge     rust, though rainwater

is none: that North,     nimbus the wood needs

grind like a grate     high over the ground;

that ash of dead fires     from dark heavens falling

make scape of land sea,     while snowtide reveals

nor furrows deepfilled     nor furze nor flower.

Here in the sameness     of space is horizon

in an age of dying.     But deep in the heavens

sinuous surges     of sun prick the crystal

and sink to earth’s center;     sap stirs

in blood as in root     with burgeon and budding.

The ground heaves, and green     is the girth of the meadow

                                         for now

                        the sun-faced groundsel beams;         

                        in seedfields, row on row

                        of greenlanced barley teems.

                        Gorse drinks the melting snow.

 

Besought: from unstinting     sun, from the seasons,

phoenixes four     ever fecund returning,       

from kestrel and crab,     from kine, from tall corn,

from all that is born     to bequeath its beginning,

to share in the source     of that ceaseless strength,

to feel the energy     under the flesh

rise in the rhythm     of the world’s return.

But witness are we     that wane of winter

Precedes the singing     of cuckoo in sedge,

That greenbriar bursts     through a compost grave.

All that’s alive     is enfeoffed to the dead.

Death quitclaims none     yet conquers never;

the egg’s in the ash,     ever inviolate.

O Sovereign Source     Whom we beseech

of Life-in-Death     and Death-in-Life,

deliver us, unworthy,     to worship thy works,

permit us to praise     with our tongues thy powers,

to see thy divinity     dwell in our shape

                                             as a man

                        whose holy human breath

                        and speech is ours, who can

                        endure His life and death

                        in septuagennial span.

Moves among us     a miracle maker,

came on a winey     wind to call

into this forest     His faithful forth.

At crest of moon     the coven convenes:

black sky’s scaled     by bonefire: sun

recalled to burn     bleak night to day.

With besom He beats     the deathdark back,

beckons with brand     His band to the light.

Now skirl of pipes     and skittle of bones

hymns our homage     in halidom wild.

In laughter and love     life’s force we praise,

cleft foot, calved foot     cross round cauldron

and merry the mirth     that mingles with mounting

                                             flame

                        in prothalamium:

                        The God in Man whose name

                        we cry at last has come

                        His marriage rite to claim.

 

Round and round     goes ring and round

in the holy stations     of the Sun.

Submagus Tuck     the ember takes,

chanting, ‘Fire,     O fecund source

of life returning,     burn, eternal

Sun and soul!’     The circle third

is finished. Flame     the Friar replaces.

Bread he beckons     and breaks. The ram

this morning spitted     is served and spent.

Now Robin waves,     winecasks come:

goodwives, Maid,     their God and men

mingle mortal     joy and make

                                           their meal,

                        sing ‘Robin, Marian, bless

                        thy supplicants with weal,

                        Foster our happiness

                        who do Thy praises peal!’      

 

To skittle and skirl     now wheels and skips

in skimble-skamble     scamper spinning

through murk of must     and moon’s-horn dusk

the dance! Toward trance,     toward transformation

they leap and rush,     reel and tremble:

tuck whispers, hoarse, ‘A hare am I!

Take me, earth!’     and down he tumbles.

Leaps to the sky     Long John! Will

seizes Suky and     somersaults!

Much wafts his hands:     ‘I’m windblown wheat;

I beckon thee, birds,     devour my body!’

Robin spreads wide     wings: ‘The sparrow

That last year gobbled     they grain I slew.

You’re free! Then Marian     falls on fours,

Rears, and whinnies,     ‘The world I’ll foal!’

Bonebonds wrought     to wraiths of will

they run, soar,     swim, conjoin

in images bursting     brain and blood,

as thew and thigh     and thought rejoice,

                                             and rise

                        bodied forth as fanes

                        wherein each lover lies

                        stag-strong and scarlet stains

                        the whiteness of her thighs.

 

Tongues pierce inward,     redly touching:

in glade where gladness     gushed in a ground         

faggots’ crackle     fades, hissing;

alone the woodlouse     reels on the log.

Clouds of stars     crinkle in heaven;

a nightjar burbles     belated rills;

murmuring leaves,     murmuring grasses;

the dark moves in;     a muffled sigh,

a breath in sleep’s     instinctual stirring:

—this scene’s the ember’s     eye regards.

Sounds of silence     stroke the forest—

ratchet of claws,     birdwings’ rustle,

a wind of waking     wafts the halflight.

Under the briery     bush the bride

slumbers still     beyond all sorrows.

Horned groom, god     or halfgod, softly

sunders from her,     in own self shapen.

What does he see     in the ember staring?

Passes green fingers     through yesternight’s flames:

                                              from nest

                        of ash tall cock thrice crows:

                        Sun leaps from East to West.

                        All’s well.   Each homeward goes

                        singing, renewed, and blessed.

 

 

From A Little Geste and Other Poems (1960)

 

 


  
Copyright © 2013  Daniel Hoffman            


Daniel Hoffman was appointed the twenty-second Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1973.

In 1954, he published his first collection of poetry, An Armada of Thirty Whales. This collection was chosen by W. H. Auden as part of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, and Auden commended it in his introduction as "providing a new direction for nature poetry in the post-Wordsworthian world." He has since published ten additional collections of poetry, a memoir, and seven volumes of criticism. Reviewing Beyond Silence in The New York Times Book Review in 2003, Eric McHenry found Hoffman a poet of remarkable consistency, "no less joyful or engaged at 80 than he was at 25."

Hoffman has taught at Columbia University, Swarthmore College, and the University of Pennsylvania. He retired from the latter as Felix Schelling Professor of English Emeritus, and its Philomathean Society in 1996 published an anthology of poetry in honor of his efforts to bring contemporary poets to give readings in their halls. He is a chancellor emeritus of the Academy of American Poets.  From 1988 to 1999, he served as Poet in Residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, where he administered the American Poets' Corner.

 

 
Jack Foley is a widely-published San Francisco poet known for his "spoken-word performances" which involve choruses. His Cover to Cover radio show, can be heard online at Berkley Radio KPFA www.kpfa.org
"Jack Dancing"
by Leonard Breger