1. The Lord One and His Name One
And the prophets, do they live forever?
When the shepherd is stricken
the sheep scatter to mourn;
when the god burns,
each pot of fire mourns
in the blazing wood.
A cloud mourns the pilot
lost in the mist of stop-time.
The reckless mourn the meek,
the dwindling lake its streams
and the damaged heart its affections.
There will be no refinement;
error spreads like a crack, crazing the dishes.
The husband mourns the virgin
as the moon mourns the day,
But what shall the sun mourn,
that master of praise and shadow?
Shall a river mourn the rain,
grain regret the harvest?
The joiner praises board and nail,
and a shapeless weight on the table
gives thanks for what it is.
Mourn what is broken;
praise what is restored.
Even the Lord of Hosts
calmly awaits his passing
in the sleek seed of the fruit,
in the stone asleep at its station.
But the speeding car is forever,
and the loud noise everlasting,
erupting in metal nearby.
Infinite the disturbance
in paradise on earth,
and soft are the cries of children.
For the angel that is always passing
speaks with me at night,
through the lattice and the vine.
It speaks like a wind-torn scroll,
but has the wings of a stork.
Its hair streams in its coursing,
and its tears flow like cream.
2. Refiner’s Fire
You will go forth leaping, like calves from the stall.
What can I tell you?
In the man I am and the god I will never be,
something calls, day after day,
that looks like a flower
at the volcano’s cliff-edge,
but sounds like if and ever,
and it says out of my mouth:
“I am the Prolific and the Devourer.
I have more fears and pains
than wheat has grains in the field.
I am the head start and the dead end.
Come with your vestige of voles,
your working group of wombats,
ecstasies of egrets, and attitude of ants,
for I am the refiner’s fire.
My fathering is the first thing
and mothering is my last.
I see what you are up to
and all the vacations you plan.
Let the field mouse stand at the station
with two packed bags;
I am both what made him
and the train that arrives like a cat.
I’m the one who eats the sandwich
you were too exhausted to finish;
I trim your hedgerows at night,
flush your forgotten toilets, mail your lost letters
when they turn up under the rug.
I pity the soothsayers, false witnesses,
and accountants of pleasure and pain—
where in misery are they?
In the dawn of the heart, only true men arise,
but I am the rock, as of love abiding;
I will hold you in your speeding
and rush with you through sleep.
I am your tall boots and your bent frame,
your swampland and your hard ground.
At the lifting of the encampment,
I quietly put out your fires,
and I am fire restored, leaping through the wood.
If, on a Mars trip, loneliness invades
and madness wears your name,
I will give you a big hug
and surround you with the children
you remember as your own.
And you will work in peace at the bench of the Lord,
a shoemaker, a tailor, who can close
every breach with his hands.
For you alone, I soften the winds of heaven.
There you will keep a book of remembrance
and another of forgiveness,
and there will be no book
in which your name is rain.
They will say of you then,
this thin man has a fat life,
and his bowls of wine are top-flight.”