On the first day of viburnum
I followed a school bus for five miles
past the magnolias and the copper lions
to the shad-men rocking and sleeping in. their bleached boats.
I had just read Pound again and I was thinking
of his brain floating by me in the universe
and his dead body lying face up at Rapallo.
I picked him some violets, for his bitter nose,
and one or two strands of dry forsythia
for his empty hands, something to wave and wave
as he did his bitter business with Kung and Jefferson.
Later that day as I was driving past
my silver cliffs I stopped to pick him some grass,
and thought, if he could wait, I’d get him radishes
or daisies, when they come. Dead poets like him
are all for flowers, they still like to sniff
and stare in the air—vaguely—like sensitive horses,
their eyes filled up with grief and yearning.
If I had the casket before nae I would put
a sunflower in the paw—he wouldn’t mind—
as if he were lying there waiting to jump up,
waiting to shout, “It’s me, it’s me, I live
for beauty, I live for justice,” and then sink back
on the satin pillow, his hair falling over the edges,
the crimson gone from his face, the yellow back.
Dear poets of Perigord, dear poets of New York,
I stopped at a small park on the way back
to think about the centaurs and the white oxen.
I thought we’d share the light between us, I thought
we’d talk about Flaubert and his contempt
for la bêtise moderne, or for that matter
we could talk about the Venice of dreams
or we could turn to American poetry
since World War II and the function of government
to dirty the water or we could just sit and rage
at the new mushiness and the new anemia.
For silence he could stand there staring at the trees
or look at me in the face without a word,
the way he did at the end—for my own silence
I could go back to his death in 72
and what has happened to me in the last ten years
or I’d go back to 1948
and what it was like to read Personae, to sit
on the stone benches and read, or I’d return,
as I always do, to the hatred of Jews, to Pound’s
own home-grown vicious boring bêtise, but mostly
I think my mind would drift away and the humming
and the breathing would just take over, a concentration
on something bright and tender, some dear memory
of southern France, the road below Carcassonne,
the smell of dust and rain. My last flower
was sticking out of the ashtray,
a piece of honeysuckle or mock orange,
and I was driving up the river. I ended
snorting the honeysuckle—that’s what it was—
and watching the seals go by. I was thinking
of Wyndham Lewis, I think, when Pound disappeared,
and when he sang his bitter song again,
a kind of whistling on the passenger’s side,
I was already looking at the orange sky
and thinking of the frog’s glass throat and the green light
that gives him his wisdom, and I was thinking again—
one last time—of the steps of San Salvatore
and the towers floating in the water—1982,
city of Easton, the iron railroad bridges,
the old stone houses, the first American flag,
age of the Reagans, horrible and disastrous.