Poems of the Heart, for Anna Akhmatova
The Poet and the Pragmatist
It is as old as history, our conflict
between the dogma of your German psychology
and the sentiments of Russian poetry.
Jung was the dreamer; Freud the sensualist;
Adler the realist. Has it come to this:
our feet made of clay, our flesh weak,
even our spirits no longer able to soar?
If we cannot question why we cannot dream,
discover, circumnavigate celestial realms.
And why does my heart ache, why
do I long for love—to be held in the arms
of a patient lover? This yearning
so intense it causes pain.
Must I rationalize this pain away?
Apply theories of behaviour, learn to scorn
even the gentle aches the heart provides?
It is perhaps older than history,
this conflict we hurl ourselves into
with no relief....
Primitive, we fear the limitless dark,
the indescribable end of living,
the uncontrollable stirrings of the heart.
The slaves of desire, we try
to think our way to perfection,
rather than let ourselves be plunged
down into these unfathomable depths.
With the Angel of Sleeplessness
Here is the hour of the angel, awake
in the deadliest time of night.
A quiet heart, the extreme solitude
of sleeplessness, and whatever comfort the mind
can find to offer. This restless angel
gathers me into the depth of darkness
where faith is a lighthouse beacon,
yet I am ready for immediate flight—
yes, flight, faith and fear. These
the holy trinity of the solitary night
where I struggle with this angel
in a close grip, as close to me
as the body asleep beside me in the bed,
the man's body heavy with his own sleep,
his consciousness away in his dream
and my own pale mind, as if hovering
above my dreamless body; and between us,
the dark and brooding angel,
pushing me toward the inevitable dawn,
the unknown orbit of the day.
Into the Mist
Into the mist of the afternoon, the heart
arrives, but need not be an intruder.
Only the modest learn to pace themselves
with this grace—oh heart, how heavy
the ache becomes, being alone.
Please comfort me. Please put your arms
around me, pull me close to your body.
Can the heart be this humble
that it learns to beg
for the quiet, animal presence?
Through the mist of the afternoon, the river
can be glimpsed, a grey and sombre crossing.
The river has a history but no memory.
We remember the story of our individual lives,
but where they lead, we must be meek
enough to follow, and even then, accept.
At the Feet of Chaos
Who is master here? Or mistress of the manor?
A Fury. A mad, maddened, maddening Fury.
Beside ourselves with rage. Furious.
In a frenzy of anger. Where are we?
Hurled into a struggle with Confusion,
suffering the isolation of Indecision.
This doubt drives us mad. The guest
at our table is rude and slovenly;
the intruder in our bed is not welcome.
This must be a devilish delight,
to question love, to reject the lover.
You. Me. And the third presence, our union,
has a life and history of its own.
But tonight it has gone begging
at the feet of Chaos....
"A White Stone in the Depth of a Well"
A white stone in the depth of a well
goes on echoing as if forever.
Can it be this simple—we meet,
we make love, we make friends,
we make changes that will go on
changing us for all our lives.
One life. From beginning until end,
one continuous life—but one only,
the sound an echo of silence.
Any speech, any at all, makes eloquent.
What was the habit that made speech possible?
The habit of silence, the habit of solitude.
Like making a bridge because there is a river to cross.
The bridge will carry us to the other side.
This bridge, language, will not carry us to the other
or any other river, but into the deep well
of time, the white stone shining.
Betrayed By The Angel of Forgetfulness
Already the heart grows fickle, water
under the bridge. I wait,
and wait. I even try to erase
poems from my heart, discourage the Muse.
Absence makes your heart less fond,
eases memory, like the River Lethe.
The river nearby my house, the Fraser River,
has seen fewer crossings. That, too,
the final forgetfulness, when the living betray
the dead—those once alive, once loved,
become only a memory disturbing the long,
wakeful night. You are perfect. In every way.
I love you with an imperfect love,
impossible to match your perfection. Unnecessary.
The angel of forgetfulness is keeping you company
and my absence from your memory is a lesson to me,
a test to prepare me for dying, when I will be gone
from the presence of everyone who ever loved me.
The Angel of Everyday
Has a beautiful body, male, with wings
attached at the shoulders; and a celestial nature.
His hands give comfort. He hovers near me
in my daily chores. He offers wisdom
but does not expect me to follow his advice.
He offers me his presence
and is not afraid of his nakedness.
He is patient, and shares his patience with me.
He is not my lover, not a lord or master,
not my enemy. He is my friend.
He believes in the necessity
of the small tasks I perform daily,
so that in my house
there be beauty, comfort, peace, and a place to rest
without censure, without blame.
Infidelities of the Heart
Infidelities of the heart occur nonchalantly,
without deliberation or a backward glance—
the heart has no time to consider,
and why should it? It keeps on looking
toward the future—and here is opportunity,
glimpsed obliquely, like a push from behind.
It has something to do with the way hairs
grow along the length of an arm,
or even the stiff tendrils on an ear lobe—
rarely the conventional gesture or sexual lure:
what is broadcast is not the heart's infidelity.
This is letting the heart be in two places at once,
following the almost unseen gesticulation.
This is the heart playing tricks, stealing something
and hoping to get away with it. Trying to get
a leg up, a headstart, a leap from now
into then. This infidelity is like banked money,
something to draw on, a permanent image.
Copyright by Carolyn Zonailo: www.carolynzonailo.com,