His Long Home
For Robert Penn Warren, 1905-1989
From lips notched in the pinebranch bled
no confession, but a clot of resin.
in winter. No need to notch
the stream, ice-choked but still
past boulders and scragwood to some ever-lapsing
period not even January
can grant. If you and I
stand, in silence, to observe
that pregnant snowcloud stalled
on Stratton's frozen stoop
it is the knowledge
that what courses between us, runs
under the rind of winter
so deep, no blade can coax it.
At first a numbness
gaining on the surface of the pond,
a twitching in birch and poplar leaves,
tremor in the flat, symmetrical branchtips of
Then thunder surges, thudding from ridge to ridge,
a seizure of rain
sunders spiderwebs, pummels leafmold,
drowns out the true confessions of the brook.
While we cower on the porch
like a spasm,
heaves itself into the valley
over the notch.
Sky shimmers in the pond again,
breeze fondles the leaves.
We're still here. Waiting.
as fragile, pale, and infinitesimally moist
as erasable bond;
your look, a startled bound
of apprehension, subsiding
into its lair.
You coil away from us:
we hunt you down.
Groping, you half-rise:
we escape, leave you there.
What intersection can we appoint
between your knowledge and ours?
Two days before
you died, we saw your death
funneling in at the eye, your pupil fixed,
tiny, waking neither
to light nor to shade
so that your wisdom drained
inward where only
reverberations of our
yet you held us still
kindly, having foreknown
the sere flame tasseling
the roof beam, the palace wall
sinking but invisible
to the chorus; and in the teeth
of our denial
had already greeted
the strange man you alone
saw loitering by the porch,
had wrenched up your
emaciated smile: "Come in! Come in!"
Rosanna Warren allowed Letters to reprint this
poem in memory of her father. This is from her volume,
Stained Glass, with the permission of W.W. Norton
and Company, Inc.