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BLUES FOR WARREN, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: The beasts in the schoolroom, whose transparent faces
Last Line: Are beached the spring-tide flowers of our hopes
Subject(s): Communism; Death; North Sea; Politics & Government; Socialism; Soldiers; War; World War Ii; Dead, The; Second World War


The beasts in the schoolroom, whose transparent faces
Revealed the gesture in the hands of history,
Made love to us across calendars where lately
They'd planted minefields around our childhood mysteries.
We fell from innocence into the trap of the State,
From Blind Man's Buff and legends, stepped into the war of the Thirties.
Moving among the murders to the sound of broken treaties --
Shame of our kid's inexperience was all we knew at the start.

Opening at opportunity's knock --
That was the banker for our mortgaged love
That was the priest for our money or our life:
All this to teach us that nervous knack
A bourgeois culture keeps in stock --
Honest living in a thieves' society.
But under the academic acanthus, among the books and dubiety,
We summoned the value of man, his loss and luck.
Now, after alarums and plots, the obscure future --
The time which is Now -- places awards and banners,
Emblems across our past; the time-shortened figures
Are decorated with light which none can feel.
And now we must condemn all those whose handsome dishonest features
Flowered on the stalk of our youth; their rentier manners
Calling alike to ruin and forgiveness
Placing across our lives their iron seal.


Spotlight on midnight Europe: the furred boreal gleams
Of names on fallen monuments. A shaft of stallion's shriek
Nailed in the naked sheen of indifferent weather,
A weather of starvation. And among the ruins and the broken columns,
The betrayals, incrustations, the harps of the nineteenth century,
And among the treachery and hideous moneys of the world,
The Judas flags, the parliaments of beasts,
Devils with Oxford diplomas and diplomats' visas
He moved to the accompaniment of dispossessed angels:
The Angel of Love who issued no marriage licenses
The Angel of Reason with the brutal face of a child
The Angel of Hope who carried a gun in his fist
The Angel of the Fifth Season with his red flag
The Angel of Your Death who looks like your friend or your lover.
A kid knee-deep in the rotting dreams of dead statesmen,
In the First Imperialist War, thinking of home.

Home then after food queues and the cries of the starving
Lost like birds in the lord's infinite heaven
(Where no sparrow falls, etc.). But he wrote it down in his book,
Framed to remember: who were the false magicians;
What children had starved; what workers been murdered.
But what can a boy know in our time? The hawk wheels
An eye in the casual blue; the fox waits in the forest --
What can he know but the lost cries of the victims?

Down then to the matchless cold Atlantic,
Its oiled incredible reciprocating motion,
And the white ship, passage of hope, shape of return and departure
Gathered him into its hold like the sea's maw.
And the night came in like the sea's paw, gathering
The light away, and the ship, and the ocean's plunging mustangs.
By gullcry, by wavecry the littoral, the statues, the statements
The tide of the darkness gathers, are gathered into his heart.

To a barbaric rhythm of lights the seafarer slowly
Tammuz . . . Adonis, going away in the dark
With a few ears of maize, a wreath of barley leaves,
A bouquet of terror from Europe's autumn garden.
Return in Spring, or on Spring-side of ocean, America,
With the ritual wheat, with a dictionary of hopes;
Tammuz . . . Adonis . . . Warren . . . comes up the lordly Hudson
Bringing the summer in to the music of dancing light.

But the summer was unemployed that year --
June and July; and a million happinesses of weather,
Inventing lovers, filling all straights and flushes,
Knocked at the hearts where no one was at home.
At noon the roads ran over the hills like rabbits;
At midnight the clock's tongue spat out the clanging hours:
They ran to the dark interior, the back bush-country;
They fell at the feet of statues like a flight of iron flowers.

Those summers he rode the freights between Boston and Frisco
With the cargoes of derelicts, garlands of misery,
The human surplus, the interest on dishonor,
And the raw recruits of a new century.
The Boss's machine gun split open the human midnight
And the darkness bled its bland alarms and hours
Calling always to resistance and decision
Falling across his brief unhouseled years.


The bells of darkness gather their iron garlands
In the stone jungles of the blacked-out cities:
Now, after the lockout in Frisco, after the strike in New Orleans,
After the Wobblies, after the Communist Party,
After the Dorniers and Junkers, after the bomb with his number,
After the North Sea had him, after the ship went under.

The child's picture looks for itself in the old man's features,
Eye looks for sight; hand for its family fingers.
Our loves are memorialized in casual gestures
And the lost letter cries in the trunk at what it remembers.
Our loss weeps for itself, but it weeps without tongue or eyes
And the heart in its dark cave mourns. There is nothing to give it ease.

For the sea bird is not alone on the moonless waters,
Nor the fox alone in the high hills of the desert
Nor is even the soldier alone on his lone night watches
Holding with terrible integrity to his blind hazard.
The foxes have holes: the birds of the air their nests, and we will sometime go
But O in the timeless night, in the dark nothing, Warren, you are alone.


These envy the wild birds; these, the shy life of the mole --
The blind night fugue of flight or the mothering cave in the hill.
These dream the fast fadeout, blessed by distance:
They see space as saviour, negation of form and identity, an underground
For these ran away at childhood, seeking a stranger's country
But arrived as the masked Prince or the son of southern gentry.
These others whose progressive alienation, centripetal and strict,
Divorces the world instead of themselves, prefer the abstract
And feuding heresy. They turn from the world and find
Health in their high foreheads, or their indifference to hope, but their fond
Elaborate and humdrum disguises can never bandage their wounds.

These escape from themselves in the world; these others from the world in
But are haunted by a small disquieting awareness that nothing saves --
The explorer who escapes geography, the hophead who shoots up the town,
The sage on his pillar, the professor in his tower where his thoughts go round
and round --
They are shadowed by a sinister familiar they remember but cannot place,
He appears in their nightmares; if they think of his name they are certain to
fall from grace.
And between one pole and the other, as between desire and desire,
The Socially Necessary Man is hanging in chains of fire.
(His candle burns for the saviour whose birthday is drawing near.)

Oh, hell has many doorways, the key is under the mat,
And a light is burning darkly for the wandering boy tonight.
And you yearn like a tramp under the happy window
Wanting the warmth and the voices and shelter from the wild winter.
But the final achievement of each is his own damnation;
There is a family devil attendant on every private notion.
To the saint withdrawn in himself, the hero in his passage of exile,
Comes the questioner they fear to remember: and the terrible judgments fall.
For turning and turning in their monstrous hells of negation
They escape the glory and guilt of human action.

They haply escape salvation, escape the Fall.
But you, Warren, in the general affirmative hell
(Which includes all others) escaped these common infections
Avoiding Pride's Scylla, Fear's Charybdis, Hope's defection,
Though fiends with Kiwanis masks howled from their parlor lair,
Or tried to hold your hands across a war,
And the professors in their towers let down their long dark hair.

You moved in the light of your five angels as when the mythical great
Jesus, his common worker's clothes embroidered all over with hot
Big eyes of the poor and insulted moved on earth; or as later
Lenin arose again in the Finland Station
Thrones, Powers, Dominions, Soviets, Unions and Risings
Attended his coming and between two hells in fiery
Chains the Man of the Third Millennium stirred in his hell --

But the Fifth angel blows
And a star falls in the burning sea . . .


A star falls in the sea. Beyond the window
The clocks of a thousand cities record their minute advantages.
The dawn wind lifts and the lawns of the Fifth decade
Prepare for a congress of sunlight. The workers awake,
Groaning to a day of sweat and statistics.

The early flowers make a fool of our Progress. The clocks condemn it.
But the lockout imposed by Natural Grace admits no scabs,
No hiding place down here and no retreat
Beyond the fence of apes, to the animals' innocence.
And we have given hostages to the shadowing future
(You Warren, and my brother, and the comrades in a hundred countries --
In the casualty lists all names are manifestoes)
And burnt offerings to the shocking, sublime
Instinct of brotherhood, the human desire for perfection.

Accept then, brother, this heavy burden,
This crucifixion we put upon you: Man
Who was, in the university in the lost South,
And among the poor in the middle hell of Europe,
And among the strikers in the American Winter,
And among the fighters in this long war
Who was in our sin and death and at the hour of our birth
Was, is now and ever shall be
Scapegoat and Saviour.

Therefore I praise you as one of whom death was required,
Who descended into hell for our sakes; awakener
Of the hanging man, the Man of the Third Millennium.
Who chose the difficult damnation and lived on that narrow margin
While the cries went up from the poor and it snowed in the churches
And hysterical roses mourned from the bankers' lapels.

A star falls in the sea. The darkness takes it, takes you --
As the sea of the primitives gathered their flowers and Adonis,
Leaving the sea knell only, a submarine tolling of bells --
Takes you to transmutations in the wild interior uplands,
Down fathomless dreaming funnels of the tides,
To new planes of struggle, levels of organization,
And the nodal point of qualitative change:
Toward a richer fulfillment, to more definitive capes,
Clamoring loud where on tomorrow's littoral reaches
Are beached the spring-tide flowers of our hopes.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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