RIVER RUNNING BY A GLASSWORKS
The poet falls asleep. In this
he is doing his work. The cormorant
dips her head in the water, then
goes under the water completely.
It was all right to be wrong
if among the least embroidery of dew
that chilled the leaves of flowers
a piercing negligent reluctance
to its intransigent necessity
was piercing as the raindrops.
(And it is raining on the glassworks.)
The river is the same once, the same
twice, the same thrice, in as many different ways.
In this it is the same river.
It is the same river as the poet
is the same sleeper when he wakes
beside the river, the river
running by the glassworks,
the glassworks blinking in the rain,
the rain the same rain
falling on the cormorant.
They have done their work, for the moment,
and they can rest now.
As the moths branch their velvets
and their silks, so the machinists
departing at the end of day
beneath the newly repointed brickwork,
the lathe men and the boilermakers,
the apprentices whose houses lie
beyond the cliffs, and the dusk,
supercharged with fire, gold,
rectitude, somnambulance, and metal
seems to suggest that it is our home,
and that we are its creatures,
and that it is the time for something
other than that which we have come to call
ideas. And though their cosmological
plumage is rainbow-hued, and distant,
and though to have lived among them
even unknowingly, even distant,
even as their creatures, mortal,
makes us who and what we are, still
the big cool drops of fountain water splash
against the railings, the rain drops
splash on plums made blue by what
made night green crystal. The stalks
of fennel, marjoram, and meadowsweet
are fragments of our imagination. Cold
and elemental, the wind resists, unthinking.
It is the time for metamorphosis.
It is the time for watching the reflection
of the setting sun on water.
Gargantua and Pantagruel, wise
are the giants, and we men but geraniums
above whom a boy king reared his head.
Like the gold leaf and Dutch leaf
on gingerbread, men shine, aspire,
are eaten like children by titans. Men
are tatterdemalions of rag and glass,
are tasseled for love and augury,
sleep near agrarian berms with one eye ever
open, another turned inward
on the dream’s rhododendron onslaught.
We men are but children of a larger
growth. I have plucked a mandrake,
an arrowroot, a tome of instinct
with pages wet with summer dew.
You can quaff rainwater through an aperture
formed by intersecting stalks of marjoram.
The sallow, umbrella-colored sky
is whispering to Panurge
veiled references to some wrongdoing,
hammering folkloricly on Comstock’s ingots,
like a boilermaker in an engine shop.
Let the Rhine maidens float downstream
like green tea bottles toward the gold
that awaits them at the source of dawn.
Geoffrey Nutter lives and works in New York City. His books are A Summer Evening, Water’s Leave & Other Poems, and Christopher Sunset.
Note: These poems were originally published in YR:17 (2012) with slight typographical errors. They are reprinted here in their correct form.