GOOD-NIGHT TO THE OLD GODS

Good-night, old gods, all this long year so faint
You propped your heavy eyelids up with shells!
Though once we honored you who ruled this land
One hundred generations and ten more,
Our mood has changed: you dribble at the mouth,
Your dark-blue fern-tattoos arc faded green,
Your thunderous anger wanes to petulance,
And love to groanings of indifference.
What most you crave is rest in a rock-cave,
Seasonally aroused by raucous gulls
Or swallows, nodding off once more to sleep.
We lay you in a row with cool palm wine
Close at your elbows, should you suffer thirst,
And breadfruit piled on rushes by your feet;
But will not furnish you a standing guard —
We have fish to net and spear, taro to hoe,
Pigs to fatten, coco trees to climb;
Nor are our poets so bedulled in spirit
They could mount a platform, praising in worn verse
Those fusillades of lightning hurled by you
At giants in a first daybreak of time:
Whom you disarmed and stretched in a rock-cave
Not unlike this — you have forgotten where.

THE SNAP-COMB WILDERNESS

Magic is tangled in a woman’s hair
For the enlightenment of male pride.
To slide a comb uxoriously
Through an even swell of tresses undisturbed
By their cascade from an exact parting
Could never hearten or enlighten me —
Nor though her eyes were bluer than blue sea.
Magic rules an irreducible jungle
Dark as eclipse and scented with despair,
A stubborn snap-comb wilderness of hair,
Each strand a singular, wild, curling tree.

THE SWEETSHOP ROUND THE CORNER

The child dreaming along a crowded street
Lost hold of his mother, who had turned to greet
Some neighbor, and mistakenly matched his tread
With a strange woman’s. “Buy me sweets,” he said,
Waving his hand, which he found warmly pressed,
So dragged her on, boisterous and self-possessed:
“The sweetshop’s round the corner!” Both went in,
And not for a long while did the child begin
To feel a dread that something had gone wrong:
Were Mother’s legs so lean, or her shoes so long,
Or her skirt so patched, or her hair tousled and gray?
Why did she twitter in such a ghostly way?
O Mother, are you dead?”
What else could a child say?