Friday, February 24, 2012

William Bronk, "The Beautiful Wall, Machu Picchu," "Tenochtitlan," and "In Navaho Country," The World, The Worldless

"The Beautiful Wall, Machu Picchu"

Greek stones look as though they’d flowed
into molds of figures, fluting, leaf forms, scrolls,
a sensed and sensible world turned stony-hard
and durable, medusaed to hold and be true,
as figure carving holds an impress pressed
on the carver’s eye by a visible form whose grace
and harmony his hand lays hold and holds.
This way of handling stone is to say of the world
it is workable, and yielding and full to the hand;
and their quarrying quarried a rich world.

Looking at stones the Incas laid, abstract
austerities, unimitative stones,
so self-absorbed in their unmortared, close
accommodation, stone to different stone,
exactly interlocked, deep joined,
we see them say of the world there is nothing to say.
Who had to spend such easing care on stone
found grace inherent more as idea than in
the world, loved simple soundness in a just joint,
and the pieces together once though elsewhere apart.


I did not go to Coatlicue today,
to her of the writhing skirt of serpents, skulls
suspended at her neck, clawed Mother of the Gods.

Not that it mattered: if we have learned at all,
we have learned not to deny the terrible ones
their due; they have it; we are theirs to keep.

But we also learn—not knowing is it fear
or defiance teaching us—not to think
of everything always, sometimes not to think.

Xilonen, Goddess of the Young Corn, of green
and growing, grant us the solace of sweet ears
soft in the mouth; accept our truant love.

We drink to you, Xilonen, we are drunk
with deep pleasures and a deep need, drunk
with gentleness and the pleasure of gentle needs.

"In Navaho Country"

To live in a hogan under a hovering sky
is to live in a universe hogan-shaped,
or having hogans in it to give it shape,
earth-covered hovels, holes having a wall
to heave the back of the heart against, or hide
the head, to black the heavens overhead,
a block and a shapening in the windy vast.
This could be said of other houses too.

How it is possible for this to be so
is that the universe as known-unknown
has no discernible shape and not much
in it. We give it the limits and shape we need
it to have. What we want is a here with meaning, more
than a vague void moving with weightless balls
or the distant view of a glitter of gritty dust.
We housel the universe to have it here.

We do wrong: using houses or whole
blocks of houses, or other devious
enclosed volumes, ingenious inventions of space
to have us here, has limits. We deceive
ourselves, but not for long. We only avoid
the empty vastness, leaving it there unfilled,
unknown, unlimited. Where is here
when nowhere in a place of discernible shape?

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