Bio: Len Krisak's work has appeared inthe Hudson, Sewanee, and SouthwestReviews and has received theRobert Penn Warren, Richard Wilbur,and Robert Frost Prizes. The author ofa dozen books, including original verseand translations of Virgil, Horace, Catullus,Ovid, and Rilke, he is also a four-timechampion on Jeopardy!
Two Figures at Their Verse
Towering poets in another light:Yearning for Celtic kingdoms set in stone,Dreaming of blood-dimmed tides and gilt-edged birds,One foundered in the heart-shop's rag and bone.
The other sledged rock to the Carmel height,Raising a stone house that was all his own—The perch from which he'd measure out a spanOf hawk wings gyring in inhuman flight.
He said that he would rather kill a manThan kill a hawk. And it was not just talk.(He longed to hear the death of human words—That is, of humankind—and hoped a vultureWould eat his raw, red corpse, so he could fly,Set free from all he cursed as putrid culture.)
The Irish senator saw nothing wrong With blue-shirt men in matching marching kit(He wrote the words of menace to their song).The Irish airman that he sent to die,Beyond all love and hate, did not care why.
The one who longed to put an end to it—To every bit of what his kind had done—And melt his atoms in the Carmel sun,Lived long enough to watch the suburbs bloomBelow his perfect tor. In deathless hate,He cursed them with his human breath—his fateThe fate of those who were like him, his doomTheir own. So pilot, raptor, falcon, hawk,All towering figures in their flight from earth—The house of those they thought of little worth—Perfected, by the poems they would write,Their final selves, read in their truest state.And as their monuments of unmoved will,The tower and the stones are standing still.
Yellow, black, yellow, black, itHovers like a Harrier:Intense, obsessive querier Of what's to be extracted.No wasp, no yellowjacket,No bumbling hornet,In the flower belled like a cornet. If it stings, some salve.But it must haveWhat it must have.