Vulture, by Robinson Jeffers

In Igneous Range, the vulture is the firebird, a symbol of ancient Iran, and a symbol of transcendence.

To be eaten by that beak and become part of him, to share those wings and those eyes …

Published posthumously in 1963.
Jeffers Literary Properties
Stanford University Press
Reading © 2017 Kaweah

For more discussion on this and other Jeffers poems, see Robinson Jeffers: Fire from Stone.

The Summit Redwood, by Robinson Jeffers

There is an outlaw thread in Igneous Range, so one of the Robinson Jeffers poems that it reminds me of is the Summit Redwood:

First published in 1928
Reading by Kaweah

A companion lyric to Cawdor and a splendid fire-poem in its own right, The Summit Redwood has never been selected for any anthology, possibly because it appears to put “people of color” in a bad light, or perhaps because its style appears to be inconsistent. I happen to see it as a marvelous portrait of kindred defiants: a red tree and a red man.
Redwoods don’t often grow on summits, particularly on the coast, but often enough for the purposes of this poem. They are shaken by lightning commonly enough. Continue reading

To the Story-Tellers, by Robinson Jeffers

I wrote most of Igneous Range before I had any idea I was writing a Jeffers novel, thematically anyway: violence, vultures, redwoods, defiance, and above all fire. A repeating theme is the dominance of the subconscious, and there is also a sense of insanity.

Oh, and there’s genocide as well.

Toward the end of the story, Armen encounters a crazy old man in a cave who preaches the insanity of man. He does not mean that man is evil; only that man is not rational:

There are lots of intelligent animals, but there is only one mad animal.

The Wreck of the Farallon

Under the grey deep, the plains, canyons, peaks,
the flooded floor of the world rolls on to Laurentia,
pressing on the Farallon, plank, mast, and sail
out ahead on a black stone wave,
driving her under the buoyant earth,
caught in the undertow of her
sunken bow, sinking deeper,
ever deeper under the world,
compressed and cooked, her wet soul bleeds out,
hot and convecting, boils stone,
hollows out Pluto’s chambers,
mothers strata of generations
of volcanic boils, dead, young, and dying,
trembling in the California sun.

When the great sea-world strikes the land,
the submarine ridge is crushed,
her mid-seam ripped ajar,
her bow pulled into the earth,
stern slammed into the continent’s edge;
all the wreckage tangled in a heap.

Here and there, the demolition done,
the old world digested, the continental belly
heaves up; Pacifica, Laurentia knock and shear
in their tectonic intercourse; mountain roots
severed and sucked off in the wake,
the subterranean bone of dead volcanoes floats up,
breaks through the surface; and seaward, bits of bone
shattered and blended with the sea-bottom
sediments of eons, and mother’s clotted blood.

© 2016 Kaweah

Personality Disorders

Sam Barber, sitting in the redwood parlor playing Adagio
for Strings on the Steinway, and Una’s in the bathtub
running the cold tap with a pistol in her hand and a bullet
in her breast, her black broth bleeding out, making warm
curlicues all around her, an arm reaching out
for more sleeping pills.

Behind the piano, the door to the guest room is closed
for J.R. and his guest, romping on the deathbed
and I’m seasick on the heaving edge, looking out
the west window—the reaper in the surf.

Yeats, J.R.’s comrade is fog-white with age
and madness and running naked through the poppies
singing for the tatters in his coat and brandishing
Una’s best cleaver at the star-eyed tourists.

© 2016 Kaweah

Falco urbanus

“Jeffers is my God.” — Charles Bukowski

When the blades of the falcon’s
    silhouette flash
Between the bright towers of the City
    we rub our eyes.
Pigeons squat in gutters
    on watch for shadows.
Not the ruddy-tailed buzzard
    the poet lionized;
Bagger of rodents, wounded birds,
    wayward fledglings,
Squats atop Tudor cottages and
    unicorn castles;
The brute too clumsy to thread
    a cypress hedge,
Hover above the moor, nosedive
    from infinity.

 Continue reading 

Rites of Disposal

When I’m finally done, when all
my smoldering embers go cold, put me away.
Clean me up, straighten me out, and put me in my box.

Take it up to that green landfill
where they dump such things
and label them with cut stones.
Find me a plot, dig me a hole.
Sow me deep like a pumpkin seed
that you don’t want to grow.
Cover me there with earth by the yard,
and if you must speak, be brief.

Continue reading

Inscription on Helicon

I have seen her now: seasoned with eternity,
simmers in her sky-cold sylvan pool, hard and white
as the waning moon and quartzite banks, the last softening
membrane of youth seared away in the slow forge of forever;
breast peppered with translucent constellations
when the sun breaks through the leaves.

No fleshy delicacy—even of the slightest young brides,
but the taut, radiant hide of an ageless queen,
Immortal virgin, so say they, but naught of docile innocence;
her purity: homicidal violence.

She it is who haunts the dread hinterland,
    forbidden interior, wildland of man;
        No love for the society of Olympus,
and no Earth Mother, more terrible
    than any Aphrodite.

I have etched here these scars on this stone, scraped
    as I hide, catching my breath, wrapping my wounds,
        year over year, binding my bones,
        to report that I have run this long,
    even to the sacred springs on Helicon.
Not pious nor merciful, she makes sport of me still.
    The hounds come.
        Acteon

© 2015–16 Kaweah

Hotel Jericho

Lowcountry, maybe twenty
upstream miles from the Battery
and a few feet above the sea;
the gators and the blackwater
patiently flow, and you can just about
hear the ghost-song of the ivory bill
echo off the cypress knees.

On the south bank, the land
swells forty or so feet
to lanky yellow pine stands
and narrow Old Jacksonboro Road,
holding to the rim till a finger
of the Caw Caw points to where
the road meets the Savannah Highway
and the tracks at Adams Run.

Continue reading