'PERSPECTI V E S
from THE LINCOLN LYRICS
by John Malcolm Brinnin
omewhere fin fi/noi
This is the country o.f corn; whatever else
The eye affirms is unexpected here;
Like Babylon and Egypt roads repeat
Earth's river-valley cultures in the West.
All elements the city keeps in rooms-
Wind-symphony, cloud-color, speech of crows-
Ungathered and as palpable as grain
Establish here their freer harmonies.
Man is an incidental here: so few
Are counted in an all day ride, who turn
Like wistful strangers wreathed in promises;
Grave-digging is an amateur's employment.
Where men have seasonal emotions, struck
With terror at the frost, with laughter in
The rain's periphery, some child will come
Who dreams on broken lilacs for the Town,
A life at sea, perhaps, a cluttered desx
In some gray corner of the Bodleian;
As vulnerable as these, Abe Lincoln walks
With Blackstone in a cabalistic book.
Some will escape to test illusion in
The court and counting-house; some will return
With tears to spend, or anger; none will learn
More quiet than a single grave allows.
The characters of ancestry come down
Unutterably estranged; who knows the boy
With lilacs in his teeth, alert for words
Like miracles somewhere in Illinois?
Whose sovereign gestures voyage on the Day,
(Bed-wetters, poets, wagon-drivers, whores)
Toe-dancing in the reveries of choice,
(Imposters, cripples, flower-makers, clowns)
Or drowned in wilfullness, or drunk, or lost
(Patriots, boot-lovers, trigger-men)
In colors and paralysis of thought,
(Emigres, sculptors, bowlers, claustrophobes).
Must skirmish toward the counting of the votes:
And who will gain salutes from withered arms
Delivered into fables helplessly?
O who is best, who cauterizes dreams?
At night mrust neutral hands enumerate
The.marks of acid bodies on the page;
(This way for life, this way for lovely life)
The phosphorescent X, the people, you.
Out of the slums and fecal waterfronts,
Museum lawns with iron dogs and deer,
Across the glittering arteries of streams,
Agreements rectifies the hosts of Wrong.
And when those voices, hopeful and diseased,
Sing out the furies of the happy, he
So nominated dies, must come, touched with
Their leprosy, to life no longer his.
Eden was different, its children whole,
But love, with upturned, sky-lit palms, must take
A freer congregation back, defying
Gates and winged guards, to build its home.
Ml7arc-JoIJ Zike &ory 4ua WA
The story of a wife is nominal
With bread, the distaff nebulae of liome;
She parcels tokens, letters of romantics,
Exotic as a touring opera.
Call Mary Todd to judgment for her faults,
(Who bed with greatness are accountable)
Read, in the lamplit opulence of evening,
Ambition like a gun-prod in the back.
The hands that rock the cradles smell of blood:
They are the instruments of policy
Who come, in masks of hollyhocks and lace,
To matriarchal reckonings with men.
They, who in the crockery and the plants.
Must disavow the world, take, vengeance in
Their tyrannies of loneliness and need;
Magnificent their quietude in rooms.
Vho would dispraise the methods of emotion
Is not here, yet breasts of monstrous mothers keep
The paralytic signals of Return,
Return: they own both property and tears.
For Mary Todd, so bonded to the dance,
A place among them and the usual praise;
Celebrants of chance, card-wise, have said
Her table shone with rubies and good bread.
Spoke, through feedshop parliaments
And civic porticoes, one bladed mind:
"A house divided shall not stand!"-the catch
Come cataracting out, the issue bare.
And Mr. Greeley's Tribune, opening on
.ooms of waxen flowers and stuffed fish,
Spread in warmth beyond some kitchen stove,
Reports that quarried secret to the crowd.
Bifocalled, curious, the gentry read,
And perilously catch each others' eyes:
Those clerical interiors submit,
Impossibly berated with the fact.
What though a gift of plums be wrapped in it,
Or princely children crease it into hats?
Abe Lincoln holds the afternoon, speaks out
A tottering information, guessed for years.
'What in God's name induced you to such words?"
-The agitated friend drums on his hat-
"Upon my soul," Abe Lincoln quietly,
The door aswing, "I think it is the truth."
The day is late; the tide is venial;
Nobody goes abroad in birdloud air
Except a sentry john-a-dreams for home,
A lookout analyzing shapes of mist,
When spasms on the great historicdial,
The fin-like arrow shivering, name one
Decision like a vise--"henceforward and
Forever after free"-the shaft inert.
O lovely mechanism, Christian myth,
The air is thorny with details of love,
Achievement like a language against time,
As buffalo and bird etched on the cave.
The history of man is seasonal
With ice, geography, bone-scuptured earth:
There is unique nativity in years
Remembered for the laughter of a man.
Abe Lincoln, mid-wife, scrawls his signature
While crisis splits like rivets showering;
What though the sparks may catch in furze somewhere
Precipitating what new barricades?
The ponderous foot of right is coolly down;
Nor may the wheeling of the birds unloose
The judgment pillared there, the lighthouse-lovely
Word: inevitable the mariner.