Three Poems by Robert Eastwood

A Kind of Grief

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Philip Larkin – The Trees

	A season, this, in its puberty,
with gangly limbs, flummoxed buds:
I love its every awkward day
for what erupts or stumbles out––
the tulip, like a glans engorged,
	erects itself in disbelief;
spiked elbows of the rose enflame
in tender nubbles, nascent stubs
that speak of sap in a coiled glyph;
	the trees are coming into leaf

	as if escaping driftwood dreams;
and petals gleam with innocence.
Yet one detects a faint, burnt tinge 
from mingled scents of stirred sap,
the fading musk of cells entwined
	in heat, in a soiled and rooted bed.
This palimpsest renews itself
in the oldest ways, the scribbles hid,
an underlay that stays unread––
	like something almost being said,

	it becomes every year for us,
demure, oblique, as is a way
if we could see––if we could be
as greenness is, in the filament
of leaves, in mantling over stones,
	in suppleness of a stem’s thread.
As ready, once again, to play
and so reflect, instead of beam––
a frank lambency, freely shed.
	The recent buds relax and spread,

	at ease with what’s required of them,
not bothered by appearances
or whether blooming fades too fast.
But savoir-faire will never last
in all this earnest burgeoning:
	this contentment––the posture of relief.
Instead, a blankness, dumb and blind
in myriad lives, dispersed to wind
from kernel to shocked sheaf.
	Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Autumn Tongues

You like it under the trees in autumn,
Because everything is half dead.
The wind moves like a cripple among the leaves
And repeats words without meaning.

Wallace Stevens, The Motive of Metaphor

Trees have a language season.
Now they speak amongst themselves,
with winds’ lisp and intonation.
The autumnal tongues you hear
have ripened with dying leaves,
	and silences of sap and fleshy plum,
all those greening self-absorptions,
have ebbed or dropped away. Drying
chords forget they once were dumb.
You like it under the trees in autumn,

perhaps because the drifting chaff
you hear, that scoria of leaves,
resonates in your own filaments
beneath your shadow as you stride. 
Driftages too close to notice,
	still fused in your mind, though shed
in the fleeting arc of seasons.
You listen to your voice, its rustle
and its timbre, numbed by what’s said,
because everything is half dead.

Maybe the words at a tree’s foot
lifted by the wind’s stumbles
are eddies of dismay, for autumn
is a clumsy season, when winds
bump awake complacencies.
	But you walk on, pull your sleeves,
note the joy in arthritic branches
poised in an after glow of freedom--- 
their brief history set in random weaves.
The wind moves like a cripple among the leaves

and follows the same erratic whims
that lace the branches overhead.
Yes, you like the autumn elegies
beneath the trees, not for rattles
from the half dead, but the awakened
	earnestness of wafted sighing.
There are dignities beneath the drifts
and in the stirring, an agency
still free. A tongue curls, yearning,
and repeats words without meaning.

The French Navy Departing For Castile

We know the French will leave in their great boats
For a banner of red & gold hangs at the stone tower.
Men crowd the decks, thronging beetles in metal shells.
The water stipples from stiff wind, the sails stay furled.

Jean Froissart, Chroniques (Vol. Three). 1480-1483

	The book is open below glass, parchment yellowed,
In half a millennium the inks have begun to fade.
Whoever, in the scriptorium, drafts spiriting candles,
Bent, pinching his quills and brushes, mustered
Dreams out of the Latin chronicles he read, visioned
	On the dark platen of his mind notions like notes
Enkindling remembrance. His recognition fired
Some synapse web, & conjured in full expanse
A pictorial, so now we see what his narrative denotes.
We know the French will leave in their great boats.
	He must not have seen a man-of-war, the scrivener.
His boats are made to fit a wry frame hung in his mind.
These are bloated tubs, more like pictures of the ark
He may have spied in another tome, the masts straight poles,
Webbed & roped with spidery stays & ladders a solid
	Wind would soon collapse, & would rather cower—
The wrapped white sails—than bear the wind & billow,
Rather turn to tatters in breezes already licking
At the hulls, but the French are ready, the sails will lower,
For a banner of red & gold hangs at the stone tower.
	This scribe was an illuminator, one who brought clarity
To the glib tangle of words, gave light and color
Entry to the mind’s close work. How much we depend
On those that see. How much our own pictures fit
What someone else envisioned & passed us complete.
	The portfolios we clutch we call our lives, the cartels
Of days & years, are plagiarized from other minds
& made our own almost without us knowing, for
When we look at this old book, we claim it as it tells:
Men crowd the deck, thronging beetles in metal shells.
	I jostle others at this museum case, they pass a glance
At the old book as something odd, an antique curio.
They move on to see Vincent’s irises, or Degas’
Drawings, dimly lighted rooms with spots that guide
The eye, explanatory notes glossed quickly, passing by.
	Yet I linger longer here, strangely captured by the curled
Parchment pages, the pink stone turret, the banner, showing
Both end & what is to begin, that soldiers mill upon
The decks, faces lost in sameness of steel, a static world.
The water stipples from stiff wind, the sails stay furled.

These three poems are glosas. The glosa is an early Renaissance form that was developed by poets of the Spanish court in the 14th and 15th centuries. In a glosa, the opening quatrain, called a cabeza, may be by another poet or not, and each of the four lines is imbedded elsewhere in the glosa.

Bob EastwoodRobert Eastwood is a graduate of California State University At Los Angeles and Saint Mary’s College. His work has appeared recently in Kentucky Review, Bird’s Thumb, and The Hartskill Review. He has two chapbooks published by Small Poetry Press. His first book, Snare: Poems of Refuge and Revenge, is forthcoming from Broadstone Press.

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