Easter/Passover: The Windhover, Margery Kempe, Bob Gluck, sprung rhythmn

It is Spring and the season of Passover and Easter. In my Intro to Poetry class we happen to be reading Hopkins and nearly all of us are enthralled by his sonic and linguistic acrobatics and so I thought to share it here with all of you, along with dissonant but rhyming bits from Robert Gluck and me!

The Windhover
                          Gerard Manley Hopkins 1877

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
    dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
    Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
    As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
    Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
    Buckle!AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

   No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
    Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

Hear it read beautifully here at The Poetry Foundation web site. 

Excerpts from one of my favorite novels of all time, Bob Gluck's Margery Kempe, published by High Risk Books in New York, 1994:

from Chapter Four

Jesus pictured Margery carrying fruit in her apron in a small orchard her family owned behind her house: she's squinting in the sun and he can smell her sweat. They roll on top of hard pears. She laughs at moments that surprise him--her irony frames these wholesome images.

When he returned to Margery it was nothing like that. He materialized, barefoot on the wood, goosebumps on his thighs and arms. She had not seen him for ten years. His hair was browner that she remembered. He wore a sweet gaunt smile that pulled downwards, and his skin moved her with the fact of his birth. Margery's round face surged forwards; her eyes sought to rush him over the bridge they created. Her love of his fresh body was accompanied by--even based on--a horror of decay. He stepped backwards into the table in Margery's bedroom. Jesus had L.'s Scottish face--high narrow brow with smooth features crowded beneath,eyebrows defined more by delicate bones than hair (13-14).

from Chapter Forty-Eight

A soldier pointed to a tree where Judas hung, intestines spilling from his gaping belly. The Jews tore from Jesus's body a silk cloth that dried blood had glued to his flesh. Jesus saw his dead self and gave up the urge to create relation. His wounds opened and blood ran on every side.

The Jews had laid him on the cross. They set a long nail on one palm where the bone was most solid and drove it through with such force it extended far beyond the wood. He was pinned down, mortal. He lost his gold dust, his lips turned blue, his wounds showed purple against chalky skin. All his sinews and veins drew together and his jaw worked in horror. Pain shrank his sinews so his other hand would not reach the hole drilled for it. The Jews fastened ropes to it and pulled. They drew his feet the same way. They crucified his right foot with one nail and over the left foot with another so that the nerves and veins were extended and broken.

Mary whispered, "Ah, St. Stephen wore a short doublet...black for humanity..." She was just a few molecules waked by a breeze.

Margery shoved her aside. "You accursed Jews, why are you killing Jesus? Kill me instead and let him go!"

They made a loud shout as they hoisted the cross with Jesus hanging from it a foot or more above the ground and let it drop into the mortise. Jesus shuddered, all his joints burst apart, blood ran down from his wounds. They drove wooden pegs on all sides so the cross would stand firm. The only cloud in the sky hid the sun, making the cloud bright and the sky yellow. Jesus's eyes darkened; he couldn't see except when he expelled blood by squeezing his eyelids. His face grew chalky from loss of blood, his hair and eyes were filled with blood, his ears stopped up with blood.

He tried to stretch himself on the cross to relieve the bitter pain in his arms. The color of death came on, his cheeks hung pale, his ribs could be numbered, his belly collapsed on his back as though he had no stomach, and his nostrils pinched. His heart was breaking from the pain. He raised his head slightly, inclined to the right. Flies had converged on his face. His pale lips opened and his tongue and teeth were coated with blood.

"Don't abandon me!" With that Jesus died, his human career ended. His death can't be understood inside the argument of life or the system of Margery's attraction....

A soldier rode up bearing a lance tipped with iron. The soldier's hair was cropped so close Margery couldn't tell what color it was. When she saw what he intended to do, she picked up a stone and hit the blade from an amazing distance. She kept throwing stones.

The solider laughed--it was a game to him. He drove his lance into Jesus's side with such force it came out the back. When he withdrew the lance its point was bright red, showing that the heart had been pierced. The soldier's face quickened as a river of dark arterial blood gushed from the wound. The entire scene strobed or flickered, the uncertain light caused by Margery's own eyelids batting. She fell on her knees next to Mary and screamed, "Cease from your sorrowing--I will sorrow for you!"

Joseph of Arimathea lowered Jesus's body from the cross and laid it before Mary on a marble slab. The eyes were sunken and full of blood, mouth cold, arms so stiff that the hands could not be raised above the navel. Mary kissed the mouth. Mary Magdalene said, "Let me kiss the feet." Mary's sisters took both hands and kissed them. They clung to Jesus's body, a small raft, but what the infinite means is that we are already in it. Margery ran back and forth; she wanted Jesus for herself; she screamed with awareness till her voice was a pale whistle (143-45).

Lastly, one of my poems from the 1990s that experiments with, among other things, sprung rhythm.

for Kathy Acker & after Gerard Manley Hopkins

then so what if


happens where it can't be preDICtEd

cIrcus traIners IndIan rIders  sIamese twIns
encased in thorny trees leaves

reLIEF  reft

close to

outsIde         (unLeASHing the skilLs of a dAY job)

I I I I I                      a  motor

men & women who worked wrecked in the offICE              spoons & other
mother of HER off her Employer and other women            we                

phenOMENology    phoneme

[deep affection

for PLEAsure, waiting to accompANY someone who in MOst cases has nOt yet]

PLEA                                               ANY                                       MOO

she had brEAasT cancer

scar lick bitter butter             ridges

her nude from form
the waist up her

arms above her
head her  heart   her 
don quixote
her  demonol
ogy     her  lo
gos       breasts

bet                   brat                  rat(s)
tear(s)              sear                  star
sea                   sat                    beat
bat(s)               beast                tar
best                  ss                     rest

s s s s s

of recorded time


clinical findings

ini  in  in

canal  sing fillings fin sin calling sip:              song

low in central america
high in the U.S.

there is always a lie

I say I stole     SYS ·TO ·LE

mothers holding
feet hands their chil
dren as they suf
focate by some
one inconceiv

ably they love

march   dust    love    part

attuned to darkness           splitting

finials  spires  niches   buttresses

peer his whip spire  er  er

bRIDle    bRIDE     bRIBe

this close to two

a dark trailer  (or film)   beFore the gATE   our  STAiRwell          unwinds

one     two

oPENning the door     one fell in


the other & me
if we                                 race

who would                  who woo

the bright little title bird       see the flowers in the garden           die
         see the birdie                   bower



even when it    does  no      and