The heart of the hart pines for river’s flow. My heart knows not how to appease its thirst. Forest glen is home enough for dappled doe. My high towers re-call shrill Babel’s verse. Still, I set my brick atop its brothers. Still, I call my others to make amends. Still, I forget to forgive my neighbors. Still, I forge high towers as if they’re ends. I’m deaf to the Dumb Ox’s lofty verse, deaf to whatever mighty David writ. Their tongues give birth to leaden curse or worse. There’s no time to re-make all that’s unfit — Time’s a thief who takes and never gives. My sole hope is the One who ever lives.
July 3, 1863 “The town of Gettysburg looked as if some universal moving day had been interrupted by catastrophe.” But there was only one documented civilian death during the battle: Ginnie Wade (also widely known as Jennie), 20 years old, was hit by a stray bullet that passed through her kitchen in town while she was making bread.
July 1-3, 1863, one-hundred and fifty-eight years ago, the Battle of Gettysburg began and resulted in the largest casualties of the American Civil War.
The Battle of Gettysburg resulted in eight-thousand men killed in combat; these bodies, baking in the heat of summer, needed to be buried quickly. Over three-thousand horse carcasses were burned in a series of piles south of town; townsfolk became violently ill from the stench. Meanwhile, the town of Gettysburg, with its population of just two-thousand, found itself tasked with taking care of fourteen-thousand wounded Union troops and an additional eight-thousand Confederate prisoners.
According to lore, the Union soldier to fire the first shot of the battle of Gettysburg was Lt. Marcellus Jones.
So many eyes have seen this sea, they’re blind.one of thirty-six
fishermen brave the high sea —
mighty fuji’s seen
meditate on where
oh, place the kento1 with care —
every part is spare
the sea’s our lover
her lovers brave her fury —
lapis lazuli 2my love’s a dragon
Edo3 sees the fickle sea —
push the brush away
So many eyes have seen this sea, they're blind.
@ rlbusséll 2021 - All rights reserved.
The Japanese printing “registration” system. Registration is a method printers use to guarantee that each print in a series is aligned the same way. ↩
a bright blue metamorphic rock consisting largely of lazurite, a bright blue pigment formerly made by crushing, being the original ultramarine. ↩
Painter. Profligate. Michelangelo, the fool. — Cardsharps in Kahn’s hall.
Was there a time when demons conquered, stayed; when Anthony’s tormentors shied away? Why roam through Rome your bravado displayed; why take your eye from your vision to stray? Your meanest tableaus set my mind aflame; Your work has worked itself into myself; Your brush became my only brush with fame. Uffizi’s Medusa’s upon my shelf. Blesséd Matthew, gripped by passion and flame, is taught by an angel’s breathless whisper. Then there is your telling of our night’s shame when, in the dark, Light was framed with silver. Do you still lie amid the labyrinthine streets of your Caesars’ stony concubine?
The echoing step Moves us through history’s halls — Saint Matthew’s burning.
My name still flies amid cent’ries’ darkness and like an ever circling bird, rises. My demons still roam my Rome in darkness looking for young flesh and tender prizes; Time’s elusive progress is circling ’round. Night required I prick with sharpened sword and sharpened tongue my enemies to hound; they were circling ‘round my girls to hoard their beauty and so keep my fame at bay. Have you seen my Fillide? Does she still live within Peter’s shadowy cabaret? I need to know if our flame will outlive my canvas, my sword, my haughty bluster. Do her lips still call men to her chamber?
Tiber flows swiftly. A starving tern yearns for food — Pleasures at coin’s cost!
Fillide did what she had to do to live and at the dawn of her womanhood, she plied her flesh and soul to live; the attractive are often forced, in poverty, to flee morality, and thus all the devils win. Fillide did die so many years ago that time has almost forgotten her sin. It must be pain entire to hit so low. I’m sure your Fillide’s flame is still burning; for her will did will herself in a frame. She died remembering you without spurning. She left us while petitioning our Dame. I pray Mary heard you at your last breath that all your darkness did not mark your death.
Mortar frames her bed. We all seem to hold our breath — The nightingale sings.
I can’t recall the cutlass’ cut ’n’ flash. My flesh was torn too soon to notice much. I recall the slow gasp, the bloody slash, the eyes so filled with knowing. And no touch can bring my blood to flowing. And no word can now make sinew move my dusty bones. All was darkness, there was a footfall heard, (the mute sound of leather on hardened stones) and then a challenge I could ne’er refuse. My rage ’twas like on Malta’s rock. I burned. I flared. “I’ll not have you my name ill-use. I am Caravaggio! You’re ill-learned. Honor you’ll show me or you’ll die tonight”, then came the end to me who once was knight.
Gilding frames his head. Now we speak of light and dark — Salomé dances.
Since childhood, I’ve had a powerful reaction to any image created by Caravaggio and I wanted to express my deep love for his work and my heartache at his untimely passing. When childhood heroes are hoisted on their own petard, some part of the edifice of childhood crumbles and this poem is a reaction to his falling façade.
M. Caravaggio is told, in what Michael O’Siadhail (Pronounced mee-hawl o’sheel) calls a “saiku” in his brilliant work “The Five Quintets.” The haiku before and after each sonnet act as a kind of time machine or a means to comment on what is to follow or what has just past.
M. Caravaggio contains four sonnets: in the first and third I ask some questions and in the second and fourth Caravaggio replies.
To the sounds of our twenty-six;
to the sounds of our aleph-bets,
we’re sounding our lives
‘round our sounds.
And all our soundings
press us into what we are.
So I give thanks to Wycliffe, Webster, and Will for still I hear them sounding their depths. I am deeper because they willed words, words that are pressed into my every cell, words that speak to my soul, words that call, words that stall the beating of my heart.
Start, if you recall
the first you heard of Juliet
and her dead Romeo;
and that bachelors may marry yet,
and of the night that our dead Hero
was from death recalled.
Start, if you recall
the beginning of beginnings,
when nothingness was formed
into rib and woman formed,
when the first light of dawn spilled
from Word and Wind,
when from fire, God did call.
Start, if you recall
finding Noah’s book
laid upon a table faire,
of spelling words like fare and hair,
of all the varied tongues that form
our England and America,
and of how large it seemed all.
And because of this I wonder still:
symbols making sounds,
sounds making meaning,
meaning making men.
I’ll listen to the rumbling sound.
Press ear to the hardened ground.
Shake my sleepy head.
Stir my rumpled bed.
There is no need to wonder why: there’s that plank in my bleed’n eye, blind man leading blind along the ditch, the retching earth about to pitch, the lukewarm bile in chests of gold, and my refusal to grow old.