by Julia Budenz
He walked from prison as the world looked on.
He spoke. We heard him speaking. If our throng
Can see so far, how can we stay so blind?
If our crowd is so close, how can we find
One free and not cry, childlike, home free all?
How separate a residence so small?
What was your cause so great for seeing Rome?
Liberty, said the slave, and free came home.
Deliver me from bulk and blood and pain,
Devote me to the good, the true, the sheen,
Love, O celestial, infinite, divine,
My longing and my laughter and my own,
O let me see, let me complete my tune.
To Virgil the virgilias are true.
Their rods are magical, their fillets white.
To Vergil the virgilias belong,
Verging on bloom as he once verged on song.
You thrill, virgilias, fill with lunar light,
And stand old dangling exquisitely new.
Blessed be the beech, blessed be this iron strength,
Green heroism, grand autumnal bronze,
This heir of vernal copper early poured,
This intimated silver, gilded glint,
Full final goldenness Novembrian.
Blessed be the books of blissful bookishness,
Tickets to anywhen, rockets to every wherever.
And can a nascent strand be sanctified?
Hallowed be language, antiquated, fresh,
O language fabulous, Aesopian.
The tabulation seemed complete at last.
The shades were measured. Then the die was cast.
I’ve got that straight, I wrote. Now what line lies,
I said, to vision from the pedant’s eyes?
LUCUS A NON LUCENDO
Shall I let pass the chopping of the oaks,
Five from the grove, selected for destruction
Like Jove’s vast pillars tumbled for construction
Of edifices edifying folks
To whom these silent drums, gigantic hoax
Of hierarchic preacherly instruction,
Must predicate a damning of obstruction?
Am I the angry priestess who invokes
The thunder from the sudden space of sky
Cleared of its June-green leafiness and free
To rest upon arrest of June-soft grass
Before the earth gapes? Oh, the oaks were high.
The hole will be as deep. Shall I not see,
Or must I beg the guards to let me pass?
Release me from this tedium, this rage.
The prisoner slumps. The lioness’s cage
Crazes the queen-gold lioness. Assuage
The pain of ice, the pain of fire, the wage
Of stunt, stump, stupor, frenzy, fury. Gauge
The gap: one late-sprung mockingbird on stage
As full choir, one full native maple’s sage
And free and regal-ruby-golden age,
And the drab, trammeled autumn of my page.
Were the virgilias, are the virgilias, gold?
In her Miltonic blindness could she see
The dazzling aureation of the tree
Which, here and living, in my heart I hold
With her, there, elsewhere, never to be old,
And with her beech, not gold yet, yet to be
The treasure of November, history
Revisioned, revolutioned, bronze age rolled
Back to first splendor? On this day she left
This gilded shore. She bridged the Styx, I know,
With music, sanctity, and Latin. How
Could she not, there, though here of sight bereft,
See through the darkness, shine through the silence,
The stream with gleam of golden lyre, fleece, bough?
Let me allonge along that line that leads to love
and life and light
Copyright 2011 by the Estate of Julia Budenz. “Bridge” is from
Book Three, “Rome,” of the poem in five books,
The Gardens of Flora Baum. Carpathia Press, 2011. 490-492.