The Tomb of Honey Snaps Its Marble Chains by Derek Stanford

“J’écris seulement pour vous exalter.” Guillaume Apollinaire

Year after year before my life began
I lived with lug-worms in a sunken marsh.
Feet of the town stamped over me by day:
clocks of the town above me chimed at night.

Fossil among the gutters of the world,
I grew like cactus in a pavement’s crack;
cigarette-ash and excrement my food,
urine of dogs and rain moistened my mouth.

My head was bent,
my lips were glued to earth;
boots strode upon the gang-plank of my neck;
beetles filed through the postern of my teeth
and scurried down the lift-shaft of my throat.

Darkness, the taste of sourness, choking dust,
the insane speech of dynasties of mice;
Time in his own asylum faintly raving,
contriving wreaths of slime-dank silver daisies,
kissing his luminous finger-tips to Death.

The arrogance of haughty high-heeled shoes,
the chain-gang trudge of a multitude of slaves
forged an iron echo in my shackled skull.
The moon’s infected spittle lay in my hair.

How can I write of the buried will’s revolt,
that vast protracted midnight of rebellion
when the heart cracks like the sepulchre of a god,
and Time and Fate–earth’s hypocritical mourners–
freeze into standing shadows,
and resurrection
grapples and shatters its pre-determined shell?

So I was born in an avalanche of carnage,
torn from the jailor-image of my heart,
severed in pain from die double of all my durance:
reeking with crimsoned sweat I stood complete.

How can I speak of the trumpets and the garlands,
giant hands that tended me sheathed in gloves of flowers;
choirs, beyond stars, proclaiming through the ether
“Only the Free shall discover the Morning River;
only the Free who are pure shall uncover My Face,”

I drank the Milky Way’s sweet foaming cordial
fresh from the spouting nipples of the sky.
Now I walk upright, crowned with the bee’s gold halo;
sure-footed as a panther, shod with fern.

For those who slake their thirst at the constellations,
who wear their love like a sprig of mistle-toe,
the Spring shall be a never-failing garden,
and bread shall be “a star upon the tongue.”

From: Rexroth, Kenneth, The New British Poets: An Anthology, 1947, New Directions: New York, pp. 234-236.
(https://archive.org/details/newbritishpoets030038mbp)

Date: 1947

By: Derek Stanford (1918-2008)

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