I Know It As the Sorrow by William “Bill” Everson (Brother Antoninus)

I have wondered long at the ache in my blood,
The waking as a child weeping in the dark for no reason,
The strange sadness when the storm-tide lures the leaves to the wanton dance.
I know it now as the grief of long-gone women
Shivering in the cliff-wind,
While the lean boats dipped in the fjord,
And the home-returning warriors stooped on the bitter shore, bearing the slain.
I know it as the intolerable sorrow of little children too strong to weep in the light,
Who could not smother the sobs in the gloom of the Norway pines,
Remember the Danes from the dawn,
And the bright steel slashing the dusk.
It is the unutterable sadness of the sea;
The memory, deep in the bone, of the flesh straining,
The nerves screaming, but the lips loosing it never;
The unrejectable heritage, learned in the womb a thousand years ago,
And given from blood to blood
Till it lis at last in the secret depths of my soul.

In the lightning-whetted night,
When the thick wind sucks at the eaves
And rides the ridgepole into the wisp of the first dim dawn,
I dream in the dark,
And voice again the ancient song,
And find no joy in the singing.

From: Everson, William, The Residual Years: Pomes 1934-1948, Including A Selection of Uncollected and Previously Unpublished Poems, Volume I, 1997, Black Sparrow Press: Santa Rosa, California, p. 13.

Date: 1935

By: William “Bill” Everson (Brother Antoninus) (1912-1994)

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