The legions pause in their advance on Rome.
They doff their armor, take up rakes and staffs,
aid widows in spring planting, lead flocks home,
and, gentle to a man, commit no gaffes
as such invading armies often do.
Meantime, in Rome, the squabbling factions meet,
break bread, share wine, and coax the stubborn few
toward acts more temperate and speech discreet.
Though Horace smiles, poor Juvenal despairs,
whose satires of the harsher sort require
the ruthless to be ruthless and affairs
of state and taste be wallows in the mire.
With vulgar peace comes ruin, as with strife,
for someone’s pure, imaginary life.
Less Is More
Still less is so much more, and so on, till
we have to say that nothing’s everything,
then build accordingly, and send our bill
for services to someone simmering
away to vapor, which, attenuating,
breaks down into less than mist, which none
the less fills up the universe, as string
arrangements fill a darkened hall with sun.
One spoon of tea with lime and crumbs once spun
its taster into ecstasy: a case
in point. The next two spoons felt overdone.
With empty spoon, or no spoon, one could trace
the constellations, tell their stories true
to life, and see them fade in depthless blue.
Our caravan makes progress toward the palms
and fountain. Look: the moon is new, which is
to say, not there. The stars rejoice. It calms,
to see them shine so brightly, distances
between them deeper than a well. Look back:
the breeze already smoothed our tracks away.
Soon we’ll be gone, the brigands who would sack
us sadly disappointed, who would slay
us made ridiculous. The crescent moon
shall reappear, and wax to full, and wane
again to absence. Absence has its noon,
the same as any day, come loss or gain.
Scratch out the fire. A sleep will do us good.
The path ahead has vanished, as it should.
Dan Campion is the author of Peter De Vries and Surrealism and co-editor of Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song. Dan’s poetry has appeared previously in Grand Little Things and in Able Muse, Poetry, Rolling Stone, Think, and many other magazines. A selection of his poems titled The Mirror Test will be published by MadHat Press in 2022. Dan also has another book on the way. A Playbill for Sunset will be issued on July 14 by Ice Cube Press.
Dan Campion (what a great last name for a poet!): As someone who wrestles constantly with the sonnet form (see my April 12 posts and you’ll understand just how much!), I greatly appreciate and learn from others like yourself. Each one of these in a different way displays subtle craft, from your seamless use of enjambment to the allusiveness that adds another layer of interpretive possibility. I was particularly drawn to The Palms in part because of its overall tone and its gentle suggestive symbolism, but also because of its strong visual qualities, the Conradian “….above all to make you see,” element. Thank you for these gifts. Robert Graham
Robert, thank you for the gifts of your poems and your kind compliment. I especially admire the extended metaphor of that lighthouse. As to the craft, I have been fortunate in my teachers. Noting that you’re in Victoria, BC, I’ll note here that in 1975 I enjoyed the privilege of taking a seminar at the U of Illinois at Chicago with a native of Vancouver, Daryl Hine, who at the time was the editor of Poetry magazine. A kind and brilliant teacher, he was a virtuoso in verse, and I have learned much from reading his books. Good writing to you! –Dan