Three Tears for the Viner

(For Daniel C. Hall)

This is an evocative poem about the complicated relationship between artist and audience. It uses images of marriage, Elizabethan bear-baiting, human mortality, New Testament parables of vineyards and the true vine. There is also an allusive reference to an image that must have made a deep impression on me as a child: the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man frozen in ice in the 1944 Universal Pictures House of Frankenstein.

 He has a pair of pruning-shears
 to groom the chairs
 and put in pairs the flock of geese
 the gossamer

 He has a brace of groaning fears
 to rule the cheers
 and pluck the fleece
 the gold-baked bread

 He has a voice-of-deathlike stare
 to spear the groom
 and chafe his tomb of wedding bells

 Oh we will chip away the ice
 that locks the geese in pairs so nice!

 Child’s finger draws the geese in flight,
 the frosty-dancer’s-breath in sight
 draws away,
 away: drawn to a hole by the wind

 The feathers crackle in the fire
 that warms, corrodes the heart of fear.
 Whose branches wind, he has to spare
 the many dogs, the cornered bear.
 Oh chip away the cornered bear,
 bloody as spectators
 stare and smell the sweaty dew of fear.

 Weary, we all chip away our
 cornered bear-lives every hour,
 chip and stare and smell the dew.
 Whose fingers strain against the freeze,
 strain to chip the ice and free
 the soul grown slow.

 And we are the bear
 who try to rule
 the deafening applause and cheers
 and we are
 he who prunes the vine
 in winter well as summertime

 Breathe frostgossamer, you,
 and draw geese in pairs, in flocks flying,
 and try to find where our breath goes
 when it goes

 And we are he whose voices stare
 at pack of hungry dogs and fearful bear
 below: there.

 And we are he whose voices stare
 Whose branches wind!
 at tombs and cheer from frozen chairs

 and we are
 he who prunes the vine
 with pruning-shears in wintertime
 or tries:
 Three tears for the viner!
 The Ice-dog barks but once. 

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