(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.