Hearing music unheard,
Songs of the Birdcatcher's Daughter, poems entombed as images
locked in the throat of a poet, witnessing ages long-gone,
long-buried from our listening, now charmed form a sleep of hieratic
by Foster - O magus-translator!
I know by the sweep of my River,
this Charles pulsing through Boston like love in the breast of the Birdcatcher's
Daughter, like lovers embodied to freshen again the Nile Valley
with flow of their youthful cursive mementos, poignant, promising:
I sense, from my highrise terrace,
how once beyond dusty millenia, alive in the land of pharaohs
young lovers exchanged with phrases handwritten a vow, an ardor -
then, in a Theban Dead City - as here where they lie in the sunlight
on banks of my River bordering urban contemporary margins.
No palm tree here, no pomegranate
avails a succulent metaphor. Yet sycamore grows by the sea-bent
water, resplendent in Cambridge: not edible, Scriptural sycamore
mulberry-leaved, fig-bearing, but native, the shading plane tree,
mottled of bark, revealing cream-colored layers beneath,
viridian hearts for foliage, soft plush burrs for fruit.
All kinds of trees can serve
the poet in his want.
And always, always a River!
And birds! I need not snare
their flight with myrrh and sweetgum, but leave them airborne, free
to cross, criss-cross my vision as once in Egypt someone
might liberate her longing to calls of wild geese crying:
the catcher caught, and gladly.
So gladly now in meshes
of ancient eloquence, in songs of the New Kingdom
on ostracon, on papyrus, this woman's taken captive -
late in our twentieth century - by time-encompassing syllables
imprisoning her ear.
O rare, O resonant syntax
where I may move increased by words of sweet constraint
whose bars expand my vista these many histories later,
whose limits fling my horizon beyond my hour toward aeons
not dead but young, perennially young in their flesh and fervor,
young, unknown, living to love to outlast forever,
now, now by a River.
Always, always a River.