Writings Contents
Creative Writings
The Early Years

Somewhere in the mid-60s the following were collected in a loose-leaf folder entitled Creative Writings - C. Ross Chamberlain. On April 20, 2001, I extracted the folder from a file cabinet that had been in storage for roughly a decade and a half, but most of the material was written in the mid-50s when I was a teenager. I've transcribed most of them pretty much as is, as an archive of what I thought was pretty good stuff at the time. Some I'm still pretty pleased with, and a few of my favorites are on the Early Verse page you linked to this one from. The rest are here, in no particular order — but there are still several I like in this section. There were, however, a few longer stories in the folder that I have held off the effort of reproducing for now (this is to your benefit, I assure you). From close to five decades perspective, much of this stuff seems—well, immature. Why do you suppose that is?
May 6, 2001


Spring

This is spring, a dreamlike time of year
When pastel shades soft-hue the gray and black,
When memories of winter disappear
And yearned-for fields of living green come back—
The cloudless skies of blue portend not frost
But sun-warm days of calm serenity
When youth again is with us, once thought lost,
And life can almost grasp eternity.

May, 1960


Spring Nightfall

The lifting mountains overhang the sun
And reaching shadows claim the day is done
As evening slides in silently, until
At last across the land the night has won.
The river chuckles softly as, nearby,
The phantom forest answers with a sigh
An owl's question from a distant hill
Beneath the cool and starry spring-night sky.
A peeper flutes once more, a zephyr warms
The land, and night birds still their sad alarms,
'Til finally the entire world seems still
And slumbering in God's great gentle arms.

May, 1960


Scene in Sunlight

Sunlight flecks the wooded hillside
Turning shade to muted green;
Misty vapor rises cloudlike
Making golden shafts between
Gnarled and twisted limbs of oak trees,
Long-leaved boughs of stately pine—
Here and there a maple standing
Upright 'gainst the hill's incline;
Now an elm lifts all its branches,
Reaching up in green-leafed prayer;
Here a birch stands white in beauty—
One lone dogwood scents the air.
God is here in all His splendor
When the day has just begun;
Here is where I come to worship—
Nature's chapel in the sun.

  1955


City in the Sea

The call of carols echoes from the city in the sea
Above the buoy bells carillons blend with strings.
The gulls wheel wistfully and soar and sing
In harmony with secret sounds below.
By heaven's door, where angels burst their hearts in song,
The songs of ocean dwellers lift, and leave the choirs unheard.
The organs with its waves of sound resounds
Its diapason, and chimes are glad and call the world to awe.
Sky clouds hear and pause upon their drifting way
And here an albatross swoops down and rests upon a crag
To listen to the soulstrung sea-swept symphony.

  1955

Inspired by Debussy's City in the Sea*
* The actual name of Debussy's work is The Sunken Cathedral (La Cathédrale Engloutie), but I believe now that when I wrote the poem, I had it confused with a science fiction book I'd read called The City in the Sea by Wilson Tucker. The edition I have was published as a Galaxy Science Fiction Novel in 1951 — or at least that's Wilson Tucker's copyright date. There is also a poem by Edgar Allen Poe by the nameCity in the Sea, but whether I had read that at the time I don't recall. There was also a movie called City Beneath the Sea that appears to be unrelated, and somewhat later in origin. I found a couple of sites with stories or poems or something — it's a good, evocative title, after all! — but none related to that book.


Night Walk

Blackish-grey shadows swarm silently
Mist-clouded moon hangs motionless
Against the black branches of a quiet reaching tree
And the crunch of stones beneath my feet
Pretends it wasn't there when I stop and listen
For a distant bark, or a laugh somewhere within the night
Which though I know I heard it, has forgotten me
And echoes only where I cannot find it hidden
Perhaps never made or heard but only dreamed
And recalled for want of better sound.
A little breeze wafts its gentle fernlike fronds
Against my face and goes away to lift a falling leaf
A little on its downward path against the light
Of a window where the curtains shield the brilliance
Of a lamp somewhere within a friendly room.
The cold austerity of the shadowed house collides
With the even colder moon and calls not forth
To strangers in the cold bedeviled night.
I walk on forward and the crunch forgoes pretending
And, though it still sounds distant, yet again becomes
A cheerful fellow traveler upon the mist-spread homeward path.

  1954-55


The Elephants

Oh masters, why stand ye here forlorn
Amidst these scenes of revelry?
For time and time again I see ye weep
Though other hearts are gay in time
To that free pace with which we celebrate
This holiday—Stand not so about
With deep cast faces, circled with grey beards
And darkened eyes—Now join us in our frolic
Lest ye be left alone in all your gloom.

  1955-56


Bedtime

A glorious streamer of golden light creams upward and out from the sinking sun. It is glowing its last beautiful gasp as it drowns in the velvet blue-violet pool of the westward mountains, and I feel its despairing cry and understand. For the sun is afraid of the star-bright darkness, the eternal deep blackness of night, and it cries like a godling child who is afraid to go to sleep, and forgets that he will rise again in the morning, refreshed and bright, and as beautiful as he has ever been in all his gloriously living life.

  1955-56


The Novice

On a visit to Nantucket

How unlike an Island does this feel—
Quite different than I expected, and yet,
Of course, how else would it feel?
Here's solid ground beneath my feet,
Here's trucks and cars speeding on
The long straight road to S'conset.
A land horizon on both sides at many spots—
No view of ocean-seascape surrounding me,
Such as I had always thought
Was the mark of any self-respecting island!
I cannot walk along the shore a while
And suddenly find myself where I had started—
Had I tried it, it might have taken me all day and more
To find my starting place.
Here's drugstores and a theatre
And well-kept modern schools
An A&P and an important airport
And modern ferries coming in each day
To Nantucket piers.
I was raised where islands were
But little plots of tree-grown land,
Or grassy hillocks or bare stone,
That jutted up from river streams
Or peaceful lakes—and still the thought
Of islands of the size of Mount Desert,
Nantucket, Martha's Vinyard, and Long Island,
Does not register island-like within
My prejudiced sea-scape island eye.

  1956


April Snow

The grass, just beginning to regain
Its emerald green,
Now is polka-dotted white.
The sun somewhere hides its head in shame
And robins sit bewildered
As spring breaks into little pieces
Falling from the sky.

  1955


Pebbles

Happy are we who sit here free
Unknowing, uncaring of what lies beyond.
Here we will be, just look and see,
Not living or dying—just stones in a pond.

  1955


New Born Butterfly

Let your wings open,
Shut them again.
Let them dry out in the sun
The wind blows out
Your chrysalid dampness.
Your twig is unsteady—hold on!
Your snail-like face
Seems haughty, aloof—
Yet I wonder if
You're not like me
A little afraid of life
A little worried about
What you'll see.
What will you do
When your wings are dry?
What will you be?
Your wings are beautiful
When you spread them out
But they're damp even yet.
Not for long—not for long—
But they're damp.
You're not ready to fly
For a while
For a while
You're not ready to fly
For a while.

  1954-55


Idyll Dream

Ah, to lie in fields all summer long,
And let the soft fingers of the wind
Sift through my hair;
To gaze at the golden flashes
In the sparkling blue of a lake;
To lie and dream by night
Or run and play in the daytime;
To find fruits and nuts hanging in plenty
On weighted limbs
Within reach of my outstretched fingers,
While cool clear mountain streams
Play softly nearby,
And clouds carelessly make their languid way
Across the heavenly deep
Baby blue of the sky.
And later to rise and walk
Amidst the grassy hills
While the sun sinks low
Across the mist-enshrouded mountains
Outlining in gold
The verdant trees nearby,
And stretching forth cool dark fingers
Toward the oncoming twilight.

  1957


Perspective

Have you seen the jagged mountain tops?
How jagged are they?—tell.
From here they are as smooth and round
As though some force beneath the ground
Had caused it but to swell.
Have you heard the breakers of the sea?
Is theirs a thundrous roar?
From here they are but small white lines
Whose wash is the sigh of the breeze in the pines
As they peacefully wave by the shore.

  1954



Dark Night

Lowly, slowly,
'Neath drifting heavy cloud formations
Which engulf, enclose the stars,
I wander softly, here I wonder,
Wondering on life and love's peculiar ways,
Habits, formation.
Here and now I loose tradition
Shackles binding round my feet—
I change, I change-but always
I remain the same.

  1955


Autumnal Thoughts

Lo and behold, the trees are gold
And autumn's finally here!
A gusty breeze sweeps in to seize
The flaming foliage from the trees
And the harvest moon draws near.
The crickets sing and the first birds wing
To the south, and nights are clear—
But the harvest moon and the cricket's tune
Will all be gone too soon, too soon
With the end of another year.

  Sept. 22, 1958


Picnic

What sort of life is life?
What sort of love is love?
What sort of afternoon is in the ride
Toward noon?
What split of love has come
Between these two
So unexplained but possible return
To as they were:
Before they left the sanctuary of loneliness
And spread out before the two of them a cloth
Across the ground and spread the bread
(With peanut butter)
And drank the moist hot coffee dreaming some
Thing between them which bound
And now has bounded off behind them and
Away away away...
The see no more the cool black shadows and
The running waters and the warm hot sun
Light in each others' now less understanding vision.
And so—each morning must speed on toward noon
And the afternoon spreads a lonely repast upon
The picnic of the day
Which shall be digested for a long long evening
And a longer night—
But if a morning come again
Shall we fear the afternoon?

  1959


Moon on a Stick

I saw the moon
Held up on a stick
Tonight
On a mountain made
Of black.
The stick that held it
Was held by God knows whom.
They were pushing it up
Into place tonight
Picture hanging it
On a star.
Over Lone Pine Mountain
They pushed it up
And it balanced
And it caught
And it hung
And it moved
On and up, on its own
For the night
Wearily
For the million millionth time
The same old trip
The same old path
Until
Early in the morning
When I'm asleep
They'll catch it again
Coming down
On the other side.
In a tree branch net
They'll catch it
Easing it down gently
And hiding it until
Tomorrow
When they'll push it
Again on a stick
Over Lone Pine Mountain
For its reluctantly taken
Eternal night ride.

  1955


Dawn

Blob eye-searing red and yellow
Trespass behind a night of blue
A hill of blue
Weakling shiny split by vapor drift
Intrudes itself erasing beauty
Stealing, melting night of frost
The white of frost
Goes on in pink silverness, cloudy grey
Baby blue—all pastel, pastel, pastel
Lifeless living, not deceased, the land
Rolls under light brushed sky
Minding its own eternal way of things
Eternal yet young and then the sun
Spreads its red sharp softness
To build out of the night of life
A day of life.

  1956


Who?

How strangely emotionless I feel, looking upon this surely beautiful dawn,
With its radiant shafts of gold from the sun where it peeks over the hills,
And the wonder mist that cuts the distant hills full up into the sky.
The lone pines and the forests praise their God, the bushes kneel to Him,
While I who know no God look on and know no joy,
No fresh surprise, no gloried morning happiness, no waking freshness,
No pleasant thanking prayer to the Master Sculptor, Painter, Dramatist, Musician,
Whom I know not, but Who set this sweet spectacle, this gentle panorama of new rising life.

  1956


My Part

I cannot but feel that if all men could see
Just how this big world at times seems to me
That such a great peace and sweet song in their soul
Would o'ercome their mad striving for some greedy goal,
'Twould fill them with love, and recall to mankind
A life such as God tried to bring to our mind.
But what can I tell them? What can I say
To show them my view of the world in my way?
Of course I can't do it, 'twould be silly to try;
There are thousands of others much smarter than I
Who've attempted to show man the right way to live:
"'Tis less bless'd to receive than it is to give,"
"Do unto others as you would they'd return,"
But these teachings too many have chosen to spurn.
Why should I futilely throw in my lot,
Saying something my listeners will soon have let rot
In their memory's dungeons, where the prisoners call
Unheard in the memory's audience hall?
Yet I know if I'm silent on the things that I know
I will be unhappy wherever I go,
For there might have been someone who'd listened to me
And whose soul through my words might then have been free;
So I'll say what I can whenever I may
In the hope 'twill give someone a light for his way.

  1954


In the Beginning, God...

Deep within a place of light there dwelt a being of love, of joy, of happiness. This lovely one lived a shining life without care, without misery, without variety...
Surrounding this vale of light there was darkness, where lurked dark beings of coarse vulgarity, of hate, of gloom, of brooding, of vengefulness, of utter boredom.
Upon a time a being of darkness, in a search for unhappiness, ventured into the place of light. The black one was greeted with affection and kindness, and returned it with surliness and suspicion. And the being of light gave forth confidence and joy, to be met with fear and unhappiness.
Soon the light and the darkness began to mingle, there was a greyness in the void, and it was not long before two figures stepped forth weeping from the misty twilight into a new world of day and night, of sadness and courage, of strength and pity, of sin and laughter, of life and death.

  1955


Maturity

A gift ephemeral is life
Too short to really understand
The full capacities which are
Inherent in its time.
What man could do if life were his
For many times his given span,
And this new gift of life prolonged
The period of his prime,
Not I, but only God all-wise
Would find it possible to say—
For man could learn what others taught
And still have time for more;
He'd still have time to act and search—
Perhaps he'd even find the key
To mysteries so long vain-sought
In centuries before.
And yet without this gift of life
Accumulated thoughts have built
Advancement over days of old
Incredible to see:
God in His wisdom knew mankind
Needed progress fighting fault—
Could not build an ideal world
Without maturity.

  1956


Gilt

By inglorious streams of time we wander
Disbelieving, yet...pondering inside...

We hear of horror and we shudder
And shrug it off as nothing for our minds;
Unnecessary things these are, unpleasant—
Bury them beneath light pleasantry
Superficial wishing, not worth the thoughts
They cover—gilt paint on antique wood.
Valuable yet valueless: there is a strange difference
Between two certain words, two similar words,
"Priceless" is one, the other "worthless"—-
How different they are in meaning,
How similar are "price" and "worth"...
So too the differences between silliness and humor,
Laugh and giggle, bawl and weep, friend and crony.
Life is both shallow and deep, it all depends
Not precisely on how it's seen
But what its goals and ideals are.
Men die somewhere, and sweethearts grieve
But here and now my sweetheart lives
("Impotence has not o'ertaken my lover")
(My mistress is not frigid") So why should I,
Who have nothing to worry about today,
Think of others who die or grieve
Who live so far removed from me
They might as well be dead.
A starving child in India—how sad.
What's his name? Never heard a name like that.
A ruined cathedral? Why to be sure
I saw one ruined once—in a movie by DeMille.
Yes, quite spectacular. Cast of thousands.
Disease in China? Well, these Chinese...
I have an itch on my back. Scratch it, will you, dear?
Ah, that feels good.
The atom bomb, they say, makes a crater a mile wide,
And lots of buildings are blown down, or burnt.
And I understand in London they're still rebuilding.
Take the car down to the garage, will you, dear?
I thought I heard a rattle in the fender.
A rattle in the fender!
Scratch my back.
Cast of thousands...
Gilt on antique wood.
The newspaper, you know, is much drier than a novel.
I've read some awfully dry books—Greek plays, you know.
And Classics. History books are drier.

By inglorious streams of time we wander
Disbelieving, yet...pondering inside...

  1955-56



Despair

I stand before the window, looking out into the grey, cool world of winter evening, my sick heart longing to fly out and become one with the snow, the black stick-like trees, the greyness which stretches above from mist-shrouded horizon to somewhere in the fast approaching blackness behind me. I long to feel the gently sprinkling dampness of those enveloping mists—to bask in them—to, perhaps, take heart from them, to gain that serenity in loneliness I am unable to discover in myself. For the outside at twilight is free—freer than the birds, chained to their nests and their young ones; freer than the rolling ocean, bound to its shores and deeps and tides—and oh, God! How much freer it is than I, who must live by law and custom, by responsibility toward oneself and toward others, and by ties and bonds of friendship and love; returned love and futile love; and above all, by the limitations of an earthbound fleshly body, whose weaknesses include and transcend all other limitations. And it is the pain of knowing the immense and utter futility of such dreams—dreams that cannot come true to one who lives, and dreams that one has no way of knowing can come true in death and can, indeed, only doubt it—it is the pain of this that makes the tears wet my heated, frustrated face as I gaze with lonely longing into the fast approaching night.

  1954


Encounter

A diamond sparkled in the royal velvet evening, as luxurious spun gold clouds hung low upon the cushioned mounds of mountains. A tangy, delightfully refreshing sparkle in the spring evening air lent its charm to the music of the playful breezes, as I put my arm about the warm shoulders of the girl beside me, and laid my hand upon the delicate smoothness of her hand, where it lay like a white kid glove on the silken tapestry of her lap.
She sprang away from me with an exclamation, rubbing her hand against her dress as if it were a towel. She stumbled rapidly away against the painted cardboard backdrop of the night, where the stars lay like shattered glass on a sidewalk as the gilt wore slowly off the edges of the clouds, and the darkness closed in like a storm.

  1955


Outlook

Beyond hope, beyond all,
My fond dreams continue
To blast reality,
Change things that are facts
Unchangeable and insurmountable
By other than my mind.
For dreams are my reality
Fancy my life,
And disappointments are taken
In my stride.

  1955


Diminution

Awed, and pleasantly surprised
In clouds I stood, and looking down,
I could not see the trail I must
Have climbed to reach this misty peak.
"The top!" I thought, "the peak, the goal!
"With ease I've gained the mountain's crown—
"Still, have I found the thing I want?
"Oh, no—yet further I must seek!"
And as I spoke the clouds drew back,
And through the misty golden veil,
I saw I had not gone so far—
Before me was the cliff to scale.

And after that, I began to see,
Another one awaited me...
So, homeward bent,
I downward went.
"No pride,"
I cried.
Backtrack.

  1955


Impressions on Having Died of Old Age

Untalented, I felt the change
Come over me, felt Him arrange
My thoughts, my self, somehow renewed—
My ancient self He now imbued
With vigor old, so long unfelt;
The fourscore years now seemed to melt
And sift away, as off He led
My wakened soul from my deathbed.

  1954-55


In My Wake

Pardon me, but don't you see,
Strange as this may sound,
I'll need no peace at my decease
For—I'll not be around.
That one enjoys a lack of noise
When one is dead I doubt;
For all I care no one need spare
His feelings to let out
Of joy or pain—I'll not complain,
Being, as I ought,
Thoroughly, emphatic'ly
Incapable of thought.

  1954-55


Writings Contents

A Dream

This is an actual dream I had on the morning of January 7th, 1955. Version 2, in verse, together with some comments, is in the Early Verse page from which you linked to this one.

First Version

I drempt, and as I dreamed it seemed that I sat amidst a small number of men upon a knoll, at the foot of which was a flowing stream, and on the nearer bank of that stream, not three yards from where we sat, was a path. And I knew, more than by the robes and beards that the men about me wore, but by the knowledge of such things which is a part of dreams, that we were in the countryside of the land of Judea, a long time ago.
And as I was there, there came a child, or perhaps it was that he had been there before and I had not until then noticed him, for he seemed engaged in conversation with someone, and he faced those men among whom I sat, and said, in a clear and penetrating voice, "The messiah is not yet born."
And among those to whom he spoke, there was one who stood out from the others by his robes of white, and by the fair golden-brown of his hair above his strong, gentle features. And he leaned forward, half smiling, and asked the child in a rich, soft voice, "Are you sure?"
And the child looked upon him, and there was a hush among those who stood around, and for all the world about there might have been only those two on earth—the man whom I knew to be the carpenter of Nazareth, and the child who looked up at him, and it was plain that everyone there felt that the child knew whereof he spoke. And the child said, "No, the messiah is not yet born." And he walked away down the path. And he of Nazareth remained, and followed the child with his eyes until the small one disappeared beyond the knoll. And the quiet reigned, and I awoke.


Lament

I have a strange disquietude of mind——
'Tis difficult to understand or know
Why to the world about me I am blind—
I cannot say how long I have been so.
Her face before me is a wall opaque;
Her eyes are ports through which another world
Whose beauties like a sunlit woodland lake
Or a golden Eastern tapestry unfurled
O'erwhelms the senses and melts my heart away
Incapable of understanding more
Than that strong love in which throughout the day
My aching soul and mind are longing for.
Would it were not a dream I gaze upon;
My love for many years and miles is gone.

   1954


Prayer for Lasting Love

A frenzied love here remains
A stark answer to my heart's
Forever beating question,
Is it true, will it last?
Can this thing born of frustration
Come to anything but another
Soon passed-over fancy?
Not the first time it has happened.
Is it love, is it real at last?
Not a dream too soon to be intruded
By hurt awakening?
Can it bring more than mere sorrow
In its wayward wake?
Dear God, grant this pulse
A life of lasting strength.
Guide in paths of lasting happiness
These two hearts, and let them not
Fall into the pits of fatal fate.
Let not these happy pressing lips
Turn to twisting words of hurt
Or final sentences of parting.
Let not this burning ecstacy
Degenerate into a wry, sarcastic
Blasphemy of love.
Bind us as one eternal living love
And let us walk forever in its light.
Thou art love and life
And thou art she
Within my sight.

   1956


Spring Fancy

We watched the spring wind pass unseen
Together silent in the understanding then
Of silence. We two would sit and watch.
Sometimes we'd talk of things we knew,
Of home and memories and hopes in time,
But then fall silent and look out
Across the hills and think
Of nothing but our thoughts,
Remembering only now. We let
Tomorrow fleet with yesterday
Until they never were.

There was a fear from other times
I could not guess—
It lay unspoken there outside my ken—
But which took root one night and lost to me
That silent time—those silent times—
And made a hurting wonder grow,
Until I meant one time to capture it,
Regain what now I'd know no longer.
But, casting a reflection of indifference,
My nerve took wing, and I, undone,
Followed, spurning now for all unwritten time
What could have never been again
The silent spring-washed days.

   1955-56


Reflection on St. Valentine's Day

Now the day of hearts and flowers
Comes around, and in these hours,
I think of how it was not long ago—
I sit alone and ponder
On how long I yet must wander
Till I find someone who's fonder
Than the one I used to know.

But somehow I think that never,
Though I search and search forever,
Will I find another true love at my side.
I may find new love in seeming,
But I'll wake with daylight's gleaming
And I'll know, for all my dreaming
That my old love has not died.

   1957


Blues

Cry in the night—
The lonesome whistle of a distant freight—
Dirty light sneaking silently in
A hole-poked shade
To watch a huddled
Naked form.
Beyond the crumpled curtains
The small soft sobs wander
And are lost.
The unwary light trips upon
A broken bottle neck
But she who cries alone
Does not notice.
The silent pool of dark grows darker
Underneath the crumpled, unused bed.
Somewhere under there
Had it been able to find it,
The sneaking light would have found
A plain gold ring to play with.

   1955


The Bicycle Race

Brought down to pinpoint size up there upon the road,
Their easy movements invisible from here,
I see them riding on to win.
The fine drizzle soaks into my heavy coat;
The water runs into my eyes and still I push
Upon the resisting pedals to go on.
No point now to try to pass them up,
Or even to try to come within a seeing distance
Of those who ride ahead.
Too far, too far behind upon this long stretch
Of road, which stretches to the rain-hid hills
Beyond which lies the finish mark.
On and on I ride, continually wondering
If I should give up and turn back
And then I think of those few behind me—
What looks they'd give me as I rode past
Flaunting my cowardice.
And still the rain soaks in. My parka hood,
Long since thrown back to give me air
And cool my heated head and face,
Is soaked, my matted hair lies sticky
Down across my eyes
And still I press down on one side and the other
And hear the spinning wheels whine sadly
Upon the wet cold pavement.
A breeze blows up, and though I hear it all about me,
It does not seem to know that I am there
For it looks right through me as it passes by—
And after all these years of familiarity.
There—What is that ahead? A flagpole
To mark the finish line, and there beneath a shelter,
The bicycles and racers who have come before.
I hear a shout of several voices, they cheer me in,
And now I feel that I enjoyed the ride,
However I might have felt physically in
The driving dampness of the air.

  1956
This was written following a bicycle race across Nantucket during a school trip.


Nothing or Somethin?

Greater or lesser things provide always something
Enjoyment, dissatisfaction, for all that is
But often lesser things mean more, and greater less
Paradoxes come and go on all unnoticed
Philosophers puzzle over contradictions
Phenomena, paradoxes. Man fails to see
That everything is a paradox unreasoning
But explained by the Unknown Quantity—when
All is really explained by nothing at all
Which if you'll think is just exactly
What I've just said: Nothing.

  1956


Jungle Drums

Behold the conclave of medicine men!
Deep in the night tabu drums are booming.
High priests of the tribes of the green jungle
Are meeting in the light of the moon.
Hear, hear the heavy drumming
Beat, beating in the moonlight
Dark shadows leap, weird voices cry
And the drums reverberations
Pound in your heartbeats, your pulsing blood
Rushes in your veins—
Your muscles jump
Your eyes are glinting
Your heart beats wilder—
The moon is spinning in the heavens
The black jungle trees loom above you
Heavier beat the magic jungle drums
Wilder scream the necromantic jungle men
Leap, leap in wild abandon
Dance, dance with strange delight
Sing among primeval brethren
Sing in the ancient ritual of death.

  1954


1943—

The sirens wailed—the raid warning sent its sickening call to the beggar and the rich man, and the beggar and the rich man ran in the streets. A young man and his girl fought into the crowd outside the air-raid shelter, and the town mayor shoved them out of the way as he fought for a place for himself. A black and brown patched dog forgot the cat he had chased into the branches of a tree and cocked his ears at the unfamiliar throb and roar of an explosion somewhere. A man in his undershirt and half a beard smeared with shaving lather pushed two crying children into the cellar and went back to get his wife. Two policemen picked themselves up and went back into the crowd around the air-raid shelter to try again to help organize the frightened mob. The young man and his girl clung together as a writhing white wall of wide-eyed faces and shoving hands prevented them from finding the precious entrance to the shelter. The droning of the planes was no louder than the scream of the siren, but no one listened to the sirens. A sudden light filled the street from one end as a hammer struck at the chests and eardrums of the now small crowd outside the shelter. A second blast sent a section of pavement through the branches of a tree and into the walls of a house beyond it. The cat fell right beside the dog, but the dog didn't care any more. A heavy door swung shut and two figures, a young man and his girl, ran into an alley just as a bomb blasted clean through the shelter door and left a smoking hole in the ground. The sirens wailed no longer; the drone of the planes dimmed and softened, though the two children in the cellar and the two huddled but unhurt figures in the alley could hear it for what seemed a long time after the last explosion. When the children could hear the monotonous sound no longer, they went upstairs to look for daddy.

  1955

Song of the Spaceman

A hum, a click, and then a roar.
We settle into soft sound
With a background of whistling noise
Unpleasing to some, but music to our ears.
Quietness.
There is no sound.
The silver shining ship speeds past
All barrier: Air, sound, they are no more
Outside our ship.
What is that sphere, left far behind?
It is home.
Nay, it is home no more:
The earth is gone.
Ne'er shall it be seen again should some mishap
Some accident...
But no,
All things foreseeable are accounted for.
On, to our destination.
Long gone is the earth, a mere spot,
A speck in the everlasting darkness, night.
The moon also is far past, left far
Beyond e'en Earth's great blue-green ball.
Ahead, mere hours away, is the destination.
Even now landing preparations are made.
But soon, too soon are heard
The rending cash of projectile against resisting gases
A flashing beep of radar signals.
The destination.
What is this?
Our calculations
Miscalculated.
We speed so fast, our ears are deafened
The resisting gases cannot withstand,
Though scream they mightily.
Then again silence—loud, earsplitting—
Silence.
We have passed our destination.
Screamed the ship through a planet's atmosphere
And out again...
Beyond...
Toward that final Destination of all men.

  1951


By Any Other Name

Gloria spread her feet out before her from the upholstered chair and contemplated the ridges in her pleated dress. Fifteen, she presented now an appearance of ageless boredom, though pretty for all that, in a somber sort of way. Her rich auburn hair lost itself behind her in the shadows of the back of the chair, peeking out here and there unexpectedly but shyly. Her fingers played lightly over the hard maroon cover of Trilby where it reposed half fallen from her lap, between the arm and the soft cushion of the chair.
Gloria thought about the beautiful Trilby, who had fallen under the black hypnotism of the mad Svengali, and through his powers had become renowned as an operatic star—only to lose her beautiful voice, and, shortly, her life, when the evil genius died. Gloria shuddered slightly, and fingered lightly the scar on her neck. After an operation in her early childhood, her voice was only a whisper. In spite of this, she had often dreamed of singing on the stage, of reaching out to her audience and capturing them with her voice as Trilby had done... But at such a price...
She stood up, unfolding herself luxuriously, smiling ruefully. Whatever her inability in music, she loved to listen to all kinds—opera in particular. She knelt by the shelf where her collection of records stood, and withdrew her prized album—a complete high-fidelity recording of Faust. She had purchased it only a week or so ago at that new shop downtown. It was a label unfamiliar to her, but that funny little man—the shop owner—had only played part of the first record for her, and she was in love with it. Gloria had needed little persuasion with her parents to get the money for it; they understood her love for music and the compensations it seemed to hold for the loss of her voice.
She set the records on the turntable of the high-fidelity console her father had given her on her last birthday, and while she waited for the machine to warm up, she walked out to the kitchen and helped herself to a glass of milk and a sandwich. Glancing at the clock, she saw tht her parents wouldn't be back for yet another two, three hours. She carried milk and sandwich back into the living room, and started the record going.
She was relaxed in the big overstuffed chair when Mephistopheles' magnificent deep voice filled the room. She closed her eyes and tried to picture him. Trilby was still fresh in her mind, and somehow she saw Mephisto as much like Svengali—taller, perhaps, but essentially that same, evilly sneering expression, like... like who? Like that little shopkeeper, say. She hadn't thought of him as that, he'd only seemed kind of funny, but there was that expression she'd surprised on his face when she was buying the record... The orchestral accompaniment was playing in great, deep, strangely disturbing chords, now, around and through which the satanic basso of Mephistopheles spread and penetrated, the vibration of his voice thrilling through her body and deeper, into her very soul...
A sudden shiver made her open her eyes. Enthralled with the music, she just smiled, and let him take her hand.
The record had stopped long ago, but her duet with Mephistopheles rang through the empty house as no music that has ever been heard by mortal man.

  1955


Advice

If you, my friend, do not deceive her,
Should she leave you, don't retrieve her—
Other fields are green, but she'll discover
None are greener than her lover...

  1957


Conquest

There stands the bloody conqueror, nearly blind, half dead with the loss of life's blood; red, raw patches of skin exposed to the chafing rags and dirt that cling to his scarred and wounded form. And he chokes and sobs with horrid laughter as he looks down upon his vanquished foe, who lies outstretched upon the ground, now freed forever from the pain and suffering of war.

  1954-55


Unbeliever

Queer old man, face more red than pink,
Long white beard, and his stomach needs to shrink.
Works all year, making toys they say,
And then one night.... He gives them all away!

  1958


Psychoanalysis

'Tis said that oft a dreamer's dreams may show
Those inner thoughts by which a man may know
His true suppressed inactive self unfound
Within his life as seen by friend and foe.
It's also thought release of pent desires
Emotions, complex patterns—all inspires
A man's improvement and escape
From fear and worry—uneasiness retires!
Besides all this, those learned persons say
Such an escape from conflicts and dismay
Will give a man new lease on life and should
Adjust him to the life we lead today.
But to release such things I find my dreams
Reveal as inner wishes, to me seems
Sheer folly, not at all the type of thing
As proper conduct any person deems.
And life today cannot be met without
The courage built through every trial or doubt
And fear, which buffet men throughout their lives;
That strength is all that should these trials rub out.
Call me old fashioned, but I will maintain
That "Ignorance is bliss," —that old refrain—
Inaccurately states my view of life:
"To know too much too likely will cause pain."

  1954


One Too Many

He weaved out of the tavern and bleary-eyed the serpentine street. "Gotta call m'wife," he said...or thought he said, he wasn't too sure. He caught a passing telephone booth, subdued it temporarily, and discovered the phone somewhat higher off the floor than he had expected. He put the receiver somewhere in the general vicinity of his ear.
"Operator," he said. "Give me Seagram's seven seven, please." The dimeless telephone made no comment.

  1955


Longevity

The glorious spread of dynasties
Short-lived within eternity
Are yet beyond the little lives
Of kings or monarchy.

  1955-56


Sunday Breakfast at Buxton

Crisp again the bacon fries;
With spatter fat the egg replies
In kind, as does the boiling mush
Upon the stove's fire-reddened blush
Still crying at its lesser size.
Upon a plate a pancake flops
And bathes where maple syrup slops.
Strange coffee creamed with sugar in,
And toast is greased with margarine;
Cold cereal dryly bowlward drops.
Juices stagnate vari-hued
While milk-filled pitchers guard their brood
Of wet-nursed glasses cribbed in trays.
'Tis this for Buxton starts her days,
Calling this her breakfast food.

  1956


Fragment

Leaf, be-circled gold, awaken. 'Tis the dawn
The birds have wakened long ago
And life is going on.

  1956


Moon Trick

Last night I was walking down a path in the woods
And I looked up to see, to my horror,
That the moon was caught just above me in a tree!
Poor thing, to be taken so cruelly
From its heavenly, nightly jaunt!
I started to climb up to release it,
But it was higher than I thought;
And then when I had almost come near enough
It broke away itself and swung back in the sky,
And laughed at me where I sat
Foolish in the branches of the tree.

  1955


Legend

The professor pointed at the blue-board where an outline of recent world history shone in soft pastel pink.

"A little over six thousand years ago," she said, keeping one eye on the class to make sure no one was feeling too mischievous to pay sufficient attention, "on Spring eightieth, according to tradition, the Lurchers—or, as some scribes will have it, the Balancers—came and disappeared again. There is really very little known about them, and you will find that there are already a number of factions here and there over the world that believe those strange creatures were indeed mythical. It is at least four generations since that time, now, and you may well understand how facts can be distorted in that length of time. For all we know, such fantastic animals as the Balancers—or Lurchers—may never have existed. However, the legends are widespread, and it is the opinion of most historians that on that date a large number of pale creatures whose sole method of transportation was a sort of lurching and balancing on a pair of tentacles attached to the lower part of flexible trunks, appeared suddenly in various localities here and there about the world.

One of the students signaled for attention.

"Yes, Maru, you are recognized."

"Wasn't there something about moving houses—or something?"

"Well, I am certain that was just one of the many legends and tall tales which are bound to appear afteroccurrence of this nature. The sheer impossibility of houses moving, rooted as they are deep in the ground, rules that particular legend out. There is another legend from the deserts of Polwatta concerning a tall house that raised itself from the ground upon a pillar of fire. As we all know that no living thing can exist for long in the Polwatta wastes, much less houses, you can see the wild imaginations that are brought into the foreground by comparatively small phenomena."

The class made small sounds of amusement.

"The only way we can account for their appearance, if they existed at all, is that they may have come out of the ground, and then went back after finding the outer atmosphere uncomfortable."

Maru signaled again.

"You are recognized, Maru."

"Did anyone get a chance to communicate with them? I mean, I heard that they went around touching their upper tentacles against their trunks and making sounds like "man" or "human" or something like that."

The professor stared at Maru. "Maru, you know that in order for two beings to communicate they must both be possessed of intelligence. Certainly you don't consider that these—creatures—were in any way intelligent. The very fact that we received no telepathic communication from them of any sort rules that out. Oh, no, we simply beat them and drove them away."

Maru scratched her center ear with a middle tentacle and wondered.

  1955-56


the cummings of spring

In the spring a (Jung) man's fancy
Lightly turns to
J a c k & Jill
went up the hill
(SHEwasONLYaFARMER'Sdaughter)
to
GIVE THREE CHEERS AND ONE CHEER MORE for
to BE or NOT to BE, THAT is the ????
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
BUT THERE IS A TIDE IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN AND
Jack fell down
(and while 10,000 Frenchmen can't be wrong....?)
J i l l
CAME tumbling AFTER

  1955


The Necromancer

The dully glowing, blood-red orb of the sun hangs over the black, shadowy hills in the distance, illuminating with its last waning rays the ancient structure, soon to leave it clutched in shadows. There is no sound but that of a late bird in the surrounding sentinel trees, or a cricket chirping in the meadow-lands beyond. A sluggish breeze shifts moisture-ridden air in crevasses and corners, and black shadows slide about the dusty rooms.
High up, in a small, dark room, his only light the evil glow of a crimson lamp, a scuttling figure of a man gesticulates and mumbles over a small flat vessel of faintly odorous liquid. Suddenly his clutching fingers snatch from the liquid a small, soggy piece of paper-thin material and flings it into yet another solution of mystic potions and powders, the glow of the lamp etching the lines of his face into a satanic leer, as the sound of a dry chuckle echoes from his parchment throat. He peers closely at the thin white stuff within the brew, and only the sound of his rasping breath is heard as a pair of searching, steady eyes stare back at him from the tray. He straightens quickly, and then, with deft and practiced hands, he plucks again the limp scrap from its bath and hangs it, dripping, from a hook upon the wall.
And so the photographer leaves his newly developed photograph to dry.

  1955-56


As I Attempt to Write a Sonnet Now

As I attempt to write a sonnet now
Without the necessary form of things
Affixed before my eye, old Petrarch wings
His noble soul away from my taut brow,
And Shakespeare's spirit deigns not to endow
His master touch. My fevered mind yet clings
To this one thought—whate'er my folly brings,
A sonnet I must write, some way, somehow.
Though Shakespeare hides and Petrarch goes his way,
I'll get revenge—Oh, my revenge is sweet!
Companions not (in sonnet form) are they...
But now I've done it! Here the twain shall meet!
But though 'twas fun to write this at the time,
I fear the poets all would deem it crime.

  1957
This sonnet format, abbacddc efefgg, was the favored rhyme scheme of Ellen Geer Sangster, the director of Buxton School, and my creative writing teacher there. She described it as a combination of the Petrarchan and Shakespearian sonnet forms. If I remember correctly, she described the Petrarchan as abbacddc efgefg and the Shakespearian form as ababcdcd efefgg. The latter is confirmed in the literature, but the former is open to some interpretation—it seems Petrarch had a variety of forms he used, which gradually evolved into several that are generally described as Italian or Sicilian, of which the above sequence, abbacddc efgefg, is actually a combination of a Sicilian octet and an Italian sestet. There are many other named forms, including Spencerian and others, but none appear to follow the scheme Mrs. S favored, which I have also adopted as my own.


Ogden Ross—or, A Portrait of the Young Man as an Artist, Poet, or What-Have-You

When one reads much of Ogden Nash who has been referred to as a prince word-slinger but pauper poet*
It is difficult in using his writing form to sound convincing and not overdoe it.
Sometimes I find myself assailed by a horrible rhyme which becomes worse and worse, like a plugged utility,
And it creeps up my spine, tickles my funny bone, and assaults my sensibility.
It won't let go no matter how hard I may fight it
Until I write it.
Which isn't as easy as it sounds
Because poetry ordinarily abounds
In meters and rhyme schemes
And forms and lengths and types and themes,
And you have to pick the right ones to appropriately fit
The aforesaid rhyme of horrible wit,
Because you can't use a rhyme such as I am about to give an example of
When the rhythm is sweet, the tone melodious, and the hearts and flowers there are ample of.
The exampled horrible rhyme of which I speak
Is the following freak:
The bear feels righteous
When he bighteous.
May I stand on a soapbox in Greenwich Village and gesticulate and expound the benefits of fascism
If that isn't a perfect example of an Ogden Nascism.
And now, since I'm on the subject of Greenwich,
I'm thinking of settling down with a beret, a box of oils, an easel, much canvas, no haircut, a family of bedbugs, a hot-plate, and a can of beans or spenich,
Thus holing out in a typical so-called Bohemian manner as a frustrated artist instead of holing out in a typical Bohemian manner with a typewriter, a bale of paper, pen, ink, no haircut, a family of bedbugs, a can of spinach or beans and a hot-plate as a frustrated writer,
Which might be brighter,
But less likely since my writing experience is, without exception, amateur,
And I have only a vague idea of the difference between hyperbole and iambic pentameteur.
Which leads me to the remark that an artist's life is the life for me,
A remark which is, as you can see,
Just a way of saying in a manner trite and prosaic,
If not clicheic
That I am either a rusher into angel-less trails,
Or an extra brave and intelligent person who knows something about his work that people haven't noticed yet which gives him immense confidence and all that that entails;
Courageous in the knowledge that my paintings will therefore sell, I now plan to set up my Bohemian-type studio as earlier reported,
And live a life of luxury and ease, selling my paintings at such a tremendous profit that I can spend the rest of my life in comfort and—who snorted?
Believest thou me not, unbeliever?
Me eiver.

*just kidding, of course. Really. He's cool.

  1955

The Night After Christmas

'Twas the night after Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring—except for one louse
Who was just raising the window, and climbing inside,
Being very careful not to be spied.
The children were tossing and turning in bed—
On too much Christmas dinner and candy they'd fed—
While Ma in her 'kerchief and I in my ice-cap
Had just settled down for a long restless nap,
When downstairs I heard (and my ears almost shattered)
A yell, and a crash, and something that clattered.
I jumped out of bed (not feeling so bold
When my feet touched the floor, for the floor was quite cold)
And dashed for the closet to get out my gun,
Which hadn't been used since—oh, say nineteen-ought-one.
I sneaked down the stairs to see who was there;
I was nervous as could be, and my feet were still bare.
I turned on my flashlight, which made a small spot—
It served only to tell where the burglar was not.
I heard a slight moan from a place near the tree;
I pointed my gun, though I still couldn't see,
And issued an order to make himself known—
The answer I got was only a groan.
I groped for the light, my foot found a ball—
My thanks to the burglar, for he broke my fall!
However, by luck (not luck that was good)
My head struck a box that was made out of wood.
* * * * * * * * * *
I awoke back in bed, with a lump on my dome,
And saw a policeman had entered my home.
He told me that I caused the force great relief,
And there was a reward for catching this thief.
As he took the man off, he said, "It's not right
To leave skates on the floor—it's not safe. Well,
GOOD NIGHT!"

December 14, 1953