Marc Widershien, Ph.D., a native Bostonian, at 18, began writing poetry, and
studied with Samuel French Morse, John Malcolm Brinnin, Robert Lowell, and Daisy
Aldan. His visit to Rapallo, Italy in August, 1966, to meet the American
expatriate poet, Ezra Pound, was a life altering experience that made
determined him to be a writer. Over the years he has worked with numerous
composers , and a forthcoming collaboration with composer Marilyn Ziffrin. Marc
Widershien has published in over 200 magazines, journals, and newspapers. He is
a poet, translator, book reviewer, essayist, teacher and editor. He is currently
on the faculty of Springfield College, and is a member of the advisory board of
the distinguished international magazine of ideas and opinions, the new
renaissance (tnr ). His current book, The Life of All Worlds, from
Ibbetson Street Press, is now in its third edition.
Columns of the yellowest marigolds
line up like doughboys
under the statue of Henry Cabot Lodge Sr.,
the exhorting face done in by sulfates
which run down in mawkish green rivulets
until they reach the granite square.
A cannon rests some twenty feet to his left.
Vintage Spanish, 1898
its mouth forever stopped,
it squats its dead weight
on the State House lawn.
It is not the statesman,
the colors of the bloom,
it is a juxtaposition
seen through the eye of history:
The League of Nations,
Wilson's Fourteen Points
which "required members to guarantee
each other's independence—"
vanished now like the Brahmins
we have scorned,
or the tarnished heroes
we concoct and soon forget.
State House, Boston, MA
The Best of an Old Friend
Let a man gather in the world from his front porch
meditating on distant mountains that draw
their wisdom from the pleasures of idleness.
Let him savor the arc of the bullfinch
the smell of a morning glory
and hear the frogs croaking in the eyeless grass.
Let his walking trips be those of the mind
that thirsts for mind's sight
and share a philosophy that is not his alone
but a part of the things that constitute his world.
His riches are what the world calls poverty—
for he is at home with himself
in his coming of age.
Charleston, South Carolina
I. The Battery—Looking toward Sumter
Coastal batteries line the boulevard
of cannon balls piled high in pyramids.
To the Confederate defenders of Charleston!
She points to the extremities of Morris Island.
Battery Wagner is not even a mound
much less a fort. Gone under sea. In the South’s
iconography of valor, R.G. Shaw is a footnote.
Sundown—the 54th moved in. Grape, canister
and musketry took them down, slaughtered
them. Horsemen: You rode with the Angel of Death.
Palmetto are woven cross-stitched.
The peace of the Southern sun is broken
only by the gulls perched on the barriers.
It is a profound fire that weds us to these islands.
Northerner, Southerner, slavery never again.
II. Walking Tour
The Exchange Building lies at the head
of Broad Street. In its bowels the bones
of rebellious British seamen squinted up at the light.
The Huguenot church raises the voice of dissent.
Today, however, its gates are closed,
and its graveyard morosely silent.
I hear the tolling
bells of the subdued South.
I tread the stout cobbles brought over as ballast
on the English ships. The wrought-iron filigree porch
of the Dock Street Theatre reminds me of a dying art.
Pastel fronts, black shutters, outdoor market halls—
do little to dispel the old afflictions. Northerner, Southerner.
we ride with the Angel of Death.
III. Folly Beach
Islands form geographies.
All along the shore, groyns, jetty, summer houses
on struts are mute. No tales on Folly Beach,
since the battlements of war have succumbed
to the grace of the sea. Ribbed sands expose
the skeleton crab whose guts are torn out
by wind and salt.
The loggerhead turtle is known to nest
here where reality makes one a revisionist—
because on this last day of sun before
the Christmas rains, and the New Year trials
the glories of democracy will be recalled only as tirade,
even as the last Union ship is sunk in the harbor.
"Freedom’s Four Square Miles" augured the infamy
of what was to come and has come,
and returns again and again.
A band of light flames across the horizon
before the island goes completely dark.
Will the iron ships return with the rising sun?
Edgar Poe was here at Moultrie, and pacing
these shores—sensed the lethal underbelly of this
tropical island in the sea. Original law is obscured,
and the journey that began with glory is cleansed
of its resolve. The second Reconstruction has failed.
IV. Fort Moultrie
Seminole chief, expired here in 1838—
dead in a month from captivity and a broken heart.
The earthen fort is intact. Sumter, the ancient battlement,
is easily visible across the water. The iron black bunkers
of the Great War are falling into ominous rust.
Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War II,
the fight has gone out of the play soldiers.
Relics of battles never fought, the empty pillbox,
ghosts of warriors that receive us,
we tour these grounds haunted more by fog
than meaning, a light mist falling.
General Anderson was ferried
across to Sumter in the dead of night,
only to surrender to the Confederacy.
Sumter was pulverized by both sides.
It is fit now for tourists, aficionados and fanatics.
Let this war end, finally, let it end
as remembrances of the once useful past.
The doomed journey that began
on Boston’s Beacon Hill
has found coda on these islands
and the elements unshackled
from the swift sword of history
recede into the anonymity of true solace,
in the final say—given over to the sea’s charge.
Riding with an Angel of Light.
The weather has made no promises
the early snow
is beatific with its black clinkers
the pain of an endless winter:
beating a white dirge
Crusading toward middle ground
that was a house where I was fed and clothed
a house that turned away the abyss
Absolve me now
La meduse d'un coeur d'homme
Shaking the snow
off its manes,
the tree is elemental,
and the day ascends.
A phalanx of cold
assaults the body.
I see the rhapsodic bone
on the paving.
But it is really the self
denuded of everything
Be patient, I say,
and discover a stillness
that will outlast
Then the assault of spring
will wipe away all memory
in a shower—
Snow which encases this scenery
in the white death of some dread antiquity—
will give way to archangels
dusting the sun-drenched morning
with atoning seeds.
You Shall Be As Gods
An angel in the making out of cedars, rivers
the ears of the faun—the fields are not ready
for the star child's habitation.
Do not spoil the tendril, the nosegay,
the indigo bunting.
Do not be the gladiator maddened in the arena
because he hears the clicking of thumbs.
We who graced Elysium once
who heard the flutes out of mausoleums,
though we are chalked with bone
we walk the spirals of the beings of light
part beast part angel
Toward the Great Healing
Find common ground
in the odor of lilies
in arias of wind sand
into the incandescence
of heaven with its rings of prayer.
Maybe there is an awakening
like a brush come alive
in the painter's hand
that has seen the unseen
and a hand that makes these grids
of earth flourish again.
Power broken cities
wail with their torn aspirations,
Earth is the fire bringer,
forests are burnt out
so that they may grow.
Maybe in hell are heaven’s roots.
Mount Auburn Cemetery
Lot 9828 Grave 112
Impulse propels me through the garden gate
not to the great sarcophagi and crypts
not to the tombs of New England Pharaohs
but to a philosopher's marker garnished
only with a name and date 1939-1986.
There is no valley of the poets
for achievement is a celestial leaf
or an island oasis surrounded by
the cork tree at water's margin.
These are the leaves of broken hearts
with trunks wide and rutted.
Mary Baker Eddy on Halcyon Avenue
her "monument whose fingers point upward"
surrounded by seven columns and leaves dressing bark.
Do the dead need the gardener's craft
does the woman of Christian healing
require sacrifice at her altar?
It is not a question of what she wants
but of those who tender their worship.
Against a parapet the Japanese maple is sinuous
weeping European willow
form an umbrella over old stones
flowering dogwood whose leaves
are dark with stains of autumn red.
I circle the roads—
one spiral leads to another
I do not find that simple marker
of the philosopher
the road map does not sustain
as I search for the Grove Street Gate.
So many names and titles: the famous
the rich and forgotten.
My tribute falls short of perfection
the Latin names on the barks so clearly marked
are nothing more than a convenience
as I am drawn by an inspiration
or a calling to completion.
My only curiosity is a stained glass
flower on a crypt
like a spider looming—
I read the illuminated square
in death a brother beyond my simple logic.
Perhaps he asked only to be buried under
his own prehistoric stone.
Mozart was spattered with lime
his Masonic brothers following far behind
because of the odor of his earthly remains—
a common grave was satisfactory.
But his music continues the path to mastery.
Moments or maybe decades later
I am above the Grave.
There is a name a date a marker
but his last words still call out,
"I am too young to die."
Flight 95 West
Fifteen years away
my thoughts spawn on the jet stream
the days of my past
cling together like particles of light
to make a block of years.
I am retrieved to the lost soil that lies barren within
—May time—the death of a father and the woman of my
passing over Lake Erie now three minutes ahead
of flight plan
This ink on my pen is a rock—the clouds are
incarcerated in the gladiatorial air.
I feel superfluous as the strata
that unwind like muslin.
Where is the weather that I left
with a craving for palms
branching over the ivied bark
like a king-sized pineapple
or the roses three times larger
than in the East, and twice as fragrant?
the smell of raw days
I still pine for that climate within
as I made you my starting point
—now in the middle years of my long and helpless growth
San Francisco I shall greet you.
We touch down
and trace our watches
back three hours
—the daylight is still pungent
take me up to other levels
others and others and bring us down
the water is a green choppy cauldron.
I recall the fogged-in summers
and the mornings in our Victorian flat
on Clover Street
where we stood shivering
next to the gas heater
The old place has a coat
of royal blue, and an iron gate.
My memory is more clear to me now
than the thing itself
that stands before me without
the ringing metaphors
gather everything I was or am
into a solitary space.
The Fillmore is mostly treeless
in the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge.
I am standing at the Marina
watching those hills with curious formations
odd as if made by man with dough clay and silt—
the clouds hug the masses of land beyond
but with a mind apart from any land.
I have seen, and the towers of the City
rise over the standing bluff of cloud
buildings without bottom—
patrol boats idle in the swells,
the flags are at full mast.
They stiffen in the wind—
distant radiant sails
braving the foam
—slaves to the fickle weather that
the bay toward the new Olympus.
On the sun spun streets of Sausolito
there are bushes sprinkled with yellow asters
the winds and clouds are obligato
to the fountains and marigolds.
Cottages on the steep hillsides
invite mud slide
but danger is part of the fun
—so neatly above the town
it exhausts the imagination.
I can still spy the red passage into Marin.
Does it watch me as well?
Its long birthless span is California
where birds like mourning doves
seem exotic to me.
I picture the palms ready
to be slashed with a sharp blade—
the sweetness must be appalling I think.
in and out
and the heads of hair with tails
on the end flopping the huge silver radios
that never learned Bach
and the gray undershirts
still the property of Alcatraz.
Bay Bridge in distance
salt marsh just outside
totems rising out of soft crud
toward the city of seven hills.
the haze is warm in distance,
only low cloud scrapers appear.
The voice is lost
in the City's seven hills
like echoes that come back
Fresh coats of paint
in the Mission,
and palms fatter than ever
on Rosalie Street.
I catch a sight of the Spanish Mission
which stands out like the sore thumb
Up to Twin Peaks
where the futuristic cable tower
seems visible from eternity—
now prose hills of khaki hue
where the towers of my dreams
were shaken down and given to the land.
Old friends have gone their predestined ways
as I went mine.
away from Telegraph Avenue
the outlandish straw hats
the petty change seeping
out of shallow pockets
the cigarette butts
picked clean from the walks
the fog that rolls away like
a rug by mid morning.
I can't wait to smash
through the clouds—
there is Mozart and sea
over the mountains
and swatches of land
are dug out and quarried.
all future wars will be waged.
Ochre hills spread out
over the hazy greenery now,
I lurch forward
as the aircraft jiggles
I sputter back
into the past and gather
the overgrown roses
in Golden Gate Park.
East over Tahoe, Yosemite, Central Nevada Utah-Nebraska
the captain's voice is calm and reassuring.
Those snow capped Sierras cascading
flying over North America wings steady now
Chicago: squares juxtaposed in asymmetry as vaporous clouds detach disperse.
the DC 10 drops below the clouds
which have turned gritty and humid
and the night lights of Boston break
through the cabin window.
Coming down again
we reach up for God lose our grip and touch down
in the good dark of 9:00 PM
Eastern Standard Time.