Regarding the first poem presented here, Parmelee writes:
“In 1963, when I was 20 years old, an event took place in the world so traumatic and heartbreaking that almost anyone in the world who was 8 years of age or more at the time could still tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.
“That event was the assassination of U.S. President John Kennedy: who, rather like Elvis and the Beatles, had brought a new hope, a new light, a new vigor, to life after the dull 5th decade of our 20th century – not only for my generation, but also our parents’. Kennedy, though a much-loved womanizer, was also brave and honorable, and, above all, a man of action.‘Camelot’ his administration was called, and for good reason.
“Thus it was that after his senseless assassination I sat in front of the television set on the 25th day of November, 1963 and watched the riderless black stallion representing the bereft ‘Ship of State’ (I called him ‘Camelot’) slowly pull the cart containing Kennedy’s body across the bridge from Washington, D.C. to Arlington Cemetary in Virginia for interment, his proud head tossing rebelliously under the spitting snow of that cold, dreary day.
“Seeing this and hearing the rhythmic clop-clop-clop of that horse’s hooves (Kennedy’s speeches still echoing in my brain), I composed the following exceedingly difficult sonnet, which I have spent these past 40 years bringing to its present form, too late to be useful, perhaps, but here it is...”
PASSAGE TO ARLINGTON
(November 25, 1963)
Could so much Sunburst one sealed box hold
As this one listing horse-drawn through the Cold;
Could Justice rift of envy in blurred cells,
And Life itself to snigg’ring Death grope, old:
Then Wisdom, which from dimmer passions fell
The Flame to These, more wint’ry should enswell,
And in her naked Wakefulness outraged
Enveil bold Moon, and all suns’ lamps dispel.
But boxes cannot Visions so engage,
Nor Death alloy this Vigor to crimped age
Whose mortal hustings but the half though spent
Yet clatter densely through time’s fulgent Page:
While lowered Sight at this Bald March laments –
No more strides Camelot Dawn’s President!©
©James Parmelee 1963
TO A GENTLE ADVERSARY
As from a Fiended childhood men escape
Through yet more blazing hells to clench Time's Prize.
Sovereign, sure, still childishly agape
Without, within crazed ever by fixed eyes;
As Play’s pursuit-worn Felon clears the jaws
Of rabid hounds, unfolding by limp weeds
Above the din – for just a windless pause
Disdainful while the grinning gunner beads:
So too I am, my Loved, in needing you,
At once as heedless of grim foes as some
Lorn giant Hulked, in smirking David’s view:
Yet stricken as a rabbit reared and dumb.
For which in love is Prey’s or Hunter’s breath?
Should tears expound, mere Wisdom thence were death.©
©James Parmelee, 1983
THE MOUNTAIN AND THE MAN
The mountain meets Dawning –
Silent and strong –
Causing wonder what reason it is
(In a Reasoning Mind partly deployed)
That it sits, only sitting,
awaiting (or judging) the foolish Climber’s Forty Days.
Returning a Seer, descending a Prophet of All Mystery,
Eyes blinded of Insight,
The Climber deplanes – understanding
(While ingenuous lovers accepting all beauty as Self,
Lie brooding in Father’s shadow, all useless but there) . . .
And yet there is much of the Mountain,
All dead and all living,
Clawed by brown and green veins,
Snow-touched of the ages, quartered in clouds,
And mindless of the hard slapping,
The ludicrously little furious hard rapping,
That one day an Eon or so hence
Will pull Mountain and Mankind back onto the sea:
And thus is the mountain not, as so is . . .
For the rains come
And over the seen portion the giant Peak sizzles
Off-on in its plane (as the Reasoning Mind sees),
And the willful rage of Unreason rumbles on the rims of its ridges,
Tugging free a few waving hairs
Of things desperately there,
And things He, the Wielder of Reason, had had us not see
(Though yet saw):
For somehow the Dawn still extends,
And through the Mountain and the Man churns the Sea.©
©James Parmelee, 1980
Lovely woman, Mother of Death,
Your cavernous eyes follow me,
Your impetuous lips ready to receive life
And suck it dry as the winds blow over sands.
You steal my gaze and decades
Fade to centuries;
Trees in seconds faint away.
Lonely, vulnerable, feeling yet dead,
Trapped in scars:
One should pity your dreams,
The diary of your deeds
A course in Sainthood there.
You would, you want, but won’t
Of love, and one must flee,
As some good man shall seize with violent force
What you give free,
And languish in the Waltz
Of your escape.©
©James Parmelee, 1980
POWER AND PUNINESS
Barking and mewling – so slowly alters man
The course of laws (if therein to hasten were
His art), that but for tongue and thumbs he justly
Might have been the Flesh of bears, or kittens
Taloning sweat and fish with splayed fingers.
And yet the very Suns of dusk, unscored
As sand, gleam but by a tolerance of Grace,
Which in the hooded brain of man revolves
Sufficient Eye to, unbodied, opt of stars
The ones to wick or fashion, or implode
To granite Tears and trade like amulets.
For Beast or God-Together, puny man’s
Fine talent, by way of skinned knees and chipped teeth,
Is tweaking Time’s beard to make a Difference.©
©James Parmelee, April 17, 1990
(Journey to a New Epoch, 1986)
In bearded evil breath an Epic is,
and women without makeup change the world.
Thus times advance: While seekers search for Truth
and sages find a Fifth Dimension filled,
seastorms blow away a port of Spain,
and Textured Men know much and heed nothing –
a mindful sweaty Music gropes the land.
Ah, Earth of ‘eighty-six, we of the past
and future understand Complaint! Our sorrow
is a raging – or a sweetness – from a fervid
throat: No Pyrrhic Chieftain plants his flag
too close to government; no noble man
despoils for Honor by the name of God
nor subjugates by love our innocence.
Yet in Collective Greatness we’re infirmed;
The Twentieth Day in Death both mends and breaks,
by whim of Prodigies self-isolate:
as interrupted the cravening microbe;
as made a field trip of our galaxy;
And from a Stone found means to ruin the World:
No, not in Honor, nor by chauvinist,
do we divest. Urania has lured
her latest pilgrims to an orifice
too deep to fill and wont to propagate,
too deadly to disdain – unnatured Pairs
thrust loin-to-loin, who couldn’t room a Child.
So thus the anger of Achievers labors
on, as from all Genesis, but now
by lens and radar – not by men. The bastard
Tyrant hides inside and wears our lips.
Thus stated are the hurts within our War –
We’d disposses a foe possessionless:
while yet the knaves who’d subjugate
deal less by love. Ours is another war –
far more debauched of being Virtuous
than even Hitler’s Molochs could declare.
Two sorts of Song cacophonize our souls:
the curse of knowing work beset by fools,
and figures of visionary zeal rebuffed . . .
So shall this Day appeal in God’s Last Hour,
before the throne of Death...For out from Shadow
ekes the avid Stooge to wield his rage
on Fear: that Cosmic Foe secure inside.
Still, in the jungles of the world he frees
his Blood; and innocents as agents of
wigged grief die handily of homemade bombs.
(Ah, Children of the Age, if Fear had face
You’d vanquish him – before the bruise of sleep!
That Softer Death would be a Doer’s Wage,
with overtime for Sundays doubled in!)
No, such is not the Drone of change – much more
An ancient Slaughter Psalm in newest pluck.
Time’s Rush is autos clanking on the freeway
in the morning snarl; it’s broad-hipped women
dropping quarters at the laundromat,
and drunken geriatrics clinking glasses
in a bar. It’s timeclocks in the shop,
and t.v. hour with nowhere else to be.
It’s ticking in the living room when we’re
alone: It’s sighs of painters, poets, sculptors,
when the Muse departs; and, last, the roaring
simple question, “Why?” we breathe at Dusk.
“Ours is a buzz of anti-heroes”, Pundits
mourn, “and Supermen of yesterday
sprawl drunken in the schoolyards of our time
bereft of dreams.” Perhaps. Perhaps a Santa
Claus is needed in the heart, and
simple Joe Palookas rigged to vanquish Evil
model Faith – and give men pulse to hope.
Yet these are gone, along with fantasies
ex-charactered: We’re suddenly alone
within a space no Superman could go.
Still, we are men and women fresher now,
for stumbling in the Maze alone, of greater
good than yesterday for seeking God
uncaped. For two divisive Shocks on earth
have made minds One – and throats of murdered
millions sing in one chaste Grace. Let those
who’d frighten us beware – we’re bored of you:
The certainty of epoch death bestrides
a Calm. Now let our gist in-dwell! Except
to rule and counter Rule – except we grow –
the human heart need not retrend Itself!
Like Serfs, we rode on horseback to the Age –
but, soon, like Caesar’s Heirs, to Eros’ moon,
while Aides replaced wet Eyes with blank machines
and auto-cars and trains made weeks a day.
We’ve captured Space and Sound on little wheels,
and fired the darkness with the sun. We've placed
grave Earth inside a Box – and stored our memories
in thinking Jars while robots did the clothes.
These gifts are of a Human Selfishness:
No Grand Desire could have emburgeoned so!
But in the brain Old Systems still impinge,
confounding Truth: A warped Equality
of Man still breaches us – while bigots riot
in their cloaks to compensate for flaws;
and Women, used as martyrs, poison Pride –
with apples plucked from men. Thus anarchy
inside works from without, unequally:
The earth cannot refuse its Emptiness.
Far from the center the Ungoverned leap:
the Dreamers to their fulsome dreams, the Cowards
to their deadening Dregs – and Pimps of Chance
To market misery in purloined vials ...
Thus do Correctors of the Overground
beguile our thoughtfulness, rebounding with
a thwarted villainy to coax consent
by law and teach our laden hearts to loathe.
Ah, sweetly from their Gentleness a Goodness
drips – the urine from our own drunk tears:
Never again shall Earth indulge an Ass!
And, finally, the very center of our soul
exerts against itself: Our cleanest works
have sullied Venus by their lust, the oceans
in Mal-use, and Earth Herself, with theft.
Thus, we have grown: that we should know ourselves,
beholding Beauty in brute Ugliness.
Now, from the Mass and Masses of our time,
divisions fallen on expected Heads –
by unexpected Swords – have cloven thought
and sundered Mixtures hallowed immemorially:
their lie-to-lie encrumblings coldly pursed
where even Void is not; and Particles
of Self have fractioned from the soul, to turf
upon the cosmos independently.
So, too, in wholeness, some return – each whole
that was, returning to its several
Design, each Part an eyeball for Expanse.
Thus Each and One, most incoherently –
the human heart is ever Fleshly dressed:
For warmed and measured in coincidence
of Age and Wisdom stops, a blink of light
could Angel us – while Others, bursting their
umbilicals, would involute our heels.©
©James Parmelee, May, 1986