The Sun Lifts the Branches

The sun lifts the branches of the elm trees
into the flock of perched sparrows.
It wipes night from the wings of gulls, and,
where they glide, it steers the clouds.

It lifts the print from the page, the wind
through pine trees where each needle shines
enumerated in the light; it lifts
the curtain into the room it lights.

It lifts each object in the room into
heaven, one day at a time, then
drops everything into night, exhausted.
The dark that follows sets the leopard free.

At night I feel the sun drill towards my sleep
through the stone of the Great Wall.
In the kitchen, before dawn, its gas-jets hold
the kettle like a pair of hands.

New Brunswick, Spring 1976

Edgartown Midnight

The poem ends, and we return to
the beach to let the moon affect us.
Edgartown lies silent, sleeps under sea-breeze,
Orion overhead cartwheeling.
Someone dreams just past that window.

And Orion and Diana pursue us
to the beach where we cannot tell
if it is Sappho's selanna or the moon
that kept up with the cars of our childhood.

The light off wave-blue and eye-blue are brothers,
though when eyes and the shore combine
two distinct midnights darken.
But talk spills into both,
and if, for a moment, we inhabit
each other's morning, the horizon stretches
and the moon nearing it enlarges.

Now we lie silent and long
under moonlight's subtle abrasions,
as wave after wave falls forward,
and the tide sings through its stations.

Apparition in brown suede

Alternate photo for the cover of Blonde on Blonde

He stands at the mouth of the empty alley.
The wind makes a nest of his hair;
the cold deciphers the pattern in his scarf.

It tells how he met her Sunday morning
(writing terza rima in the automat,
among cups of cold coffee and a bandaged flute);

how they discussed Dvorak and Doc Watson,
and he explained, over apple pie, that he had a dream
of orchards where the pickers sang "Desolation Row";

how he moved in with her on Sunday night
with his photographs of Nashville in a bag
and a new guitar he'd polished like a Buick;

and how she's thrown him out before breakfast
for insisting the window be open all night,
for leaning out into the New York sky

and trying to connect the scattered stars
into some vaguely human figure, no matter
what direction it might be moving in--

a brand-new, man-shaped constellation,
even if it was playing a Hammond organ
plugged into the aurora borealis.

New Brunswick, 1969

Like many Americans of my generation, I remember exactly where and when I bought my first copy of Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde in 1966. I was so eager to hear it that I ran straight to the new Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center and put it on a turntable there.

It was a lot wilder and more soulful than Bringing It All Back Home, the Dylan album I knew best in those days. For a few weeks I listened to "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" every night before I went to sleep.

I wrote this three years--and many hours of listening--later, still very much enthralled by Dylan. (If you've ever wondered about the photo on the album cover, it was taken on Jacob Street in lower Manhattan, now the site of Southbridge Towers.)

Photograph by Jerrold Schatzberg