This is my Milton Acorn paean. I wrote it because someone claimed that my poem He Kept To Himself, Mostly, which appeared in Sledgehammer, was about Acorn. It wasn’t; that poem was an attempt to imagine the unconscious motivation of serial killers.
A Paean, and An Elegy, (Out) of Sorts
I shout love into your pain
when skies crack and fall
like slivers of mirrors,
and rounded fingers, blued as a great rake,
pluck the balled yarn of your brain.
—Milton Acorn, I Shout Love
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
—Leonard Cohen, Anthem
What can be said of a man long gone,
A man who raged, ruckused and rattled,
Who hammered his own relevance out of want
And chipped his teeth on the sky itself?
A man who knew ‘the brain’s the target’
And painted circles on his heart to draw fire,
Who left poems scratched beyond reach
In the woods we’re not out of yet.
What could you say of a man who wore out
Versions of himself like a wardrobe
Of plaid shirts and bagging trousers,
Whose bloodied fists never unclenched,
Even in death, from body work, from
Pounding dents out of the bodies of poems
And running them out on the lot
As functional as tractors (you’d do well to buy ‘em
And get on the land, plowing and planting).
And maybe, goddamnit, maybe now
If you happen to stop for lunch
(As no farmer around here would do for long
While there was light and fair weather),
If you happen to stop and smell
The sharp scent of turned soil
And gaze around you
At the torn and fussed-over land,
If you happen to look beyond
Your own aching acres of need
You might see a crack in the sky
Hammered by his bloody fists.
Now put your damn eye to the crack,
Peer as if into a construction site
You were drawn to by the sound of honest work,
And you’ll see him still building there,
Cigar in his mouth,
Fabric of the world bunched in his fists,
While a vague foreman scratches his head
Over blueprints which shift their lines
With every shrug of plaid shoulders,
With every upward turn of that face
Born of sandstone but become granite.
He reckoned distances of love as the crow flies.
And his eyes were crows, you fair-weather bastards,
His eyes were crows because he needed the elevation
To see what is for what was.
And, like a crow, even his shit carried seeds
Liable to sprout into beauty.
With him you might lose your footing
On crumbling sandstone and be drenched
By a fall into a wave breaking
From some poem long-forgotten, left for dead—
Or to survive on its own,
To batter its way out of a dented trunk
Toppled among rusting tin cans,
Broken bottles, and catastrophic marriage beds
In a sprawling landfill.