The unfathering deeps

I swear to Oprah, ‘The Wreck of the Deutschland’
is the best post-9/11 poem we’ve got.




To the happy memory of five Franciscan Nuns
exiles by the Falk Laws drowned between
midnight and morning of Dec. 7th. 1875



                THOU mastering me

            God! giver of breath and bread;
        World’s strand, sway of the sea;
            Lord of living and dead;
    Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,         5
    And after it almost unmade, what with dread,
        Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.

                I did say yes

            O at lightning and lashed rod;         10
        Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess
            Thy terror, O Christ, O God;
    Thou knowest the walls, altar and hour and night:
    The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurl of thee trod
        Hard down with a horror of height:         15
And the midriff astrain with leaning of, laced with fire of stress.

                The frown of his face

            Before me, the hurtle of hell
        Behind, where, where was a, where was a place?
            I whirled out wings that spell         20
    And fled with a fling of the heart to the heart of the Host.
    My heart, but you were dovewinged, I can tell,
        Carrier-witted, I am bold to boast,
To flash from the flame to the flame then, tower from the grace to the grace.

                I am soft sift

            In an hourglass—at the wall
        Fast, but mined with a motion, a drift,
            And it crowds and it combs to the fall;
    I steady as a water in a well, to a poise, to a pane,
    But roped with, always, all the way down from the tall         30
        Fells or flanks of the voel, a vein
Of the gospel proffer, a pressure, a principle, Christ’s gift.

                I kiss my hand

            To the stars, lovely-asunder
        Starlight, wafting him out of it; and         35
            Glow, glory in thunder;
    Kiss my hand to the dappled-with-damson west:
    Since, tho’ he is under the world’s splendour and wonder,
        His mystery must be instressed, stressed;
For I greet him the days I meet him, and bless when I understand.         40

                Not out of his bliss

            Springs the stress felt
        Nor first from heaven (and few know this)
            Swings the stroke dealt—
    Stroke and a stress that stars and storms deliver,         45
    That guilt is hushed by, hearts are flushed by and melt—
        But it rides time like riding a river
(And here the faithful waver, the faithless fable and miss).

                It dates from day

            Of his going in Galilee;         50
        Warm-laid grave of a womb-life grey;
            Manger, maiden’s knee;
    The dense and the driven Passion, and frightful sweat;
    Thence the discharge of it, there its swelling to be,
        Though felt before, though in high flood yet—         55
What none would have known of it, only the heart, being hard at bay,

                Is out with it! Oh,

            We lash with the best or worst
        Word last! How a lush-kept plush-capped sloe
            Will, mouthed to flesh-burst,         60
    Gush!—flush the man, the being with it, sour or sweet,
    Brim, in a flash, full!—Hither then, last or first,
        To hero of Calvary, Christ, ’s feet—
Never ask if meaning it, wanting it, warned of it—men go.

                Be adored among men,

            God, three-numberèd form;
        Wring thy rebel, dogged in den,
            Man’s malice, with wrecking and storm.
    Beyond saying sweet, past telling of tongue,
    Thou art lightning and love, I found it, a winter and warm;         70
        Father and fondler of heart thou hast wrung:
Hast thy dark descending and most art merciful then.

                With an anvil-ding

            And with fire in him forge thy will
        Or rather, rather then, stealing as Spring         75
            Through him, melt him but master him still:
    Whether at once, as once at a crash Paul,
    Or as Austin, a lingering-out sweet skill,
        Make mercy in all of us, out of us all
Mastery, but be adored, but be adored King.         80


            ‘Some find me a sword; some

            The flange and the rail; flame,
        Fang, or flood’ goes Death on drum,
            And storms bugle his fame.
    But wé dream we are rooted in earth—Dust!         85
    Flesh falls within sight of us, we, though our flower the same,
        Wave with the meadow, forget that there must
The sour scythe cringe, and the blear share come.

            On Saturday sailed from Bremen,

            American-outward-bound,         90
        Take settler and seamen, tell men with women,
            Two hundred souls in the round—
    O Father, not under thy feathers nor ever as guessing
    The goal was a shoal, of a fourth the doom to be drowned;
        Yet did the dark side of the bay of thy blessing         95
Not vault them, the million of rounds of thy mercy not reeve even them in?

            Into the snows she sweeps,

            Hurling the haven behind,
        The Deutschland, on Sunday; and so the sky keeps,
            For the infinite air is unkind,         100
    And the sea flint-flake, black-backed in the regular blow,
    Sitting Eastnortheast, in cursed quarter, the wind;
        Wiry and white-fiery and whirlwind-swivellèd snow
Spins to the widow-making unchilding unfathering deeps.

            She drove in the dark to leeward,

            She struck—not a reef or a rock
        But the combs of a smother of sand: night drew her
            Dead to the Kentish Knock;
    And she beat the bank down with her bows and the ride of her keel:
    The breakers rolled on her beam with ruinous shock;         110
        And canvas and compass, the whorl and the wheel
Idle for ever to waft her or wind her with, these she endured.

            Hope had grown grey hairs,

            Hope had mourning on,
        Trenched with tears, carved with cares,         115
            Hope was twelve hours gone;
    And frightful a nightfall folded rueful a day
    Nor rescue, only rocket and lightship, shone,
        And lives at last were washing away:
To the shrouds they took,—they shook in the hurling and horrible airs.         120

            One stirred from the rigging to save

            The wild woman-kind below,
        With a rope’s end round the man, handy and brave—
            He was pitched to his death at a blow,
    For all his dreadnought breast and braids of thew:         125
    They could tell him for hours, dandled the to and fro
        Through the cobbled foam-fleece, what could he do
With the burl of the fountains of air, buck and the flood of the wave?

            They fought with God’s cold—

            And they could not and fell to the deck         130
        (Crushed them) or water (and drowned them) or rolled
            With the sea-romp over the wreck.
    Night roared, with the heart-break hearing a heart-broke rabble,
    The woman’s wailing, the crying of child without check—
        Till a lioness arose breasting the babble,         135
A prophetess towered in the tumult, a virginal tongue told.

            Ah, touched in your bower of bone

            Are you! turned for an exquisite smart,
        Have you! make words break from me here all alone,
            Do you!—mother of being in me, heart.         140
    O unteachably after evil, but uttering truth,
    Why, tears! is it? tears; such a melting, a madrigal start!
        Never-eldering revel and river of youth,
What can it be, this glee? the good you have there of your own?

            Sister, a sister calling

            A master, her master and mine!—
        And the inboard seas run swirling and hawling;
            The rash smart sloggering brine
    Blinds her; but she that weather sees one thing, one;
    Has one fetch in her: she rears herself to divine         150
        Ears, and the call of the tall nun
To the men in the tops and the tackle rode over the storm’s brawling.

            She was first of a five and came

            Of a coifèd sisterhood.
        (O Deutschland, double a desperate name!         155
            O world wide of its good!
    But Gertrude, lily, and Luther, are two of a town,
    Christ’s lily and beast of the waste wood:
        From life’s dawn it is drawn down,
Abel is Cain’s brother and breasts they have sucked the same.)         160

            Loathed for a love men knew in them,

            Banned by the land of their birth,
        Rhine refused them. Thames would ruin them;
            Surf, snow, river and earth
    Gnashed: but thou art above, thou Orion of light;         165
    Thy unchancelling poising palms were weighing the worth,
        Thou martyr-master: in thy sight
Storm flakes were scroll-leaved flowers, lily showers—sweet heaven was astrew in them.

            Five! the finding and sake

            And cipher of suffering Christ.         170
        Mark, the mark is of man’s make
            And the word of it Sacrificed.
    But he scores it in scarlet himself on his own bespoken,
    Before-time-taken, dearest prizèd and priced—
        Stigma, signal, cinquefoil token         175
For lettering of the lamb’s fleece, ruddying of the rose-flake.

            Joy fall to thee, father Francis,

            Drawn to the Life that died;
        With the gnarls of the nails in thee, niche of the lance, his
            Lovescape crucified         180
    And seal of his seraph-arrival! and these thy daughters
    And five-livèd and leavèd favour and pride,
        Are sisterly sealed in wild waters,
To bathe in his fall-gold mercies, to breathe in his all-fire glances.

            Away in the loveable west,

            On a pastoral forehead of Wales,
        I was under a roof here, I was at rest,
            And they the prey of the gales;
    She to the black-about air, to the breaker, the thickly
    Falling flakes, to the throng that catches and quails         190
        Was calling ‘O Christ, Christ, come quickly’:
The cross to her she calls Christ to her, christens her wild-worst Best.

            The majesty! what did she mean?

            Breathe, arch and original Breath.
        Is it love in her of the being as her lover had been?         195
            Breathe, body of lovely Death.
    They were else-minded then, altogether, the men
    Woke thee with a we are perishing in the weather of Gennesareth.
        Or is it that she cried for the crown then,
The keener to come at the comfort for feeling the combating keen?         200

            For how to the heart’s cheering

            The down-dugged ground-hugged grey
        Hovers off, the jay-blue heavens appearing
            Of pied and peeled May!
    Blue-beating and hoary-glow height; or night, still higher,         205
    With belled fire and the moth-soft Milky Way,
        What by your measure is the heaven of desire,
The treasure never eyesight got, nor was ever guessed what for the hearing?

            No, but it was not these.

            The jading and jar of the cart,         210
        Time’s tasking, it is fathers that asking for ease
            Of the sodden-with-its-sorrowing heart,
    Not danger, electrical horror; then further it finds
    The appealing of the Passion is tenderer in prayer apart:
        Other, I gather, in measure her mind’s         215
Burden, in wind’s burly and beat of endragonèd seas.

            But how shall I … make me room there:

            Reach me a … Fancy, come faster—
        Strike you the sight of it? look at it loom there,
            Thing that she … there then! the Master,         220
    Ipse, the only one, Christ, King, Head:
    He was to cure the extremity where he had cast her;
        Do, deal, lord it with living and dead;
Let him ride, her pride, in his triumph, despatch and have done with his doom there.

            Ah! there was a heart right!

            There was single eye!
        Read the unshapeable shock night
            And knew the who and the why;
    Wording it how but by him that present and past,
    Heaven and earth are word of, worded by?—         230
        The Simon Peter of a soul! to the blast
Tarpeian-fast, but a blown beacon of light.

            Jesu, heart’s light,

            Jesu, maid’s son,
        What was the feast followed the night         235
            Thou hadst glory of this nun?—
    Feast of the one woman without stain.
    For so conceivèd, so to conceive thee is done;
        But here was heart-throe, birth of a brain,
Word, that heard and kept thee and uttered thee outright.         240

            Well, she has thee for the pain, for the

            Patience; but pity of the rest of them!
        Heart, go and bleed at a bitterer vein for the
            Comfortless unconfessed of them—
    No not uncomforted: lovely-felicitous Providence         245
    Finger of a tender of; O of a feathery delicacy, the breast of the
        Maiden could obey so, be a bell to, ring of it, and
Startle the poor sheep back! is the shipwrack then a harvest, does tempest carry the grain for thee?

            I admire thee, master of the tides,

            Of the Yore-flood, of the year’s fall;         250
        The recurb and the recovery of the gulf’s sides,
            The girth of it and the wharf of it and the wall;
    Stanching, quenching ocean of a motionable mind;
    Ground of being, and granite of it: past all
        Grasp God, throned behind         255
Death with a sovereignty that heeds but hides, bodes but abides;

            With a mercy that outrides

            The all of water, an ark
        For the listener; for the lingerer with a love glides
            Lower than death and the dark;         260
    A vein for the visiting of the past-prayer, pent in prison,
    The-last-breath penitent spirits—the uttermost mark
        Our passion-plungèd giant risen,
The Christ of the Father compassionate, fetched in the storm of his strides.

            Now burn, new born to the world,

            Doubled-naturèd name,
        The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
    Mid-numbered He in three of the thunder-throne!
    Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark as he came;         270
        Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released shower, let flash to the shire, not a lightning of fire hard-hurled.

            Dame, at our door

            Drowned, and among our shoals,
        Remember us in the roads, the heaven-haven of the Reward:         275
            Our King back, oh, upon English souls!
    Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east,
    More brightening her, rare-dear Britain, as his reign rolls,
        Pride, rose, prince, hero of us, high-priest,
Our hearts’ charity’s hearth’s fire, our thoughts’ chivalry’s throng’s Lord.