Richard Biessing, Professor of English at the University of Washington, born in Pennsylvania on September 11, 1939. Blessing was educated at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York where he also won football All-America honors as a quarterback.
In addition to poetry. he has published a number of articles and two books of criticism, Wallace Stevens’ ”Whole Harmonium“ (Syracuse University Press, 1970) and Theodore Roethke’s Dynamic Vision (Indiana University Press. 1974).
DIRECTIONS FOR DYING
Eating nothing for days but a forkful of feathers,
you will lie in the soft twin bed of your shadow,
and will see how it whitens like a flowering tree.
At last you will dream, recalling your sorrows,
while the pain fits snugly as a flaming shawl,
while the mice in your bones begin to gnaw free.
You will have time to weave a tent of your breath
before silence rises and falls like a stone bell
and the light deepens in the cave of your eyes.
It is not like entering a mirror nor like closing a door
Nor like going to sleep in a hammock of bones.
You may expect what you like. It is nothing like that.
This is your last house. How sad you are.
You have pressed out fresh to hang in the closet,
stored your good hours in an air-tight vault.
Which room will gouge the last glass of your eyes?
Will you tumble like a pie tin to the kitchen linoleum?
Be found in the nude above the bathroom pool?
Maybe the den will smother you with flushed paper roses
or the stairs to your room will walk up your heart.
The bed you have dreamed on has been measuring your shadow.
It is sad when children laugh under windows, when trees on the lawn
bloom ruddy as lions.
It is sad to have come to the last house and know it.
The carpet will deepen like a pond filled with lilies
or your chair will drop you like a hangman’s trap.
What does it matter? You walk in and walk in and you never walk out.
The raven lands in a book
of shadows. The ice tree,
the flower tree, are one
to him. He feeds on shadow
and shadow grows back.
The nest he builds is a nest
of shadow. It is dark
and he wants it darker.
He turns his head inside
himself and likes it there.
It is a secret too dark
for the bright snowy owl.
Raven folds feathers outside
in, night-lands in a tree
of black ice and flowers.
Someone is thumbing pages
to find him. The glare
is blinding on morning snow.
Love. between your reaching life and mine
all space closes by halves forever
You are the tortoise no strong man will catch.
the angel vanishing at the eye’s quick edge.
Today the stars cry out like blackening leaves:
tomorrow are stillborn our miraculous children
I am afraid to taste the sound of your name.
afraid of the light that rims your shadow
Love. there are those who arrive by saying good-by.
I will open the door if no one is home.
If no one is home. I will walk in a little.
leaving the dark in the way that I find it.
leaving my kiss like a note on the table.
Deeper and deeper I step into your absence
like a silence on the roof in a season of rain.