The Grief of the Sunflower

I rose,
Of summer,
On wings of
Yellow flame.

Now how heavy
My barren head,
Bowed to my weary
Breast with mournful
Thoughts of September.

Why I Was Late

On the first true night of autumn, the
Sky is polished obsidian and the cold
Thrills in its sharpness and clarity. The
Moon is a bright pearl and across its
Luster is drawn a veil of pure cloud by
An absolute artist who wastes genius
Hanging such work within the frame of
Our eyeless street, unremarked above
The rush and noise of Friday night by
All save me who stands in quiet wonder
While the take-out Turkish cools dangling
In its plastic sack. What purpose? I think
And Science says No Purpose. No purpose
Beauty and no purpose misery. Merciless
Atoms collide in blank indifference. These
Are facts. What facts? What do you know?
You measure and think all is measured. You
Explain and think all explained. You compass
Vastness and think all is within your compass.
I can find more questions in a tumbling leaf than
Ten thousand equations can answer, and neither
You nor I have begun our work. Say we are mere
Exquisite mechanisms in the mindless everything
If weak ambition, frail reason, and dead imagination
Satisfy. I say we are machines making Purposes, that
Cloud a sign of our mighty task.

Did you get lost? Dinner is cold she says shaking
Her head. Shall I tell I left her hungry while I was
Forging the world’s soul? She’d laugh kindly at my
Demented swagger, even though she is my prime
Fire and proof. So I smile and pour the wine instead.

Tock Tick

Tick tock as we drink our coffee.
Tick tock as we check the scores.
Tick tock as we sip our cocktails.
Tick tock when we close the door.

Tick tock the clothes are dirty.
Tick tock the bills lie unpaid.
Tick tock the lawns grow wilder.
Tick tock the beds sleep unmade.

Tick tock our griefs grow colder.
Tick tock days are long in age.
Tick tock the twilight’s failing.
Tick tock the low candles fade.

On a Chapel in Newark, New Jersey
Seen from the Train, October 2014

Does God hide in the damp, does God
Hide in the gloom, does He hide in the
Wracked clapboards, grimed windows,
The cold echoes, the empty tabernacle
Of this church crowded close by failed
Factories and closer by stunted trees
Grown like weeds?

On Listening to Kane’s Bardsey Sound
While Stuck in Traffic on the Schuylkill

The cellos made me wish I was standing
On a long shore of the sea, the breeze
Strong in my face, the knife of the cold
Cutting the seams of my clothes, slow
Steel clouds above, slow steel waves
Below weakly battering the stony beach,
November and all of winter before me,
The roll roar surge swell hush hump of
The Atlantic’s vastness writing a book of
Every word in every language, speaking
Every voice telling every story, promising
To make us nothing and everything in its
Overwhelming embrace.

For the Anniversary of a Neighborhood Restaurant

A good restaurant can make the Lord’s table
Seem a little meager. The welcome is more
General and more generous. The bill of fare
Savors sweeter and the portions satisfy, though
The fine chef rivals Old Testament Jehovah for
Ill-temper and vindictiveness if you praise His
Creation insufficiently. The cassock-aproned
Bartender practices his calling with the same
Grave ceremony as a priest, and serves you
With the same blessing and good-will from
His tabernacle of bright glass and warm wood.
I have lapsed in prayers and devotion enough
To fear my rescue in another flood. I cannot
Count my place secure on a second ark, only
Our Friday table at the sanctuary of Southwark.

At The Vintage Fair

Do they go to funerals and rob the corpse?
Then return to the house and after a decent
Pause for punch and finger sandwiches,
Strip the closets, rifle the drawers, sweep
The cabinets, plunder the cellar, riot in the
Garage, and end by carting off the chairs
Before we are done sitting? Is this mournful
Debris all our legacy? Does all our passion
Finish less than enough to fill a juice glass
(50 cents), all our thought no more than a
Brittle paperback hopeless to be read one
More time before it crumbles to dust? Are
These dull things the last of secret and
Mystery? I will make them more. That
Rusting toy longs for a child’s hand in play.
That amber broach dreams again of rising
On the breast of a woman who thinks it
Beautiful. That pot endures in hope that
It will again feed a family and that chair
Stands upright in expectation it will again
Give rest to a weary man. That ring will be
Saved from the jumble and for a few dollars
Slipped on a young finger in a pulse of love
That will last a week, a month, but will live in
Memory fifty years, kept in an old drawer then
Swept away to the jumble of another sidewalk
Table, confident of another finger.

“Texas” (three fragments) | Poems by Massey

Turbines tumble tumble through the hot air,
Like the wings of the archangels who chased
Night and chaos over the rim of the world in
The wrath of God’s creation, and came to rest
In the soft light of the first morning of Texas.

There today the light before light with everything
Quiet except for the birds screaming in the dim
Trees and your thoughts wandering after those
Who have died or who are serving overseas or
What you’re chasing and what it pays and why it’s
Necessary, before you rise and dress and in your
Car rushing rushing with all the rest eight lanes
Of impatience furious to eat the endless distance
Between bed and the towering diamond-blue glass
Fortresses of wealth, the office parks with graceful
Trees and glittering fountains, the new merchant
Plazas on the new black roads, the box stores, the
Strip malls wearied by sun and subsistence, the
Cinder-block workshops, steel-tooled and machine
Oiled, the trailer-offices squatting on the site of
New prospect or old defeat, ragged air appliance
Rasping out feeble cool against vinyl-metal heat,
The heavy industry fairie kingdoms cracking crude
To naphtha kerosene paraffin diesel sulfur and tar,
The glinting purgatories of health, the dingy rooms
Machine bedded and ravaged age, the grey cubicles
Of counseled grief, kitchen, corridor, laundry, house
Children, house children, house children, eight lanes
Of hunger blood throbbing through interstates and
Access roads, vivid desire and dull necessity in metal
Boxes rushing everywhere, life mind heart rushing,
Until day ends, retirement eases, or death comes to
Tally his final accounts.


Nature loves all her children hard, but she loves her
Texas children harder; sends them with a laugh and
A kick out the door to find something for supper.

This rich land will wrestle you, take your youth, take
Your strength, give you cash in cattle, cotton, corn,
Sorghum, and wheat. This hard red earth more scab
Than skin will yield hard living if scraped, pierced,
Worked in dust and heat, through relentless sun,
Asphalt fume, with truck and tool and no excuses:
No one to catch you if you fall and no one asking
To be caught.


There’s no fair fighting for our hard machines:
Time and earth will take them, concrete, circuit,
Polymer, steel, with one puff float all into endless
Mind, soft seeds blown from the dandelion head;
No fair fighting for our tender bodies, time frail,
Flesh blood bone souls man woman child, all
Floating, angels tumbling tumbling through the
Cooling air, the soft light, the last evening of Texas.


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