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Arlice W Davenport
A Poet's Fall Into Grace
Diaphanous dragons disgorge a deluge of diamonds
into the shadowed crevices of cumulus clouds.
Ruby-red sapphires overpopulate the glistening sky
like carbon-hardened locust: gorgeous messengers of the gods.
The Earth wears a crimson helmet, shielded from
the odious absence of ozone above the North and South poles.
Near Minneapolis, John Berryman's wizened body shatters
on the frozen riverbed below the Washington Avenue Bridge.
Angels weep to see him jump, as he waves a vaudevillian goodbye.
The sapphires blanch, then turn an angry, violent violet. Black holes ahead.
Shakespeare and Mr. Bones **** on mortality's skimpy
skeleton of life. Will this broken body be resurrected?
Does it deserve such distinction? Better yet, does its daring,
drunken destroyer? Four hundred Dream Songs nod yes.
Berryman toddled ticklishly toward the last traces of transcendence.
Love & Fame broadcast how terribly his faith failed to trade
daily delirium tremens for the
The God he prayed to demanded a syntax pure, plain.and perfect.
With jolts of jest, He jimmied paradoxes into koans. Berryman
howls for the sound of one diamond scratching the outline of his body on ice.
He left a legacy broader than liquor, lechery and the love-struck ladies.
Lust seeded his fallow lacunae and lazily broke his wife's heart.
Scholarship scooted him to the squeamish, secluded top
of his Shakespearean class: Signal student turns trusted teacher.
Poetry cloned the Oklahoma clown in him. No successors,
no schools, no savvy peers, save Lowell. his fellow manic-depressive.
He dreamed songs of hilarity, humility, history, dehumanization.
Poetry proved serious business until it learned to laugh at itself.
Sapphires crackle under the weight of the creaking sun. They spin a kaleidoscopic rainbow of colors onto Berryman's obituary. Somehow, he has won:
An irreplaceable jewel of the sky.
Arlice W Davenport
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