Sprague’s Poems II


All poems © Richard Jonathan 2017. All rights reserved.

Paul Klee, Glashäuser Viertel, 1927

To Live Without You


The coin of Tyche, the stretched string;
Pattern, order and chaos:
Between contingency and necessity
Between reason and the absurd
I find myself adrift.

The gathering of thought, the mnemonics of pain;
Memory, forgetting and healing:
Between oblivion and presence
Between obsession and lucidity
I find myself adrift.

The sovereignty of the self, the question of self-concealment;
Love, knowledge and delusion:
Between action and introspection
Between melancholy and exuberance
It find myself adrift.

Marietta, what I am to do?
Won’t you help me,
Help me to live without you?



The night delivered
New names for love,
The word itself unspoken;
Into the frenzy of desire,
The infusion of devotion.

Spanish Guitar


I bought you a guitar for your birthday,
A Spanish nylon string.
Why’d you do that? you asked me.
I replied, Cause you love ‘Castro Marin’.

You began to strum and then you kissed me,
In the groove, you got a rhythm going.
In no time your fingers found a melody;
You called it ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’.

The fall of your hair, the tap of your foot—
Why do you move me so?
I fall in love all over again—
And fix you an Irish Cream and Curaçao.

And then of a sudden you stop and say:
I’ve got it!
You pick up notepad and pencil,
You scribble and calculate.

And when the paper is published,
I read in the ‘Thank you’ line:
A special thanks to Sprague
For the Spanish guitar on my birthday.

Ploughing the First Furrow


In Zürich, in your bedroom overlooking the lake,
I lay on your bed, barefoot and stripped to the waist,
And watched you pack away your winter clothes,
Unpack your summer things.

Mothballs for woollens, boots in boxes,
Coats in garment bags. And then the emergence
Of crepe-de-Chine tops and cropped trousers,
Bold-print dresses, sandals and skirts.

As the sun streamed through the window,
I watched you take off your jeans and T-shirt
And put on a tank top and billowing skirt.
I tossed you a straw hat from a box: You put it on.

And then I rose from the bed and approached you.
I took off your straw hat and in a zigzag of sunlight
Laid you down on the floorboards. In Sanskrit
I uttered a blessing, then crept up under your skirt.

Between your legs I performed the ritual of Spring,
It’s called ‘ploughing the first furrow’.
You’d worn the sacred headdress, I’d pronounced
The blessing. It was a wonderful summer.

Huff, huff


Drooling dogs roam empty streets,
Seeking insects under ashes.
Huff, huff, they whiff the dust:
Tongueless mouths struggle to feed.

Across fractured logs haggard dogs
Stagger, their yellowy eyes oozing.
Huff, huff, they whiff the dust:
Toothless mouths struggle to feed.

Skeletal dogs on a burning plain
Drag their bones and dig;
Deeper and deeper they dig,
Until their graves are dug.

Her Legs as My Compass


Trances, phantoms, hallucinations,
Death, sleep, dreams:
Between chaos and cosmos,
The natural and the revealed,
I seek neither the choice that justifies
Nor the road to salvation.

What then?

Nothing. I embrace all:
The land of spirits, the realm of shades,
The ethereal fire, the earthly flame.

Where do I stand?

I stand in this moment,
I lie on this bed;
Marietta is with me,
In nakedness and grace:
That is enough for me.


Yes, enough. I am content
To survey the world
With her legs as my compass,
Her pussy the hinge.

I am content to find in her breasts
The vast abstract permanences
That underlie the flux of things.

In a word, I am content
To make of astonishment
A language for deciphering the world:
That is enough for me.

Mara I


Flesh made grace, at once
Body and spirit; air made intimate,
At once ethereal and real:
Mara, how you move me!

Mara II


Who will restore me to my name?
I am fossil, I am sediment,
I am compacted of altered remains;
I am hard, I am stratified,
I am metamorphosed but still the same:
Mara, consume me in your flame!



We both know that having a roof
Is no assurance of shelter;
We’re both convinced the biggest fool
Is the one who believes he can’t be foolish.

Not for us the familiar mirror,
But the uncanny looking glass;
Not for us the fixity of closure,
But the flux of openness.

Too demanding not to desire the truth,
Too modest to reduce the world to it:
We both know that humility—
Not intelligence—
Is the opposite of stupidity.



Sometimes, Ingrid, your smile
Is as fragile as the moon in a morning sky;
Sometimes your regard
Is as hard as tempered steel.

Sometimes you’re the hunter,
The hawk at one with the wind,
Suspending the world on a wingbeat
In pursuit of the hare.

Sometimes you’re the hunted,
The hare—nostrils flared, heart racing—
Standing petrified
In the shadow of the hawk’s wing.

But hunter or hunted, hawk or hare,
When you gaze into my eyes
All the world folds into a corner of your smile,
And I recognize my incestuous sister.

Two Photos of Marietta


You refuse the eye the possibility
Of appropriating any one part of your body:
Tying desire up in knots, you intensify it

In a harmony of forces and counter-forces
You affirm your subjectivity:
Acceding to submission, you assert your sovereignty

Mara Marietta