John Robert Colombo
30th Aug 2022Posted in: John Robert Colombo, Modernist Poets 0








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dialectic i


wEARY, the green fuse that drives like water from the weary place

Heavy, the long light that leans from heaven on the grieving grace

For nightingales in sorrow sleep shall sing as ever sang

Our flutes in dark waters

Or our choir children in the presence of death

Sudden, the brown roses that drop their petals on the sudden peace

Gentle, the requiem that lightly echoes from the song’s increase

For shadows across waking worlds shall fall as ever fell

Our tears before daffodils,

And our dark silences in the company of joy. [unnumbered page]

tea for two


yOUR Tea,

Of course my dear,

And how would you like your Tea?

All red with the blood of that poor girl you just ran through with your hatpin;

All black with the mud that you ladle with your sugar spoon;

All white with the snow of that last winter when you stole poor, poor Celia’s beau?

Pardon my dear?

Oh no, I never drink Tea.

Cake? Cake?

All sweet; all sugar.

Oh yes I’ll have Cake!

Choke on Cake;

Spit Cake;


Scream till I cut the Cake with my screams!

Oh yes there’s nothing like Cake.

I love Tea Parties don’t you? [unnumbered page]




tIP-toed at the window

His first real look


Behind, the bluebird sings, the soft sun is warm

The wind is white

He is sure.

Before, the twisted tree is concrete clay

The safe sun beams within its crystal globe

Humanity hopeless, blinded by machine

Gropes along this hollow dead-end road.

Now a star rides proudly through the sky

Showering earth with sparks of coloured fire

Gold, black, red, black, black gre—

The world is still

Life sits on edge


No wind, yet brittle grass shatters by the road

The world is still

Where is the child?

There is no child, now or ever

He has run terrified into the sunset. [unnumbered page]

once ago


oNCE ago I saw destiny;

And like a jet bead

Cut and polished to a star

He was all dark all light.

Once ago I saw beauty;

And like a diamond

Fine-faced beyond belief

She was all fire all ice.

Once ago I saw you;

And like a tear

Dropped from eternity’s eye

You were all love all hate.

Everything. [unnumbered page]


             ZIBA FISHER

jUST a sea-side tree, and me.

To climb up there, and gently pluck the fruit there-of…

To taste the pure sweet meat

And know knowledge.

To find up there a steady bough, and sit there-on…

To ponder the two curved blues

Always so

And never else.

Such my goal might be

By the sea

The old sea

The sea of tides, and waves, and swells,

Of tears tons

Weeping on the powdered shore. [unnumbered page]



i thought of Moses

with Abraham before him

and then I knew my God.

I thought of man

with Christ before him

and then I had my image.

So I wrought my thought and image

and joined them day and night

but, as man was mad and God was dead,

I chose another myth. [unnumbered page]



wHERever in the dusk I go

Between the walls of rainy streets,

Wherever in the misty glow

Of lamplit parks I walk alone,

Your countenance in all things meets

My glance, and is in all things known.

But when I find you face to face

The rapture of the waste returns:

Within your lips the rivers race

Of crimson, and your level browed

Regard ambiguously burns

With ardours of nocturnal cloud. [unnumbered page]

dialectic ii


rEMEMBER now how rhythms ruled the urn

And symmetry shaped towers from chaotic dust,

Ponder the pride of pedestals and plumes

And the pomp of trumpets blaring down the void,

               And catch a concept from the falling wind.

Consider now how mystery moves the leaf

And time cuts chasms in the patterned planes,

Figure the frailty of birds and bones

And the brittle weakness in the turning wheel,

               And ring a riddle from the polished rod.

Build temples in time and fragments in eternity

For mind makes diamonds tombs of agate hours

               And light goes where it will. [unnumbered page]

across the sea of time


aCROSS the sea of time my wind will blow

And touching green to greener depths achieve

A studied sounding, casting out the slow

Sure line to where the sun in shallows leaves

His warmth and then flows back to colder deeps.

And soon time’s waves will break across my shore

To carry forth the shining hours that sleep

Upon my sands; remembering April’s store

Of gentle violets in green pools; and songs

In auburn autumn tell that winter’s come.

And now time’s waves are breaking on my shore

Till bleached and white and numbered in the sun-

Drenched sea, my happiness that knows no crime

Is brought like hollow sea-shells back to time. [unnumbered page]

aere perennius


tURN, look behind into the night snow

Where feet have lunged and plunging into deeps

Have traced our journey; here under the glow

Of the rushing lamp see how the blizzard creeps

And falls whirling down in a pyre of silver.

Below the drifts of grass my poem sleeps

Where the shattered lamps of travellers melt and flow

Into the earth: my voice like fire leaps,

And crumbled as I spoke; the ashes blow,

And all my words are drowned in time’s winter. [unnumbered page]

love song


i have seen you stand by a cliff-side, and the wind

blew your hair, and pressed your skirt snug; and

you were beautiful, and I loved you.

I have heard you speak quiet words, kind, and full

of woman’s compassion; and you were lovely, and I

loved you

We have shared timelessness, and together gained

bliss, and you love me, and I love you. [unnumbered page]

à mon bien-aimé


tU es la bête noire de ma vie,

La lumière de mon jour,

L’amour de ma nuit,

L’objet de mes pleurs.

Venez! mon bien-aimé et puis allons

Au monde sans bout que nous avons,

Ou cascadent des étoiles filantes,

Manne céleste du temps violent

Belle passion de vie tombant.

Maintenant, tu m’aimes, mon amour,

Mais je t’aime maintenant pour toujours.

Mon ami! Ma vie! Je t’adore.

Quand tu pars, me tuez le corps. [unnumbered page]



i have waited on a ground-warm morning

For my love, with an afternoon’s eyes, warm;

To press her loving lips to mine…

To catch forever with a sigh.

New leaves fallen pillowed, pillowed,

And I ached inside with a secret joy.


               Green grow the rush is on

               Greed sow the hush is done

               Grieve now the thrush is gone

               Grief plough the push is on

I loved that ground-warm morning

With a heart that could never die. [unnumbered page]



nOW other loves like swans shall glide

Quiet and slow across the heart,

Where following shadows cannot hide

A brightness as the waters part;

Now other summers shall unfold

Their benediction on the mind,

And cover with a constant gold

The shadowed thoughts no sun can find.

Passage of idle swans may chide

The surface with a languid ease,

And light laced in the leaves may hide

The dark solemnity of trees.

Let now the winter branches sleep

And no new death-song pierce the deep. [unnumbered page]



fORGIVE me as I rise and leave, my love,

for I must go; forget me as I part

or think that it is foolish when I claim

that fate can force my flight away like this.

You cry, my love, and whisper to remain,

to seize that villain sun and smother it

into a moon which harbours flesh and bone,

as once did years, dark curse, before this night.

But now between each tear, my love, your eyes

flash shadows of a star upon the moon

which once we saw and knew, as your eyes show

all love, all faith, which I can never share.

For your eyes, my love, when we lie as one,

mirror mine, a dark soul, a driven sun. [unnumbered page]

the love that was


lOVE was a harvest full tender,

Till he said that we must part.

Love ripened in sweet surrender,

Then he took away my heart.

Now the love that was is over.

What a rare and lovely flower!

The love to be forever more

Was the harvest of an hour. [unnumbered page]



tHE wind was wild that day

It blew a rose my way.

I caught it with no sound

And dashed it to the ground.

But then as I had feared

A greenish stalk appeared.

And where the rose had bled

There grew a human head.

I looked—but turned away

The wind was wild that day. [unnumbered page]

the lover


wHERE willows trail green hair across the sky

And clouds wind-blown sit lowly on the grass

Soft hands twine softer flowers while I lie

Beneath the world and tell my soul to pass.

Soft hands twin cornflowers streaked with deepest blue

Between red daisies, and sweet peas now cling

Beside pink roses moist and quick with dew

While all about her hair swift flowing sings.

Beside pink roses lilies treacherous white

Are woven gladly, sadly through my wreath

My wreath that subtly turns out early light

That cunning hides the stained thorn underneath.

My wreath that weaves a heart and soul amiss

The heart God sold to her for flaming life

The soul I loved exchanged for one hot kiss

Till all betrayed is fired in golden strife. [unnumbered page]

the gorgon


lATE in the afternoon we came to the valley they spoke of.

Shadows were traced like claw marks over the levels of gravel

Cast by what seemed then to be some huge temple in ruin,

Countless pillars erect or fallen; but as we descended

Soon we saw that these were the trunks and boles of an ancient

Forest changed into stone and blurred by the fretting of winds. But

Now no ripple of air made sand grains whisper: the stillness

Lay like frost in the flowering sun. And suddenly someone

Cried out, pointed; and there we saw thick legions of granite

Men, some felled where they ran, some crouched where terror had bowed them;

Some, their arms outstretched, at a slant lay propped on their fingers.

One we came upon stood loke a proud king’s monument: Hesper

Flamed at his shoulder; the darkness lapped like waves on his neck. And

We walked onward in silence, our feet not changing the pebbles. [unnumbered page]

lights in fog


tHE fog

In the town

In the streets

In my heart and soul

Wrapped all around

Is just

The fog…

The lights

Slowly dying

Yet struggling

To live in fogginess

Moving with cars

And trembling

In twos…


Even they

Are in pairs

But I am here alone

And wandering


A goal…


If I can’t

See you again

In the moonlight or sunshine

Perhaps we will

Meet again

In a fog… [unnumbered page]

sic transit


dON Juan was known

Upon occasion

To ply his mandoline with skill—

To pluck the string

Of passion

And make ladies groan

To feel his notes sweet thrill.

But Juan is dust today

And Spanish ladies play

Without him.

Francis of the loving hemp

(In burlap bag

Of sanctity and grace)

Did once to sparrows speak

And make the grinning fishes jump

And wag

Their tails to look upon his face.

Bur Frank is grass today

And sparrows sing as gay

Without him.

Caesar conquered Gaul

And gave his lip

To drink the teeming cup of Rome

With laurel in his hair.

The magistrate of all,

The very ship

Of state, the pillar of his home,

He is but air today

And laurels mark the way

Without him. [unnumbered page]

song for our times


tHE voices of the night are many:

The whine of straining gears,

The hiss of raw gases

From a million exhaust pipes.

The low whisper of two people

While the motor idles

With a steady hum.

Look down at the night,

And at the city,

At the halo spread beneath the street light,

At the car parked between the street lights

Parked with headlights dimmed,

Two shadows close together in the front.

Multiply now that scarcely audible whisper,

And those scarcely visible shadows,

And the dim cars between the lights;

Feel your little car sink

Shrink and drop away,

You and she lost somewhere

In that infinite city and night.

Then love will become so simple—

As easy to operate as your automatic transmission. [unnumbered page]



eCHO comes now treading down those halls

Of antiseptic mien; the voice of man

Like thunder loud, like thunder never seen.

Why comes the Echo to this white pure place

Of ether smells? And crying out

As tortured souls charred in a thousand hells.

The Echo stops, stand reaching towards a room

That has no door; but falls away—

Forbidden entrance where He’s been before.

Comes Silence slowly sliding long the halls

Without a ward; and Echo yields

Before the sound that never yet was heard.

And in that room the once-gilt Phoenix lies,

Her cycle shattered; exposed to fall-

Out, faded quite away. The one idea that mattered.

Dread screams of death or stench of rotten pus

Cannot be found; with filagree

And fluffy mould Her once-proud body crowned.

So Hope is dead, She died in Beauty’s robes

And mourning Echo too; lone Silence points

The irony and horror of that doorless view. [unnumbered page]

consummatus est



hANGING from a tree, by the neck,

He turned to me, grinning, and said,

“The wreck you see was scholarly

Accomplished.” And where his tears fell

Mushrooms sprang.

I, standing in the grass, was sick

To see the garden of his head:

The snails that were his eyes, the sea

Of white hair crazed about his skull,

And the hate

Blistering his lips. The rope, thick

Under his chin, swung by the wind,

Tolled his head. “Ah, child, do you see

The laurel at my back, and hell

At my feet?”

I, standing in the grass, was sick

To touch each blade, to hold the wind,

To hear the rook’s wild caw in the free

Ecstasy of life. I was full

Of the grasp

Of the glory of things! The click

Of his heels, the chatter of dead

Teeth there in the creak of the tree,

The fly on his tongue, and the lull

Of despair,

Hanging from a tree, by the neck,

What all to me—the unlearned

In methods of death! And, no plea

In my heart, I turned in the swell

Of new praise! [unnumbered page]

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            John Robert Colombo


            Harold D. Kurschenska, LTDC


            Acme Paper Products Co. Ltd


            University of Toronto Press


            R. G. & J. W. English

            Like its predecessor CHIAROSCURO, this booklet is a collection of new poems by

            young Canadian poets. It was designed and printed at the Purple Partridge Press by

            Harold D. Kurschenska and was financed entirely by the poets themselves, all of whom

            are students at the University of Toronto. Kindly address all communication to: The

            Editor, 114 Pandora Avenue, Kitchener, Ontario. Printed in Canada, 1958.

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