Volume > Issue > The Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water

The Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water


By Jon Glenn | December 1984

What death hangs heavy on the brow of Earth,

What dust lines forehead, dulls the light of eyes,

What ashes crown the head, leach joy from mirth,

What clay brings truth to sunny sum­mer’s lies?

The darkness of the journey down, the brown

Of dark stone’s denseness, heavy gran­ite’s weight:

From brown to black, infernal, airless, drowned

In landmass bowels and continents of hate.

And Earth receives Earth’s corpse, long-promised due,

Scatters the bones, dissolves strong hope of hands.

Where shall the body rise, where strength renew?

The turf springs green, the mount goes flat,

The dust goes down to dust, land back to land,

And hollows of bright eyes one time intact.


A cold wind caught the tattered shred of smoke,

The breath of life at last drawn out, so late,

Forever free from rags of earth that choke:

The breeze of it, the free air feel of fate.

I call it fate or faith or unasked hope,

And see the last faint glimpse with last faint sight

Of spinning mountain peaks, of land­locked slopes,

And laugh, no longer gasped: no labored fight

For breath. A tradewind blows, exchanges view

For sound beyond: I part the currents now,

Now rise with morning, pass the morning mew,

And greet the emptiness of air in space

With clear-voiced cry made perfect now,

And silent sing a psalm of thanks for grace.


That I perceive the fire at all surprises me:

Bodiless thought should feel no blaze of flame;

Sightless my mind in lucid music free

Should break from accident and touch of blame.

Above, below, about remembered sphere

The rose-flame blossoms as a blessed pain;

Notes of a score for neither eye nor ear

Mingle in light of color felt, not seen.

Cleanness of heat, transparent-gold-white heat,

Tries memory to prophecy of light,

Longed-for journey to the universal seat

Of Justice, Mercy. All lose all in fire,

And all forget in awful lake of flame,

And enter into oceans of desire


And the lap of waves, the lash of spray, the break

Of breakers, rolling and roar, Omnipo­tent Voice,

Above, below, about the seaborne strake,

And taste of salt, sweet, new-made sense of choice;

Mother of all and Father, fertile fane,

Old nurse of quickened seed, of nascent Earth,

Young bond not bound, about the bright-faced plain,

As singers say — an endingless, wave-woven girth.

Gestation long, the final birth was hard:

Lands and dominions gathered from the flood

Without a stain, no various region marred;

A thousand years, a life-time for the free

From ancient Ocean’s multitudinous brood:

Light broke, day dawned, and there was no more sea.

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