Elegy for the True West, by Caryl Johnston [*POEM*]

“What my heart longs for, my conscience would forbid…”

What my heart longs for, my conscience would forbid—
Here’s two thousand years of history, neatly said.
In our late abandonment, we lie along the road—

Too long and hard!—and wonder why we bothered.

Scratching at free love, we found its claw to differ
When it shoved into our throats the gloved hand of power.
So nothing was what it seemed, we said then—
It was a way of getting round this bitter, bitter bend.

Love will have  a conscience, else all will be dead—
The flower springing from the past opens at the head,
Or else it springs, and withers prematurely.
And we are there by now—even past it, surely.


Caryl Johnston is a poet and writer/editor who lives in Philadelphia. Here is one of her blogs. The above poem is taken from her book Indulge Me Once (www.lulu.com).

9 thoughts to “Elegy for the True West, by Caryl Johnston [*POEM*]”

  1. Caryl,

    If this is a Christmas present, thank you! I have enjoyed reading your poem. It differs in form from most of the other poems on this site in that it makes use of free verse and slant rhyme.

    But what exactly are you saying, dear? Is this a plea for traditional morality? Sex within marriage?

    That’s how I’d interpret it.

    1. It’s not free verse, Berenice. It employs rhyme and slant rhyme without any attempt at regular meter. Unlike the bulk of Darkmoon’s poems, this poem does not obey the rules of prosody. It’s not trying to do that.

      Most modern poets haven’t even heard of prosody and regard metrical verse as beneath contempt. It’s the easiest thing in the world to write free verse, which is just chopped-up prose.

      To give Caryl Johnston her due, she is not writing free verse. This is formal verse, but far less rigorous in its formality than Darkmoon’s verse. Thus each line is different in the number of syllables it contains. Unlike Darkmoon’s far more formal verse, it has no syllabic regularity.

  2. Interestingly, the picture Darkmoon has chosen — I believe she chooses all the pictures — would bear out the above interpretation.

    I recognize this as a Salvador Dali painting.

    In another version of this painting, the man is holding up a CRUCIFIX. Not a shining sword. As if trying to ward off spiritual evil.

    Darkmoon is a genius at choosing just the right picture to stimulate understanding of the inner meaning of a poem. I can think of no better illustration of your poem than this one. It resonates with the poem perfectly, it seems to me, and complements it on a subliminal level.

        1. No, I didn’t. Apologies to Darkmoon. It appears she chose the right picture after all.

  3. The picture clearly has sexual connotations, as the poem seems to have. Note the two voluptuous nudes (left and center) and the phallic tower on the far right.

    St Anthony morever was noted for his temptations, all of which were of a highly charged sexual nature.

    The first line of the poem, quoted in the caption under the picture, says it all: “What my heart longs for, my conscience would forbid…”

Comments are closed.