About the Structure of this Poem
This poem is written in the Canzone form. The canzone is an Italian form with strong similarities to the sestina. There are no rhymes; instead there are five keywords that determine the structure of the poem. Every line of the poem - and there are 65 lines altogether - ends with one of the keywords, which all appear together in the envoi. For example:
stanza 1: ABAACAADDAEE
stanza 2: EAEEBEECCEDD
stanza 3: DEDDADDBBDCC
stanza 4: CDCCECCAACBB
stanza 5: BCBBDBBEEBAA
The last word of each line in this poem is colored to help the reader follow the complex rhythm of the Canzone.
veil, unveil, vail, vale, prevail (A)
eyes, ice, realize (B)
sense, crescent's, essence, license, fluorescence, magnificence, incense (C)
night, tonight, ignite (D)
sea, urgency, fantasy, varanasi, see, debussy, foresee (E)
"No mortal has or will ever lift my veil,"
he says. Strokes my arm. What poison is his eyes?
Make me now your veil then see if you can veil
yourself from me. Where is he not from? Which vale
of tears? Am I awake? There is little sense
of whether I am his-or he is my-veil.
For, after the night is fog, who'll unveil
whom? Either he knows he is one with the night
or is unaware he's an agent of night –
nothing else is possible (who is whose veil?)
when he, random assassin sent by the sea,
is putting, and with no sense of urgency,
the final touches on – whose last fantasy?
Where isn't he from? He's brought sky from Vail,
Colorado, and the Ganges from Varanasi
in a clay urn (his heart measures like the sea).
He's brought the desert too. It's deep in his eyes
when he says: "I want you to be mine alone, see."
What hasn't he planned? For music Debussy,
then a song from New Orleans in the Crescent's
time nearing Penn Station. What's of the essence?
Not time, not time, no, not time. I can foresee
he will lead each night from night into night.
I ask, "Can you promise me this much tonight:
that when you divide what remains of this night
it will be like a prophet once parted the sea.
But no one must die! For however this night
has been summoned, I, your mortal every night,
must become your veil… and I must lift your veil
when just one thing's left to consider: the night."
There's just one thing left to consider, the night
in which we will be left to realize
when the ice begins to break down in his eyes.
And the prophecies filming his gaze tonight?
What will be revealed? What stunning color sense
kept hidden so long in his eyes, what essence
of longing? He can kill me without license.
The moon for its ivory scours the night.
Sent by the fog, he nearly empties in me all sense
of his gaze, till either he or I have lost all sense;
midnight polishes the remains of a galaxy.
What is left to polish now? What fluorescence?
Is there some hope of making a world of sense?
When I meet his gaze, there is again the veil.
On the farthest side of prophecy, I still need a veil.
Perhaps our only chance will be to ignite
the doom he sometimes veils in his eyes,
and the universe lost, like I am in his eyes.
I wait for him to look straight into my eyes.
This is our only chance for magnificence.
If he, carefully, upon this hour of ice,
will let us almost completely crystallize,
tell me, who but I could chill his dreaming night.
Where he turns, what will not appear but my eyes?
Wherever he looks, the sky is only eyes.
Whatever news he has, it is of the sea.
But now is the time when I am to realize
our night cannot end completely with his eyes.
Something has happened now for me to prevail,
no matter what remains of this final night.
What arrangements haven’t you made for tonight!
I am to hand you a knife from behind the veil
now rising quickly from your just-lit incense.
I'm still alive, alive to learn from your eyes
that I am become your veil and I am all you see.