Poems by Clifford Venho




Name of this Tree

Its fine limbs rise, seeking the vertical,
cutting thick air with jagged leaves,
crowned at the top with five-fingered trumpets
of delicate pink-tinged with a touch of blue
(but not enough to make them lilac)
while crimson seeps from their hearts,
staining the core.

I don’t want to speak the name of this tree—
I can see it’s a seeker of sun and a lover of earth
and want to call it, “earth seeking sun,”
as if it were a painting, a work of art.

There is something sterile about knowing
what a thing is called. Once you know,
you can never unknow, and you must always
call it by its “proper” name. I don’t want
to speak the name of this tree, to smother it
with words from a dead language. No, in the quiet
heart of things, I will let it speak its own name.


The Unfound Infinite

Is not prayer also a study of truth,—a sally of the soul into the unfound infinite?
(Ralph -Waldo Emerson)

Ruby heads begin to break
the skin of the bud
and emerge from the green.
Their hearts, not yet open
to the world of light and air,
guard their secrets,
awaiting the moment of revelation.

They keep the pure darkness
held within the outer form—
they come from the edge
of the uncreated,
drift quietly from their mystic fields
in the unfound infinite,
seeking the jeweled body of existence.


The Shadow

The vulture’s shadow cuts
through a patch of sunlight—
a reminder that death is always
cutting through something somewhere.
It swallows the bright pattern
of light on leaves;
it buries all in the belly of darkness.
What is it I fear?
The darkness of dying?

The fear is not a fear of oblivion
or even of the unknown.
It is a primal fear of living
in the immensity of the real.

When I go through
the mouth of death,
it will be to mount
the wings of this shadow,
to slip through sunlight
like a swift ghost;
it will be to discover
what I’ve always known,
what has appeared to me
in my secret dreams—
to shed the layers of self
in the fire of birth,
to see, at last, the naked form
of my own original life.


About the Author

Clifford Venho is a poet, translator, and movement artist. He was born in New York City and studied English and creative writing at the State University of New York at New Paltz. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Dewdrop, La Piccioletta BarcaChronogram Magazine, and elsewhere. His translation of Novalis’ Hymns to the Night was published by Mercury Press in 2015. He is also a translator at Chadwick Library Press, focusing on the translation of works by Austrian philosopher and spiritual thinker Rudolf Steiner. He teaches courses in poetry and the movement art of eurythmy at Eurythmy Spring Valley, where he is a member of the ESV ensemble, which performs for audiences in the U.S. and abroad. He lives with his wife and their orange tabby in a cottage next to the bees. For more, visit his website: cliffordvenho.com