Vocations by Richard Outram

Encore Literary Magazine is extremely proud to have permission from the executors of the estate of the late Richard Outram to present work by one of Canada’s great poets. Poems by Outram will continue to be featured here, thus helping to keep alive the singular voice of, in the words of Alberto Manguel, “one of the finest poets in the English language.”


Assassins, certain to be caught
But certain of at least one shot,
Obliterate all other thought.

Torturers who come to budge
Faith like mountains, bear no grudge:
Never question, never judge.

Hunters hungry for the kill
And scenting blood and panic still
Discipline rapacious will.

Cuckolds, husbanding their pain,
Swear they will not care again,
Once the paramour is slain.

None of us, not you, not I,
Thus instructed in the lie,
Ever needs to learn to die.

Yet even as we learn to thrive
On death, the better to survive,
Truly, Love, we come alive:

To test the vast substantial thought
And Prayer of Spenser, being taught
‘… the merveiles by thy mercie wrought.’;

Or echo Milton’s echo sent
To choir the blinding Doves’s descent,
That we might see all passion spent;

Or watch a monstrous Shakespeare gauge
Upon an inward kindled stage,
Lear’s irrevocable rage

And the Arcadian marriage feast,
Where we are celebrants at least,
Transfiguring the twoback beast;

Or worship, ardent with Jack Donne,
Lest Maidenhoodwink Three in One,
To sacramentalize the Pun;

Or with deft, gentle Herbert take
Up paradox and praise, to slake
A poet’s thirst for sweet Christ’s sake;

Or witness Blake with Angel Sword
And naked Babe in One accord,
Emend himself with Holy Word;

And human, radiant, embrace,
Assume and suffer, face to Face,
Our own Annihilation, Grace.