Friday, October 30, 2009

"As freezing persons recollect the snow"

I thought about turning around to find you

there, in the corner of my room, before the

distant glass of the mirror, here through

winter, the drifts of your fingers across the

stipple of sweater (for what can it mean to

have without holding?), and shoulders sore from un-

burying snow -- it's still snowing -- and knowing

you (that you have

already gone):

in a dream.

And now: the next shadowless morning -- the

intimate drift of the skies, the invisible

pines --, I raise my palms to the farther

ground and warm, I am every direction a-

lone and fall -- we all do, with clank and

tackle of unaccustomed clothing and shoes -- to the

frozen much farther below. It's slow-going, this

shuffling through and

settling down. The

breath like steam, like the

smoke from coal wrapped

tightly in straw, ice shipped and sipped out of

sweltering tea: I am evaporation -- the

sweet and passing season of it all --, my

turn to turn from memory, "regardless

grown", a mind like winter wheat to

sleep under covers, turn to regretting

nothing (but you, may-

flowering dawn), and

go to seed. I

thought about never

turning around and rediscovering

you (like you knew, years ago, and

wrote without tears, your belle-(of Amherst)-

tristic posture, your "then the letting

go", and pleated skirts, so certain that

someday we'd forget the hurts and

get the pleasure of re-

membering each other "as

freezing persons recollect the snow").

(Edited 30 October 2009, begun 29 October 2009. From an early image of morning, lingering on a long walk up a new snow-covered mountain; and an old memory of Orpheus, whose Eurydice, however, linked with and led here to Dickinson and -- for my money, no matter the time of day -- to one of her great modern interpreters. The title appeared for me as the last line, but for its owner the first time properly in 1955, for the first time ever in 1890, for the very first time of all -- and all but invisibly to all but her -- sometime before 1866. I also love -- but it may change the feeling, like the slave at the ear of the triumphant emperor, whispering, "Remember, you are only a man" -- that in addition to cultivating poems and flowers she owned a Newfoundland named (after him in Jane Eyre) Carlo, and after he died, never another.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

"The world was all before them"


"The world was all before them, where to

choose / their place of rest": the worst part

being their memories,

tending still to the

west, like the sun to the umbrant hills, the

worst part and best, while bodies -- theirs and

others' -- descended, pushed on the breeze, full

westerly blast bestirring bedewed grass-

land, what passed here -- twisted and strained, like

fingers stained and clutching for fruit in the

flake of dirt, for fresh and supple again, and tumbled

seeds from the timeful

grind of the earth -- for



At the door, she had smiled and happily fumbled his

name, and how he agreed ("That's me, what-

ever she said, however she said" [and a

pause: he recalls Raphael recalling the

fallen, and pausing, "How

splendid he was before dawn";


now must breathe before he goes on]), the

breath of their meeting like flush of ripening

skin, sun-colored.


How fresh the memory

seemed, that permanent walk to the east -- eyes

outwardly blind each spearpoint squint of

morning -- of her. And the feeling, the first time

stale, of heat and dust in the air, the

scree of rocks under feet and points of

caving to pressure, too soft, the skin grown

scaly and rough at the joints and lips -- for

where, without stopping, were streams of water like

natural wine, the delicate lap of

beasts (their glossy

coats), the feasts of

words like fruits all loverly coy in their

hinting at trees, at roots grown worldly and

deep and together, the

natural graft of looks?


Intertwined, those peacefully sleepless

nights, the hook of branch and trunk, the

bark like elephant hide, a grey cloud-

lined, the memory layered up steep and

graveyard strong, the skulls in the glistering



Had they been walking so long and a-

lone, if only hand in hand?


That de-

scent as smooth into evening the moon, her

cloud-covered skin, his sidelong sight of her

(that man seems to me equal to the gods, who)

loving her loving her knowing too much, now

knowing the slide downhill to the east, the el-

liptic curve of breast, of belly and

hip, all hers and to him as if for the

first time given and alive, all theirs to


lose like surface tension, both are for-

bidden to touch. They know this much. Whether

earth encircles the radiant sun or re-

verse is the least of their troubles. In the permanent

past, not first, but in the end of longer-

lasting effect, not the cause of it all but be-

cause of it all, what worst and best re-

call into being the beginning at last: he

stands in the sunlit grass and breeze (she is

at her door and knows, and he knows) how

beautiful passing can be (the radiant

smile), how far the

apple falls from the tree.

(Edited 18 October 2009, begun 17 October 2009. The beginning is from Paradise Lost, whose ending I can hardly handle but which helped me grasp what I found so moving about the ending of a television show I also recently finished: how a present moment may revel in its _ending_ by revealing an earlier moment as the _beginning_.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

"As with new wine intoxicated"

(Because of formatting, this poem is available for download as a two-page .pdf here.)

(Edited and begun 11 October 2009, in response to an ongoing reading of Milton, whose description of Adam's and Eve's inebriated fancy on apples (Paradise Lost 9.1000-11) is a high point of the poem and -- I fancy, fairly soberly -- of English literature: a breathtaking depiction, maybe malgré lui, of the beauty in and of mortality; but drawing also on Donne, whose Holy Sonnet 1.4 has stuck with me as similarly if maybe more honestly autumnal ... alongside, if I'm being perfectly honest, "Spain (I Can Recall)" (Jarreau et al.). Virgil and Homer may go without saying.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Two men, two women, two mo(u)rnings

1. There's a story that Descartes, who died of early mornings,

fashioned for himself a

model of a woman: his

daughter, who had died in young adulthood (trans-

lation of morning), out of

wood and pinions.

This was old-fashioned, his ontogeny reca-

pitulating hers -- think of

hair in a ring --, his

capturing her but failing to bring her to

life, lacking the

vital fright of e-

lectricity. A disordered pair, the

man and those moveable

parts, so clearly the

least of his arts, that moveable beast, so

portable, the terror of

unfinished speech, the

unfinished tower of her standing proud and

lewd, the rouged and

painted flower of her cheek.

2. √Čvariste Galois died of a gunshot

wound after dawn. He had

written all night, the

candle-light and flicker of thoughts -- their

trickle like candle-

wax -- in the heat of

loving and having no time, and the wick: in the

center of a page, he had

written: "une femme", a

woman who blushed like the gunpowder dawn, her

rosy fingers to

him, and then gone: "une

femme", encircled by orders and indices,

what would become set

theory. In the margins:

"I have not enough time." This is where God

doesn't -- needn't or

can't -- come in. This

young man, barely past boy, the tower un-

finished of him, the

fading flower of his cheek.

(Edited 8 October 2009, begun 23 September 2009. The story goes that Galois committed to paper everything he could of his prodigious mathematical imagination that night, knowing it might well be his last; set theory would have been invented eventually, but not in the same blaze of glory. I have Descartes' story on no good authority, but am amazed by the image of the master geographer and crypto-religious philosopher rattling around a drafty castle, his daughter's creepy effigy rattling around alongside him.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The pigeons, no matter

The pigeons, no matter they flew any higher, caught
fire, drifting through the air askance, soot-

colored and aglow as twists of paper lit --
gently, lest they burn unevenly --, let

go, and spiral themselves into smoke, living
rings of whispering yellow, or sparks given

off of sputtering logs: the sound wind
makes in a furnace, in a city unforged, when

printers' stuttering presses and type slag
words away in a shimmering draft, sag

low to the ground like glass with age, ash
thick on its silvery breath and skin smashed

open and ragged and feathery light, wings
rustle and curl, with toneless peal sings the

paradise almost lost in the flames, rush of
flames almost invisible for the fire, blush of

darkness visible, the stubble -- like grass burnt
down -- of the city, the towering unswept

chimney of air unmortared, the perch, hot,
tottering, slaughtering perch of pigeons. (What

rhymes with pigeon?) Eighty-nine of ninety-seven
neighborhood churches burnt down. (What rhymes with seven?)

(Edited 4 October 2009, begun 27 September 2009. Milton, whom I am in time to appreciate as the language's greatest versifier, was blind long before 1666, when he returned to London in time not to appreciate but to experience -- hearing, feeling, probably smelling -- the Great Fire, which seems to flicker behind his descriptions of Hell in the first book of Paradise Lost. The detail inspiring this poem comes from Samuel Pepys, who of 2 September 1666 writes: "the poor pigeons ... were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys till they were, some of them burned, their wings, and fell down.")