“Many poets are not poets for the same reason that many religious men are not saints: they never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet or the particular monk they are intended to be by God. They never become the man or the artist who is called for by all the circumstances of their individual lives. They waste their years in vain efforts to be some other poet, some other saint. . . . They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor to have somebody else’s experiences or write somebody else’s poems. . . . Hurry ruins saints as well as artists. They want quick success and they are in such haste to get it that they cannot take time to be true to themselves. And when the madness is upon them they argue that their very haste is a species of integrity.”
– Thomas Merton
I am driving north on Highway 6
in the starless dark. And I see
you no longer let me
hold your hand
that forms a knuckle of stone
as you dig your way
To the east, far into the east, are fireworks.
I watch their colours rise,
open and close,
fall back into the other side of the world
that lives in the forest.
Like a bloom climbing
out of the mossy darkness,
vanishing as it turns back
There is no need to believe in God
when we feel the soul, which the body gives to us,
and I believe that today nothing’s
as lovely as the woman singing from the kitchen,
the arms of her blouse pulled up to her elbows,
her hair slipped back behind the ears,
her small hands kneading through
the walnut cutting board’s coarse dough,
which forms a sculpture of flour in the white air,
all of which I cannot see,
but know is there
is what I have been given
So pretty, sun in a bog.
There is hope for me.
I read one poet, then think of another,
and then from her, another.
You mention you dislike poems
about poetry. I do, as well, but tell me,
how many poems about poetry
can you show me are about poetry?
Think about every author of the Old Testament,
stone mazes of words, their numinous millennia,
yet forbidden to enunciate or to spell out,
for the faithless eyes,
the full name of their beloved.
Now think about the plague of crickets
outside the window, me turning from
the moth-glow of the computer on the table
to enter the unlit yard so that I may listen as they
arrange their utterances on the strands of reeds,
fanned out along the creases of the river,
so that I might hear your name mentioned
by the darkness.
What were we
to each other?
How you said I was like the rain
pouring myself into you
from a roof in a storm?
But I wonder now,
about that storm
from roof to roof,
after, how the rain
stuck us to its sadness.
I think of the skein of plastic
plunging off the coast of Santo Domingo,
thrown away like trash by
you and me.
I think of the gulf stream
the debris of an airplane,
dripping from air,
from the war,
from the ends of the world,
from my things floating on
your lawn’s foam
of melting snow,
that I could have stayed here,
in the wet light of your eyes,
for a thousand years, as well.
Your life never went anywhere.
It stayed with you,
like that poem you lost about your father
that you wrote in ’86
about the bicycle leaning against
the downspout in the rain.
The flowers printed on your teacup
by your lips just now,
or rather the flowers on a vine
like our faces turned to
or rather so far,
the flowers on
Or, the bee humming like
I look up the word.
I google it, actually,
or may not,
I also happen to be on the 33rd floor.
Here, windows turn-away mist,
purrs airplane thoughts
the middle ground
of rib, or elbow,
and finally the mist
of my breath turned-away
on the window.
I sit still, crouched,
like a victim,
this comfortable chair,
that is not comfortable.
In my chest, I wait
for a feeling
until that is the only way left,
the only way through.
It will land in me.
My body will swallow it,
tasting like flight.