Two Poems

Elevate form over function to get at less easily articulable truths.

Two Poems

Postby Polemarchus » Fri Oct 25, 2002 1:59 am

While hiking last week on Mount Mansfield, I stopped to pull a small book titled, Sailing Alone Across the Room out of my knapsack. Resting alone under a dead-silent canopy of late Vermont autumn colors, I began quietly walking across the Atlantic. Though sometime before I began taking off Emily Dickinson's clothes a breeze came up, submerging me in noisy swirl of falling orange, red, purple and yellow. Unforgettable.

Rilke said in his Letters to a Young Poet, that if the world does not appear magical, "blame yourself; tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches." When the world begins to look angry and grey, I do blame myself. But while resting last week under a New England hillside cathedral, I discovered yet one more reason to forgive myself.


Walking across the Atlantic

I wait for the holiday crowd to clear the beach
before stepping onto the first wave.

Soon I am walking across the Atlantic
thinking about Spain,
checking for whales, waterspouts.
I feel the water holding up my shifting weight.
Tonight I will sleep on its rocking surface.

But for now I try to imagine what
this must look like to the fish below,
the bottoms of my feet appearing, disappearing.

Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes

First, her tippet made of tulle,
easily lifted off her shoulders and laid
on the back of a wooden chair.

And her bonnet,
the bow undone with a light forward pull.

Then the long white dress, a more
complicated matter with mother-of-pearl
buttons down the back,
so tiny and numerous that it takes forever
before my hands can part the fabric,
like a swimmer's dividing water,
and slip inside.

You will want to know
that she was standing
by an open window in an upstairs bedroom,
motionless, a little wide-eyed,
looking out at the orchard below,
the white dress puddled at her feet
on the wide-board, hardwood floor.

The complexity of women's undergarments
in nineteenth-century America
is not to be waved off,
and I proceeded like a polar explorer
through clips, clasps, and moorings,
catches, straps, and whalebone stays,
sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.

Later, I wrote in a notebook
it was like riding a swan into the night,
but, of course, I cannot tell you everything -
the way she closed her eyes to the orchard,
how her hair tumbled free of its pins,
how there were sudden dashes
whenever we spoke.

What I can tell you is
it was terribly quiet in Amherst
that Sabbath afternoon,
nothing but a carriage passing the house,
a fly buzzing in a windowpane.

So I could plainly hear her inhale
when I undid the very top
hook-and-eye fastener of her corset

and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed,
the way some readers sigh when they realize
that Hope has feathers,
that reason is a plank,
that life is a loaded gun
that looks right at you with a yellow eye.

These two poems may be found in Billy Collins' recent, Sailing Alone Around the Room. Collins is the Poet Laureate of the United States.
"Deux excès. Exclure la raison, n'admettre que la raison" -- Pascal, Pensées
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Postby Magius » Fri Oct 25, 2002 5:12 am

Polemarchus, thank you,
two very spiritually and emotionally inspiring poems, so much so that it has inspired me to entrust a problem of mine to a person. You see, I am very independant, paradoxically I am also very humanitarian, but certain people and certain situations have critically diminished my ability to enjoy the simple smell of the morning breeze that I take before getting into my car to go to class every morning. The kind of ability that, to me, the above poems attempt to enhance the readers emanation of that ability in order to truly understand these poems for their complexity, not in the words, but the gems hidden within the unexplained feelings and visions the poems produce. I am tired of suffering, for my suffering has become so complex, and my time so minut, that I cannot afford to even think of my problems for the thought of them will do nothing but complicate matters further and do more harm than good. My most recent thread was aimed in a similar direction, the one about making each other happy. Unfortunately, there appears to be no interest. I hope these poems help others find their own bit of happiness in reading them

Again, thank you for a bit of happiness...

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Postby Imagistar » Sat Oct 26, 2002 1:58 am

A gorgeous quote from Rilke.

Indeed, boredom begins at home. We want a new world; what we need is a new perception of the old one.

Thanks for the poems.
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