Dear Judy, Roger, Doug, and Robin,
I'm very gratified by your thoughtful responses and involvement with my poem.
Judy, I don't see Section 8 as "The
Final thought of the poem cycle, [my] foundation philosophy." I think Doug has it, here. The poem is "dialogic," a number of voices talking, even inadvertently, around a problem. In a strict sense it's untrue to its title, for it doesn't set out a vision but at most the elements of one, the conditions in which one is needed and which make one hard to find. It doesn't end on a dominant. Robin, I'm glad you liked the conclusion to 7 but I don't find it beautiful, rather horrifying. The speaker is in effect giving up on a (better) future, anything beyond his own mortality - and a "vision," whatever it might be, must concern that larger context. The Gore Vidal quotation serves as a rebuke to the speaker; it says, among other things, that he too is "without genius" and "gray." But of course the speaker has summoned this quotation, and that's typical of him. The reader is meant to become involved in this morbid argument and keep it going in his or her own head. Another way around that last section is to decide that the poem doesn't set out a "private" vision but, as Doug says, a collective one - an image of "what's what."
I've often thought, Judy, that I'm essentially a religious poet pushed into odd corners by a deep, truculent atheism. There was a great cartoon years ago in Simplicissimus, the German humor magazine. (Even the editor said that was an oxymoron.) Friend lounging around an artist's studio; irritated artist trying to work. Friend sighs: "Ach, I too could have been a great artist. But my specialty is fall landscapes and I only feel inspired in spring."
The Vidal quote, by the way, comes from his 1953 novel Messiah, which I very strongly recommend. It remains as timely now as when it was written - even more so.
Thanks again, everybody.