Sorry - in my remarks on the Lauterbach poem, I meant to say "Mainstream
meaninglessness." -- After that meaty masterpiece of hers, these two recent
ones of mine (no doubt overmasculinist, unpleasantly "closed," depressingly
retrograde) may serve as a ... sorbet.
Note: Umberto Saba and Charles Peguy were poets who a century or so ago ran
Small, squarish, thick,
with a pale-green cover,
it made me feel learnèd,
carrying it around: Hendrik Willem van Loon’s
Story of Mankind, with his spare,
The story seemed to occur
mostly in Holland, but I liked how
he explained, or expressed,
mysteries. If he were sitting,
for example, in 1930,
on a bench in Holland, and the Emperor Napoleon
rode by and, with a glance,
summoned him, he, van Loon –
even knowing what he knew –
would have to fall in.
That impressed me at eleven.
Later I entered
some five or six thousand used bookstores,
often unpromising, from Bangor to San Diego.
Through the wrong end of a telescope
I see sidewalks, me, entrances,
then my back as I leave, carrying something.
The people who run used bookstores
often play the worst music they can –
Forties novelty-items, polkas –
and their talk is comparable.
I never met a Saba or a Péguy.
What I can’t see through the telescope
is what all those purchases
led to, beside what’s on my shelves:
carcasses, mummies, the undead,
statues, and vivid speaking faces,
however shadowed now.
If I could look back instead
at cars I repaired or stole,
sweaty dances, sweatier knife-fights
and a few hundred more
strange beds, I might be happier;
but I couldn’t enclose them
in a few pithy lines, as I have here.
In youth, night moved; you put on
more miles, more hot miles,
than odometers showed.
Now, constrained, you lie politely
when, from graves behind you or ahead,
Night itself remains healthy,
muscular though motionless;
no pill can knock it out.
But you, should you rise, read, eat,
steal from the body, which is penniless,
and the bankrupt day.
Past time to invest
in wisdom, but every foray
into that market yields only
nonsense: *Instantaneous painless
death, once the privilege
of nobles facing headsmen,
became widely available with the gun
and was perhaps the latter’s deeper mission.*