Intersections: …time does not really exist…

I sometimes (very rarely--when I somehow, strangely am not too 
embarrassed to--when I actually feel comfortable enough to--share 
with people that I actually write poems...) tell people, 
when this, that or another topic comes up in conversation,
“You know, I’m actually working on a poem about that.”

Recently, I have come to realize that often this “poem” that I 
am working on is often just a line or two sitting in its (or their) 
own otherwise blank document, waiting for me to finish it (or 
them)--sitting there in a primordial soup of meaning (or is it 
meaninglessness? I lose track...), like dry little sticks, poking up
through that pure white nothingness of snow, waiting for spring 
to come and the thaw to begin and the juices to start flowing up, 
up from the soil from which they are growing. 

So where or what is this actual “poem” that I say that I am working on?
(Is it the twigs? Is it the snow? Is it hiding in the earth underneath?)

It’s not the grouping of words that finally finds its way onto 
the page, and it's definitely not those one or two lines, sitting there, all
by their lonesomes on that big, blank, cold and lonely page.
It’s something else, something that existed long before I even knew 
where those one or two lines were going to go or where they came 
from or where they were going to take me. It's something that spoke 
to me with something more (or was it less?) than words. It's something 
that I sometimes think of as a constellation, for lack of a better word
to describe how this thing that hasn't yet made it's appearance in the
world feels, or felt, back before it knew what it wanted to be. It's a thing
that starts as a melange--part scent, part emotion, part kinesthetic 
feeling, part logical thought or conundrum or paradox, part memory or 
missing memory that pulls at me from the dark corners. 


It's like walking into a pantry (your grandmothers, your dream grand-
mother's, your dream grandmother's dream), full of spices and herbs and 
root vegetables, dark and dusky autumnal reminiscent golden light and 
being overwhelmed, dumbfounded and found dumb and mute, being 
stopped right their in the tracks that you only just now (by virtue of this 
thing happening) realize you were riding on (when you thought you 
were in control, thought you were in the pilot's seat), by.....

...something...

...and then trying to put that something into words because words are all 
that you have and you know--you just Know--that someone, somewhere 
has had that something in their hands before, had it run between their 
legs like an obstinate feline, they've felt it brush by them, felt that very 
same thing's whispery wing push a gentle breeze across the skin of their 
upper arm and you just KNOW that you have to tell them, "I felt it too." 

The poem is a thing that exists outside of time and space. It was 
there even before I wrote those one or two lines and it is something 
that is also else and other than the final thing that eventually 
finds its way on to the page.



“A poem is nonetheless present from the conception, from the first 
germ of it crossing the mind—it must be scratched for and exhumed. 
There is an element of timelessness. The leading atomic scientist 
in Australia agreed with me the other day that time does not really 
exist. The finished poem is present before it is written and one 
corrects it. It is the final poem that dictates what is right, what 
is wrong.”
—Robert Graves (from an interview in Paris Review)



“Even the right words if ever
we come to them tell of something
the words never knew”

--W. S. Merwin (from “What the Bridges Hear”, in his brilliant book 
of poems, The Shadow of Sirius)

~~~

It is thanks to Holly Lofgreen that I have come back to this Intersection
and finally finished it and posted it after it sitting in my drafts folder for
at least a year. We have been discussing this ephemeral nature of the 
poem--where it comes from...where it goes--which has helped me to 
crystalize these thoughts. 

There is power, real power--the kind that comes 
from a vulnerable honesty--in her work.

You need to read her. 

O.P.P. #6 — William’s pleasures…

Day 6 of National Poetry Month.

And we’re missing things….

One of the butterflies



by W. S. Merwin

The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn into pain














O.P.P. #3 — William’s clothes…

Day 3 of National Poetry Month.

And we’re trying things on….


Raiment



by W. S. Merwin


Believing comes after
there were coverings
who can believe 
that we were born without them
he she or it wailing
back the first breath
from a stark reflection
raw and upside-down
early but already
not original

into the last days
and then some way past them
the body that we
are assured is more
than what covers it 
is kept covered 
out of habit which
is a word for dress
out of custom
which is an alteration
of the older word costume
out of decency
which is handed down 
from a word for what
is fitting

apparently we believe
in the words
and through them
but we long beyond them

for what is unseen
what remains out of reach
what is kept covered
with colors and sized
we hunger
for what is undoubted yet dubious
known to be different
and our fabrics tell
of difference 
we dress in difference
calling it ours



















Thanks

(...coming back to my words, through the words of others...)

(...I am still saying thanks, still he is giving, gone one year ago...)


Thanks
by W. S. Merwin


Listen 
with the night falling we are saying thank you 
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings 
we are running out of the glass rooms 
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky 
and say thank you 
we are standing by the water thanking it 
smiling by the windows looking out 
in our directions 

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging 
after funerals we are saying thank you 
after the news of the dead 
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you 
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators 
remembering wars and the police at the door 
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you 
in the banks we are saying thank you 
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us 
our lost feelings we are saying thank you 
with the forests falling faster than the minutes 
of our lives we are saying thank you 
with the words going out like cells of a brain 
with the cities growing over us 
we are saying thank you faster and faster 
with nobody listening we are saying thank you 
we are saying thank you and waving 
dark though it is


Berryman
By W. S. Merwin


I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war
 
don't lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you're older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity
 
just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice
 
he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally
 
it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop
 
he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England
 
as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry
 
he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention
 
I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't
 
you can't you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write



(Two of my favorite poems by my favorite poet, on the 
anniversary of his death.)
(Difficult if not impossible to pick favorites, really, 
but these two seem timely.)

(With many thanks to Whimsy Mimsy 
for the connections, for the muddled thoughts...)

(...let us stay deep in tides of our own...)
(...until the words come drifting by...)