Poetry Porch: Poetry


by Fred Marchant

“I” —the very use of that pronoun was what I had come to suspect.

I said, “because being is but a solvent,
the ego is no longer separate from space, from time
but one with them.”

In the Gothic office, over a splayed stack of Loeb editions,
my teacher said he felt as if he had dragged himself out of the sea
on Nausicaa’s island, still agile, but a wary relic from an era
when no one was spared.

I said, “Mine would be a paper on the nature of the mystical vision
in the Agamemnon.. . .”

He gazed out at me from the entrance into the House of the Atreidae,
stood ankle deep in that blood.

“. . . but with emphasis on Cassandra,” I continued,
“prisoner, lover, oracle, swept into a no-time in which
all time is present, a no-place everywhere at once,
the vision fastened on the moment of death, the very nature of art.”

“No,” my teacher said, “her words are merely
what the wide, granite slabs of the divine do to her.”

I said, “What she says is luminous, the essence of song.”

“Sparrow,” I called her, “what the human mind might become open to,
her own horrors notwithstanding. . . a lens of bright language. . . poetry.”

“One kind,” he said, “And not mine.”

He wanted for me a poetry embedded
in time, in history, in the truths of sequence,
that is to say, of syntax, slow and deliberate,
the building a barrow one stone at a time.
He craved the alloyed metal of the ironic,
the tacit image of a world in fracture.
Not once the single vision, but always
multiple signs of the limits of the human.
A poetry of the day after truce has begun,
when furies have been banished into the earth.
Not voices from the whirlwind, but small
whispered kindnesses you hear in the lee,
when words curl up and ride out the storm,
and those who speak determined to survive.

Copyright © 2000 by Fred Marchant.
From Full Moon Boat, Graywolf Press.