Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Well. I think my shaggy beast (i.e. my ms) may have a recognizeable form (i.e. a leg or two). Well, that may be pushing it, but it's the first assembly where I’ve felt, well, that’s there, and I’m here. There it is. Holding to itself, together, like I’ve felt with some poems. Not that it means it’s done, but that it’s done now. So. Anyone feel like taking it for a walk?


Only up to “dark the star” in Stewart’s Columbarium (the titles are abecedary, under the title “Shadow Georgics,”—you can see, even in the few lines below, the georgic in advice spoken—preceded and followed by poems of 'elemental generation'), but already enspelled. I remember liking her work b.2000 (my turning point, my personal history-pivot), but not this much, so personal. There’s some magic going on here:

“If I could come back from the dead, I would come back
for an apple, and just for the first bite, the first
break, and the cold sweet grain
against the roof of the mouth, as plain
and clear as water.”

is the first stanza of “Apple.” Here’s the 6th, through the 10th:

“If you wait for the apple, you wait
for one ripe moment. And should
you sleep, or should you dream, or
should you stare too hard in the daylight
or come into the dark to see

what can’t be seen, you will drop
from the edge, going over into
coarse, or rot, or damping off.
You will wake to yourself, regretful,
in a grove of papery leaves.

You need a hillside, a small and steady wind,
a killing frost, and, later, honeybees.
You need a shovel, and shears, and a ladder

and the balance to come back down again.
You will have fears of codling moths
and railroad worms, and aphids.

Scales and maggots and beetles
will come to do their undoing.”

I like the mystic swirl of specificity; the denial of too much reality as appropriate for apprehending the apple at its ripeness. And the fairylike hyperspecificity of imaginative apprehension (sound like Keats, via my description? Yeah, I think so too.) is not overplayed, which I think would have been an easy mistake to have made. The balance of the lines works, it’s like walking at night. And all for the small perfection of biting the apple at its one ripeness-moment. I don’t know what system of apprehension/appreciation you use, but I imagine this poem (though it goes soft a little in the beginning of the final third) will accommodate most any.

I have a weakness for the mysticism of fruit trees. Sometimes I think its not just growing up with pear trees in my backyard, but is that drawn through my incessant mind-repetition of “Ode to a Nightingale,” specifically the stanza with “nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs . . .” in it. That and the part of “In Search of Lost Time” where Marcel makes to his room with apple boughs—and the hawthorn along the way—and the other vegetable loves he writes of. Which reminds me, Marvell too, and his almost-creepy attachement to all things green. Those guys all are who I think are the influences I turn to with my pear poems. Oh, and Gluck’s “The Wild Iris,” too. I can still remember reading first each of those—each like (and I’m not being hyperbolic here, though perhaps goofy) some seed planted in my soul (as Melville said of talking with Hawthorne, though I’d be afraid of such rapture as he welcomed if I felt it growing in me).

So here’s a few lines from Stewart’s “Pear” (jumping ahead):

“. . . That the two seeds, or the four seeds, are where the pear will go and where

it began. Black bark, blossoms in the mild rain, smelling like piss
in the spring rain, the chips and twigs raining down beneath our weight

as we broke off bouquets for the teacher. “What is that smell?” she asked.”

She gets the pear’s physicality and atmosphere so right. And that smell! I’ve always been startled by it; I realize, in retrospect, I’ve approached our pears’ blossoms ‘poeticaletically’ (as Sharon Olds, in workshop, would say), that is expecting them to smell like apple blossoms, and never really brought my reality-consciousness (that they smell sour and unpleasant) to my word-consciousness. She uses that detail beautifully here.

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