Saturday, February 16, 2008

From Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth. I think this is Rich's best book in years. It seems more focused, more engaged.


LONG AFTER STEVENS

A locomotive pushing through snow in the mountains
more modern than the will

to be modern . . . The mountain's profile
in undefiled snow disdains

definitions of poetry . . . It was always
indefinite, task and destruction

the laser eye of the poet . . . her blind eye
her moment-stricken eye . . . her unblinking eye

She had to get down from the blocked train
lick snow from bare cupped hands

taste what had soared into that air
— local cinders, steam of the fast machine

clear her palate with a breath . . .distinguish
through tumbling whiteness . . . figures

frozen . . . figures advancing
weapons at the ready
for the new password

She had to feel her tongue
freeze and burn at once

instrument searching, probing
toward a foreign tongue


I love the central image of this poem, the blocked train. I see it as a commentary on our own current political situation, where we are paradoxically enraged, burning, but frozen, immobilized to act. And I can't help but think that she is referring to, talking back to, Steven's "Snowman."


THE SNOWMAN

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

2 comments:

Premium T. said...

I don't know this Stevens poem; thanks for posting it. The perfect start of a Saturday. (Glad you're back!) --xo, T.

Christopher Hennessy said...

Just a note to say thanks for the comment you left on my blog about the Larry King poem. What a f'ing world we live in!