Thursday, January 18, 2007

Another Poem of the Day

In my first real college poetry workshop we read a lot of books and handouts that have (in one way or another) stuck with me. Some of the people I still enjoy reading (Louise Gluck, CK Williams, Larry Levis, Gerry Stern) others I've developed an appreciation of that I would definitely consider qualified (Sharon Olds, Galway Kinnell) and some have lost their lustre (Jori Graham.) But among all those poems were the two most responsible for my latching onto and loving poetry. It also generated my two longest-lasting poetry friendships. Scary to think it was 15 years ago. The poem in question is Jori Graham's "Reading Plato."

My relationship to it has changed with time, just as my relationship to Graham's body of work has. I can see now the seeds of what her poems were to become--there's a reaching out to draw in other things, what became her tactic of an opening to an opening to an opening. But there's a restraint here--maybe hesitance is the better word; the desire to draw in things, to look and look and look, to extend and evade the finality of meaning by stretching out gestures and descriptions is evident, but not baroque or mannered yet. There's a more obvious connection to everything she includes. And it satisfies me. There's no amaryllis humming here. What I find in this poem that I see missing in so much of her other work is tenderness. Enough explication du text, here's the poem.

Reading Plato

This is the story
***of a beautiful
lie, what slips
***through my fingers,
your fingers. It’s winter,
*** it’s far

in the lifespan
*** of man.
Bareheaded, in a soiled
speechless, my friend
***is making

lures, his hobby. Flies
*** so small
he works with tweezers and
*** a magnifying glass.
They must be
***so believable

they’re true—feelers,
*** antennae,
quick and frantic
*** as something
drowning. His heart
*** beats wildly

in his hands. It is
*** blinding
and who will forgive him
*** in his tiny
garden? He makes them
*** out of hair,

deer hair, because it’s hollow
*** and floats.
Past death, past sight,
*** this is
his good idea, what drives
*** the silly days

together. Better than memory. Better
*** than love.
Then they are done, a hook
*** under each pair
of wings, and it’s Spring,
*** and the men

wade out into the riverbed
*** at dawn. Above
the stars still connect-up
*** their hungry animals.
Soon they’ll be satisfied
*** and go. Meanwhile

upriver, downriver, imagine, quick
*** in the air,
in flesh, in a blue
*** swarm of
flies, our knowledge of
*** the graceful

deer skips easily across
*** the surface.
Dismembered, remembered,
*** it’s finally
alive. Imagine
*** the body

they were all once
*** a part of,
these men along the lush
*** green banks
trying to slip in
*** and pass

for the natural world.

*For some reason--the formatting and lineation of this is being all set left, despite it showing as indented in my posting window. I will play with my settings and see what I can come up with. Damned technology!

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