November 18 1936 July 30 2015
Beloved Poet, Teacher, Friend
A poem in the new number of The Battersea Review
In the city of the gulls,
along with all the other pieces hatched
by gulls clamoring sunrise law,
there came you, largely a wound,
to the courtyard of brick.
Baby with a wormy wing,
thinglet never to fledge,
despite all that made those feathers grow
some calamity in the nest . . .
And during the fracturing into many
you wandered, for just a while,
juvenile on a tether of hurt.
I witnessed the meeting of you
and your weak reflection,
trembling for strength, for others
already spent, my atmosphere pulsing
with your imprint, your leavings.
It moves, I see even now, while gulls shatter
the common air with screams. Moves
as a color, a light that throbs on loose feathers
caught in the weeds that overflow the cracks,
on those cornered in a heap here
beside my shoe,
on the white spattered everywhere,
the hot brick . . . An orange-red pulse
in cities of gulls and humans
discovered through sight,
a burning through the eyes.
What Gabrielle and I closed with at the Writers Center last week.
Note on the Poem “Tide Rocks”
I wanted to tell you about certain things
important to me, a group of images
close in space and time, encompassing so much of what I see,
things that insisted on themselves as a related group
and individually. But I want what I want only
to come in to the poem as another thing, I want to let the poem have control.
The poem would tell you
of a lock and key controlling access to another side,
symmetrical pieces of glass play-emeralds
scattered in a wood by hand unknown
for others to find,
a dancer and a dance,
heart flowing with blood, ocean tide.
Actions and reactions.
Things whose belonging impulse demanded “Tide Rocks,”
appearing in and around the time I was reading
the book Circles & Boundaries by Kate Tarlow Morgan
and with Kate visited the neighborhood in Gloucester
talked about in the poem. And I was struggling
as I am still with questions of how poem life or world
is formed, I was struggling between wanting
to tell you in a poem
and not wanting my own wants
to have influence. I was and am longing
for form, and not to be afraid
of dissolution. I am struggling with how to tell you
when what I want to tell you
can only be poem, when what I want might not
let the poem be.
I want to say something briefly about my poems, Gabrielle’s drawings, and why we are putting them together tonight.
There are the fragile, doomed arrangements of everything, despite intuitions of another, everlasting world that touches this one, that enfolds us and extends beyond our knowing: as in my or anyone’s words of lives in houses and on the forest floor; as in Gabrielle’s woods and rocks and people.
There is a closeness in space and time, in place and era, which are holders of importance in my imagination and in Gabrielle’s, but it is not just the temporary qualities that we live by, as we must, in our temporary bodies, that brings our work together.
As a poem is not merely about something, a drawing is not merely depiction. A work of art emerges from and has its being in places that are both inside and outside the artist; places that are inside and outside simultaneously. Places where living images grow, coming again and again to the artist, once imagination finds them. This view of art reflects the view that our being extends beyond our selves, and the being of others extends into our selves, and that what we call the self is a tangle of shared being.
Gabrielle’s being is strewn with wild care through her drawings, together with the being of others, of otherness that is not so other as we might think.
Currently popular, the comedy music video “What Does the Fox Say?” perhaps unintentionally attacks this view, mocking those who understand that there is a tie of body, soul and spirit between what is human and what is not.
But the fox asks the little prince to tame him. Gerrit Lansing’s fox is heard laughing in the woods, and the poem shares in that laughter. Tornonk, the half-fox half-man of the world of my novels, is the child of a fox who never read a book and an imagination that has been with many. The fox that is me is also an other.
As with distinctions between self and other, distinctions between humankind and all that is not human are, by nature, always as clear as they can be, and energy spent trying to make them clearer is spent at a loss to what we know of how the human reaches through the nonhuman and the nonhuman reaches through the human; to what we know of how our other selves make us.
Along the way, in the growth of that knowing─a knowing which love is one word for─a fox sits a flowering vortex of green otherness.
This past winter, Cape Ann Museum exhibited a show of Gabrielle Barzaghi’s drawings. Her work is all visionary landscapes and nightmare fantasy situations, and I was immediately taken with it.
Gabrielle will soon be showing a huge new work at Trident Gallery in Gloucester. The show opens October 18, 2013.
Gabrielle and I are doing a presentation together on January 22, 2014, at The Gloucester Writers Center. We’ll be projecting images of Gabrielle’s drawings while reading my poems and other writing; but more about that event as it draws closer.