I hesitate to cite Levertov any longer, as her work seems to punctuate (oddly) so many things in life that have gone awry or simply that evoke feelings, some very old and some very fresh, that I don’t need to give rise to. I wonder why it’s Levertov’s work that defines so many moments. She was never a favorite, never particularly important in my poetry discoveries. And I don’t even find her works necessarily the most powerful. But they take a bite in those precise moments, much as certain songs form the soundtrack of pivotal life moments – whether or not we like those songs. It cannot be helped.
The day finally came, and when it did it was actually the middle of the night. Staring at the glut of white dresses that some e-commerce site ‘suggested’, evidence that they were listening in, spitting back all the recommendations the earlier eavesdropped conversations indicated. But who needs a long, lace dress to drag through sand… or dress shoes for that matter… when the whole point of the South Pacific destination is to be warm… to return to the shoelessness of Hawaiian toddlerhood?
After all, there is no more value to be found at this point in life for caution, trepidation and overthinking. Just enough thinking. As one of Louise Erdrich’s characters in The Plague of Doves states simply, “But it happened in the heat of things”, to which another replies, “What doesn’t happen in the heat of things?”
Remembering John Ashbery, who died earlier this year.
Paradoxes and Oxymorons
This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at it talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don’t have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.
The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.
What’s a plain level? It is that and other things,
Bringing a system of them into play. Play?
Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be
A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
As in the division of grace these long August days
Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know
It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.
It has been played once more. I think you exist only
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren’t there
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.
Hesitate to Call
Lived to see you throwing
Me aside. That fought
Like netted fish inside me. Saw you throbbing
In my syrups. Saw you sleep. And lived to see
That all. That all flushed down
The refuse. Done?
It lives in me.
You live in me. Malignant.
Love, you ever want me, don’t.