Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Another Poem Written at Morning

Diane et Endymion 1630 Detroit Institute of Art

Another Poem Written at Morning
for Wallace Stevens

We always were
as different as two things can possibly be
as far apart as a white bear on an ice floe
from a neon flamingo preening on one leg
or a thinking mouse in a live trap
from the distant hawk that stoops.

We always were
as close as two feathers nesting in
coralpink scales on that same flamingo, 
as mouse and thought, 
as the freeze of boreal ice
to the bear's shaman paw.

When all there was to read 
was ratscratch and pigeon droppings,
you'd already written for me
the encyclopedia of myself;
Go on through the darkness, you said
The waves fly back.

When my only drawing was child's
chalkdust, fumbling baroque intricacy into
crude streaks, you painted my adjectives in oils
with the extravagant precision of a Poussin,
carved from cloud within the sister, mother and
diviner lover, out of our own imperfections wrought.

Ever you were truer to me than any breathing man.
Even now in the room where the interior paramour 
lights the highest candle, begins the twilight music, 
I bend in the dance with your businessman's stone 
in its calico gypsy shirt and cobweb shoes,
still try to read your book of granite mossed

with shadows, sudden lightning burst over 
inkblack seas pounding meaning
in constant making and unmaking, 
whispers calling, fill the four corners of night
flutter your empty sleeves, 
it's the spirit that we seek,
ask often. No matter if answering is all reflection,
dimmer, poorer through prosthetic eyes;
let them shine and serve, let the wench's tongue wag,
if only in echoes softer than tumbled shells suspiring 
on a ghost beach, because you gave not killing order
but the idea of order 

that grew the garden that saved me
from the domination of black, sent
dreams of baboons and periwinkles,
put peacocks in the
heavy darkness of hemlock,
rejoiced in green curls.

February 2012

Reposted for Meeting the Bar: Literary Allusion   at dVerse Poets Pub
Victoria is hosting today and this poem seemed to fit her challenge to write an answer to another poem, as well as cite a literary influence.

Poem Written At Morning
by Wallace Stevens

A sunny day's complete Poussiniana
Divide it from itself. It is this or that
And it is not.
By metaphor you paint
A thing. Thus, the pineapple was a leather fruit,
A fruit for pewter, thorned and palmed and blue,
To be served by men of ice.
The senses paint
By metaphor. The juice was fragranter
Than wettest cinnamon. It was cribled pears
Dripping a morning sap.
The truth must be
That you do not see, you experience, you feel,
That the buxom eye brings merely its element
To the total thing, a shapeless giant forced
Green were the curls upon that head.

Italicized words are quotations or titles from Stevens' poems.

this was originally posted for   real toads
where Kenia's challenge was to dialogue with a poem or poet.

Image: Diana and Endymion,  by Nicolas Poussin [Public domain], via wikimedia commons


  1. Oh my sweet mother of pearl... What a thing this is - not a quick scribble but a work of art of the highest order - and no disrespect to Stevens' genius, I like yours better.
    I mean.. get outa here:

    I bend in the dance with your businessman's stone
    in its calico gypsy shirt and cobweb shoes,
    still try to read your book of granite mossed

    with shadows...

    1. Thanks, Kerry. He was from a wealthy family, a lawyer, Taft Republican, VP of Hartford Insurance--went down every year to Key West and got in fistfights with Frost and Hemingway over politics, one assumes---yet he married a working class woman over his family's objections, and wrote what he wrote. Always blows my mind (and hence the first two stanzas.)

  2. You never cease to surprise and enchant people with your words. And yes, you got it right, it's a beautiful conversation, but I'll go with my friend Kerry up here, I like your poem best. :)

  3. That is quite the tribute, wonderfully written.

  4. Nothing quick about is a work of art...sigh, to have such talent

  5. This is truly art - and I, too, love yours best. You are SMOKIN', kiddo. This is just the very best of what poetry offers to the seeking soul. Absolutely fantastic. Whew!

  6. Beautiful Hedge...I think yours was more magical and full of images ~ I specially like the 4th and 5th verses ~

    You are a true wordsmith ~

  7. A fine homage to a dominant influence whose very poetic however makes the relation strange, better for being most unsuited, distant. What is most influential, I wonder, is a cadence of thought less than the pearl-strands of words -- though they remain to dapple our work: a way of saying that carves the air just so that a torrent of images rains from the sky's slit belly. And these deep, lifelong influences are a relationship and conversation that never quite ends, and our work is elevated and deepened because of the elevation and depth we continually engage. We stand on the shoulders of giants, to be sure, but the anxiety of influence is far more an ecstasy, don't' you think? And when those words are attenuated in our own voice, our own poems, they become even more peculiar, an even supremer fiction, the spinning green mundo finding another dimension to praise. Fine work, friend. - Brendan

  8. A glorious love letter. You've managed a lot here, in these few lines that incorporate his, and I feel the depth of his voice in your own life and voice. This isn't easy to do, and it works powerfully well in your deft hand. Love how you ended with your morning garden images.

    1. Thanks Ruth. The garden is like the Universal Solvent, except it actually works. ;-)

  9. "you'd already written for me
    the encyclopedia of myself"

    That is incredible.

  10. did i actually miss this one when it posted earlier this year? shame on me...doesnt seem possible...smiles...there is a lot of love in this...some really strong points for me are even in the bird droppings and such, he writes an encyclopedia...nice symbolism there...smiles...really like how you blended your voices together in this....very well played ma'am

  11. I was first amazed that you penned this so quickly as this challenge was posted today. Whew.. you did what I did and resurrected one from the past. (I know you are GOOD, but ...)

    Your response to Kerry helped me grasp more fully the first two stanzas, but I did pretty much get it anyway. I love "love stories" that go this route.

    that grew the garden that saved me

    A simple thought, but I love this line.

  12. such beauty...
    "with shadows, sudden lightning burst over
    inkblack seas pounding meaning
    in constant making and unmaking,
    whispers calling, fill the four corners of night"
    can't get enough of this!

  13. Stevens is a literary giant--and you have done him justice with this. Great work!

  14. your baroque textures and colors alive and thriving. I am happy to see this as a repost as I missed it the first time around. "you painted my adjectives in oils..." densely romantic and beautiful.

  15. You def looked Steven in the eye with this one, and I feel like he kissed your hands, and gave you a sip of his wine. Liked the line /my only drawing was child's chalkdust/. Wonderful to dip into your poetic hope chest and find a piece so perfectly suited to the dVerse challenge. This poem is hand-rubbed with heart rouge, and it shines like a precious polished stone; thanks for sharing.

  16. Hi Joy, mine is really a parody of Stevens, but yours is a serious poem. I feel here more The Idea of Order at Key West than the Poem Written At Morning, though of course, you have some direct references to that.

    On the other hand, you sing beyond the genius of the sea. k.

    1. I don't know about that--you haven't heard my singing. ;_) Idea of Order is the first Stevens poem I read, and while Farewell to Florida is my favorite, I know I have both of them tattooed somewhere on a rib bone or femur or something. Poem written At Morning is one of his throwaways--he wrote a lot of those--they remind me of the way 19th century coquettes would drop a handkerchief, or maybe of Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumb trail--leading you off into who knows what adventure. Thanks for reading, k

  17. In my book this goes down as a masterpiece. It is totally brilliant. Too close to it now to find words to do it justice -- and anyway, one reading's just not going to be enough. Lovely.

  18. If I were to edit the dVerse post, it would be to add Stevens to my list. And in all honesty, I'd have to say your poem rivals his. You and Wallace both challenge us, expand. I'm not surprised you chose him...of course, the quote below gave a clue.

  19. I love that great poetry sets me flying to places I've not yet been. This does. Words to savor and say again and again because they've never been said before. 'You'd already written for me the encyclopedia of myself' is brilliant.

  20. I'll have to agree with Dave and Victoria and bow, leaving a lit beeswax candle, the muses gifts, and a fragrant garland in respect. Inspired, inspiring, and wholly satisfying.

  21. love all the rich images in this..(and honestly like yours better than wallace steven's..) esp. that stanza with the child's chalkdust drawing...him painting your adjectives in oils...oh i love..


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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