Saturday, March 24, 2012

Not Yet

We call Night the privation of relish in the appetite for all things.
 John of the Cross, quoted by Roland Barthes, Fragments d'un discours amoureux

She dreams of a soft boiled egg.
The inaudible tear the yellow flood the 
pouring tender not quite flesh on
crusty bread. The tang of cheese. Of
sourdough. Sharp scent of torn basil leaf. Creamy avocado
plucked from the tree that shatters its fruit
on the kitchen window.

Every possibility is in front of us then.

Thousands of days 
filled with sunshine. And the rushing 
And the wind, cool 
on the nape of the neck.

Strong coffee in the afternoon.

A girl in striped pants.  The sensation
of sand 
your toes.

How can it be afternoon?
So soon blue 

She picks up her scarf.

Don't go.
Not yet.
(This can't go on. 
Not yet.

They sit on a grassy hill by the side of the road.
Cliffs tumble to the sea.
She pulls a bottle from the hamper, 
breaks the crust of bread with her hands, her 
red lips black, the 
fading light.

Cool wind on the nape
of her neck.
She gathers her scarf.
(No. Who twisted 

so that) I'll be leaving now
(who twists)
her posture
(someone is 


Oh please, 

A thousand afternoons of light five
thousand ten:
twenty-eight years of days of
sand between your toes 
of cobble beaches and
(sucking sounds)  
they tumble 

(what we call night
what we call)
endless oncoming 
what we call)

Here is my scallop bed,
here is my island.
dive with me.

We paddle to the island; we 
stand in shallow water; we pluck
scallops, sucking out
(the inaudible tear the sudden 
flood the
salt bathes 
her tongue,
the afternoon shimmers
glimmers, tumbles--

the failing

Don't (who has
who has
you around like
who has
Don't. Not yet. Not


so that in part-

While there is still 
light (while those,  
stelle) while those
stars still shine

still (lucevan
shines (seashells) she turns
(on the seashore) she 
stops (seashells) she 
she (seashells)
winds her scarf
she sings
stelle) in
her sleep

Quotations are distortions of phrases from:
St. John of the Cross via Roland Barthes, Fragments d'un discours amoureux
Rilke's Eighth Duino Elegy, trans. Stephen Mitchell in The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, (New York: Vintage: 1984), 197 and
 Puccini, E lucevan le stelle, sung by Beniamino Gigli, 1938

Photos are from this album: "Taylor Head Barachois,"

This poem was my response to an exercise I set my Strategic Fictions class.  We read--and looked at--various love stories as models for our own writing.  I asked them to think about the following questions:

Why, when we think of love and writing, do we so often think of poetry?  Is it because poetry is a kind of writing where not simply each word, but each beat, each syllable, each space and line break count?  Poetry (and love) both call for precision it seems—and sometimes, though not always, an economy of gesture.  But perhaps we think of poetry and love together too, because what we wish of each is a delightful surprise of the ear.  And what do we reap? Often, too often, dissonance, boredom, waiting, rhythms utterly out of step…We also tend to repeat clichés, and others’ words, over and over. Is there a way, nevertheless, to make such suspensions, such repetitions, work?

I do not know if I have succeeded. But as I tell my students, what is most important is to try.

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