December 22, 2008

The Poem Avoids the ‘Sincerest Style’

When the poem comes to say what it knows about the suprasternal notch, it stops. The pale hairs curling back against the skin are far too personal a detail to render. The poem vowed months ago never to speak of its erotic life again. Today’s suitable topics do not include the weight of flesh in the palm. The poem shuns also the plane tree and fig for surely alluring fruit poisons the page where a fir can never whisper nor willow weep again. But what of the moon, the breast-pink oleander and lupine the color of the edge of daylight—all of nature lit from within like a de la Tour painting?

The poem shrugs and shuffles away from the lake and the ginger daylilies, the pelt of moss on a park bench. It can only surreptitiously admire a hip, an elbow, but must eschew the eyes as too close to tears, too skewed to the heartfelt which the poem has to admit it can no longer abide. A reader might imagine the poem looks better with its clothes off but that is another poem altogether and one that concerns itself with sweat, that can only be alluded to here, where the poem attends to its cartoon nature and, dressed like Doris Day, waits for a plane, reapplies mascara, and adds to its list of unsuitable topics which include the Alps, restaurants with linen table cloths and all of Italy. The poem must also drive away from metaphor, which grows smaller and smaller in its rearview mirror.

Thirty years ago, a poem could lie in bed all day, moaning heart! heart! And then break. Today, the moon-free poem has no vernacular for longing. It is a dream of itself in which a lover, if he arrives, comes too late.

—Wendy Carlisle
First appear in Cider Press Review

Posted by dwaber at 02:51 PM