Saturday, May 12, 2007

Saturday Poet: Wallace Stevens

Tomorrow is commencement, and I'm not walking. I'm seriously fine with this. I didn't want to walk, my friends wanted me to walk. None of my family is attending, and I didn't ask any of my friends (most of whom are long-distance) to go. I actually am still working, since I have a due date that's past commencement. So right now I'm relaxing in my tiny studio (soon to be replaced by a big apartment in a Queen Anne house with Enthusiastic Engineer), sipping white tea and reading poetry. Tomorrow I'll watch a few friends walk (very few, but that's a story best left untold, and no that's not the reason) and take one of them out to lunch. I really don't feel like it's my day. I had that day two years ago when I walked after 3 good years of suffering and success. This year was intense, but very brief, and knowing that I'll come back to the same school and take the same professors next year--well, it seems like just walking across a stage and waving howdy, and I can do that any ol' day.

Commencement is supposed to be a ceremony marking the commencement of something new, the end of something accomplished. I don't feel enough of a transition. I'm entering a...slightly different phase. Not very new. I have accomplished something I am proud of, but I will feel a bigger sense of accomplishment with the next degree. I think I feel what most Ph.D students feel when they turn in a master's thesis--great, now I can start on my dissertation!

Anyway, congratulations to all of my friends and classmates and to law students everywhere. Thine days of suffering in the law library and cafeteria are over. But mine are just beginning.

And so I turn my weary eyes to some fresh text, and give you on this Saturday, some choice selections from Wallace Stevens.

Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour

Light the first light of evening
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.

The Sense Of The Sleight-Of-Hand Man

One's grand flights, one's Sunday baths,
One's tootings at the weddings of the soul
Occur as they occur. So bluish clouds
Occurred above the empty house and the leaves
Of the rhododendrons rattled their gold,
As if someone lived there. Such floods of white
Came bursting from the clouds. So the wind
Threw its contorted strength around the sky.

Could you have said the bluejay suddenly
Would swoop to earth? It is a wheel, the rays
Around the sun. The wheel survives the myths.
The fire eye in the clouds survives the gods.
To think of a dove with an eye of grenadine
And pines that are cornets, so it occurs,
And a little island full of geese and stars:
It may be the ignorant man, alone,
Has any chance to mate his life with life
That is the sensual, pearly spuse, the life
That is fluent in even the wintriest bronze.

Looking Across the Fields and Watching the Birds Fly

Among the more irritating minor ideas
Of Mr. Homburg during his visits home
To Concord, at the edge of things, was this:

To think away the grass, the trees, the clouds,
Not to transform them into other things,
Is only what the sun does every day,

Until we say to ourselves that there may be
A pensive nature, a mechanical
And slightly detestable operandum, free

From man's ghost, larger and yet a little like,
Without his literature and without his gods . . .
No doubt we live beyond ourselves in air,

In an element that does not do for us,
so well, that which we do for ourselves, too big,
A thing not planned for imagery or belief,

Not one of the masculine myths we used to make,
A transparency through which the swallow weaves,
Without any form or any sense of form,

What we know in what we see, what we feel in what
We hear, what we are, beyond mystic disputation,
In the tumult of integrations out of the sky,

And what we think, a breathing like the wind,
A moving part of a motion, a discovery
Part of a discovery, a change part of a change,

A sharing of color and being part of it.
The afternoon is visibly a source,
Too wide, too irised, to be more than calm,

Too much like thinking to be less than thought,
Obscurest parent, obscurest patriarch,
A daily majesty of meditation,

That comes and goes in silences of its own.
We think, then as the sun shines or does not.
We think as wind skitters on a pond in a field

Or we put mantles on our words because
The same wind, rising and rising, makes a sound
Like the last muting of winter as it ends.

A new scholar replacing an older one reflects
A moment on this fantasia. He seeks
For a human that can be accounted for.

The spirit comes from the body of the world,
Or so Mr. Homburg thought: the body of a world
Whose blunt laws make an affectation of mind,

The mannerism of nature caught in a glass
And there become a spirit's mannerism,
A glass aswarm with things going as far as they can.


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