Saturday, April 23, 2011

National Poetry Month - Day 23: Rosmarie Waldrop


And what is the zero that marks the place of one-who-writes? A page like snow?
White without seven dwarves? The invention of a bee see? elbowing elemen(t)s
toward o.p. cues? With increasing speed and frequency? The moment the Greeks
added vowels to the alphabet so that we don't have to draw on anything outside
the word to construe it?

Shapes not found in nature. To take us out of our body.

But I long for it. The body. Even if blue veins run from the knees to the ankles
and the feet are swollen and bulge out of the shoes. And how can I long for some-
thing that is right here? A bit scattered my brain, perhaps. Not yet the bones I've
carried around all my life. And by my own strength,

So I embark. On writing. With a shout at the sea around me, the surface of language.
The vessel's not important, but the shout is. It brings the body. And with it the 
patterns I love, rhythmic, paratactic, the old oral forms, repetition, alliteration. And
if I don't use formulae and proverbs I at least play among their echoes in the inner ear.

Words that sleep in the body all night and in the daytime come out and touch
you like a warm hand.

Yet all the while I sharpen my pencil to a fine point. My alphaknife to dissect the
world. And remember the phoneme, an abstract value like that of zero, which
makes possible the existence of language.

Intricate lines, complex, across gaps and fissures. Toward the distance needed for
full understanding. Where the void opens its one eye that never closes. In the
middle of the mind. Not in the proportions of body. And I'm unsure, does it
make me blind or seeing.

Swallows, missiles, helicopters, wounding bodies, budding leaves, the sun rising
out of the sea, streets glistening with rain, tin cans, plastic bags, armchairs, playing
cards, a prisoner on a leash, chimneys, cigarette butts, colors shifting in the sky,
rooftops, maples, humvees, tanks, fields of wildflowers, and landmines in one
big, blooming confusion.

Or the other side of language. Where I am mute and the unsaid weighs heavy.
On the tip of the tongue. A foretaste of death.

from Driven to Abstraction, New Directions, 2010

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