About ten years ago I was trying to imagine the function of poetry in the eternities. It teased me out of thought to realize that poetry as we know it cannot be created in an eternal sphere. It is a characteristic of poetry that its creation depends upon impermanence. However, once it has been created, it becomes a thing of eternity. That is to say a poem is a piece of eternity made from the stuff of time. I saw in my mind the body of great human verse arranging itself as a kind of tapestry on the cosmos. I thought that if you could somehow remove the space-time continuum from that tapestry, you just might get a glimpse of how the human experience is perceived from an eternal perspective. We live on a continuum of loss. But somewhere outside of the continuum, the lost moments are captured. And they are more beautiful standing on their own. I’m sure of it.
Then let the earth seduce us.
The Sensual World
I call to you across a monstrous river or chasm
to caution you, to prepare you.
Earth will seduce you, slowly, imperceptibly,
subtly, not to say with connivance.
I was not prepared: I stood in my grandmother’s kitchen,
holding out my glass. Stewed plums, stewed apricots–
the juice poured off into the glass of ice.
And the water added, patiently, in small increments,
the various cousins discriminating, tasting
with each addition–
aroma of summer fruit, intensity of concentration:
the colored liquid turning gradually lighter, more radiant,
more light passing through it.
Delight, then solace. My grandmother waiting,
to see if more was wanted. Solace, then deep immersion.
I loved nothing more: deep privacy of the sensual life,
the self disappearing into it or inseparable from it,
somehow suspended, floating, its needs
fully exposed, awakened, fully alive–
Deep immersion, and with it
mysterious safety. Far away, the fruit glowing in its glass bowls
Outside the kitchen, the sun setting.
I was not prepared: sunset, end of summer. Demonstrations
of time as a continuum, as something coming to an end,
not a suspension; the senses wouldn’t protect me.
I caution you as I was never cautioned:
you will never let go, you will never be satiated.
You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.
Your body will age, you will continue to need.
You will want the earth, then more of the earth–
Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond.
It is encompassing, it will not minister.
Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you,
It will not keep you alive.