The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Friday


Wallace Stevens
By Honor Moore


The great poet came to me in a dream, walking toward me in a house
drenched with August light. It was late afternoon and he was old,

past a hundred, but virile, fit,leonine. I loved that my seducer
had lived more than a century and a quarter. What difference

does age make? We began to talk about the making of poems, how
I craved his green cockatoo when I was young, named my Key West

after his, like a parent naming a child "George Washington." He was
not wearing the business suit I'd expected, nor did he have the bored

Rushmore countenance of the familiar portrait. His white tee shirt
was snug over robust chest and belly, his golden hair long, his beard

full as a biker's. How many great poets ride a motorcycle? We
were discussing the limits of image, how impossible for word

to personate entirely thing: "sea," ocean an August afternoon; "elm,"
heartbreak of American boulevards after the slaughter

of sick old beautiful trees. "I have given up language," he said.
The room was crowded and noisy, so I thought I'd misheard.

"Given up words?" "Yes, but not poems," he said, whereupon
he turned away, walking into darkness. Then it was cooler, and

we were alone in the gold room. "Here is a poem," he said, proffering
a dry precisely formed leaf, on it two dead insects I recognized

as termites, next to them a tiny flag of scarlet silk no larger than
the price sticker on an antique brooch. Dusky red, though once

bright, frayed but vivid. Minute replica of a matador's provocation?
Since he could read my spin of association, he was smiling, the glee

of genius. "Yes," he said, "that is the poem." A dead leaf? His grin was
implacable. Dead, my spinner brain continued, but beautiful. Edge

curling, carp-shaped, color of bronze or verdigris. Not one, but two
termites—dead. To the pleasures of dining on sill or floor joist, of

eating a house, and I have sold my house. I think of my friend finding
termites when she reached, shelf suddenly dust on her fingers,

library tumbling, the exterminator's bill. Rapacious bugs devour,
a red flag calls up the poem: Blood. Zinnia. Emergency. Blackbird's

vermillion epaulet. Crimson of manicure. Large red man reading,
handkerchief red as a clitoris peeking from his deep tweed pocket—

Suddenly he was gone, gold draining from the walls, but the leaf,
the leaf was in my hand, and in the silence I heard an engine howl,

and through the night that darkened behind the window, I saw
light bolt forward, the tail of a comet smudge black winter sky.

--------

I did lots of running around today but at least most of it was productive. Got all the Bar Mitzvah invitations stuffed, stamped and mailed except the one going to apaulled's parents best friends, whose new address we do not have and which we are having trouble getting from them since they are visiting his brother on the west coast. My mother took my son to try on suits, since Nordstrom is having their yearly sale next week while we are at the beach and she wanted to put aside anything that looked really good; she also tried to get a dress for me, refusing to believe that no, I really CAN'T wear a petite medium no matter what she wants to believe (whenever my mother finds clothing she thinks is very "me," it's always totally her, even the size), but everything was civil and we all had lunch together at the mall. Then I took the kids to see perkypaduan, agentirish and their cats, all of whom were very tolerant of our less than relaxing presence! And then I came home, wrote two articles (new Ethan Phillips movie, Connor Trinneer talks SGA) and did a whole bunch of pre-travel chores while the kids had friends over.

We had thought about going to see Jennifer Cutting's Ocean Orchestra which was performing for free outdoors in Silver Spring, but apaulled was not really in the mood to fight traffic and hunt for parking to get there and we are probably going to see them later this month at another free concert in Virginia, so instead we organized stuff and read some more Susan Cooper -- the part where the Greenwitch leaves the sea and Jane sees flashes of the history of Trewissick -- things like that. So it was not an exciting day by any means, but some days it takes so little to make me very happy...I had written to someone I wasn't even sure I was going to invite to the Bar Mitzvah as our contact is so sporadic these days, a college professor whom older son hasn't even seen since he was about five, not even particularly counting on her answering an e-mail. I got back a long lovely note from her that just put a huge smile on my face and it's still there.


In one of the flight rooms at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. The birds are not shy and are happy to sit on railings and posts as well as in the trees.
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