T.S. Eliot is this month’s poet. Last month’s poet was Milosz and it was a great success that is, I learned a great deal. I am more familiar with Eliot but just couldn’t resist dedicating the month of April to studying his works. Where to begin? I suppose The Waste Land or The Four Quartets would be a good start.
I read a poet’s work,
I think how long it took to write,
Of what he saw and I did not.
Concise and hammered
not in metal, in –
meter, rhythm, rhyme and word,
Wrought in inked heart-blood,
There he is.
I close the book,
set it down
Atop the coffee table
and go about my day –
Like a cloth pattern imprinted for a time
on my skin
His images and verse,
press upon my mind.
First, plain speech in the mother tongue.
Hearing it, you should be able to see
Apple trees, a river, the bend of a road,
As if in a flash of summer lightning.
And it should contain more than images.
It has been lured by singsong,
A daydream, melody. Defenseless,
It was bypassed by the sharp, dry world.
You often ask yourself why you feel shame
Whenever you look through a book of poetry.
As if the author, for reasons unclear to you,
Addressed the worse side of your nature,
Pushing aside thought, cheating thought.
Seasoned with jokes, clowning, satire,
Poetry still knows how to please.
Then its excellence is much admired.
But the grave combats where life is at stake
Are fought in prose. It was not always so.
And our regret has remained unconfessed.
Novels and essays serve but will not last.
One clear stanza can take more weight
Than a whole wagon of elaborate prose.
Here’s a poem for you on this Ash Wed:
At A Certain Age
We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.
White clouds refused to accept them, and the wind
Was too busy visiting sea after sea.
We did not succeed in interesting the animals.
Dogs, disappointed, expected an order,
A cat, as always immoral, was falling asleep.
A person seemingly very close
Did not care to hear of things long past.
Conversations with friends over vodka or coffee
Ought not be prolonged beyond the first sign of boredom.
It would be humiliating to pay by the hour
A man with a diploma, just for listening.
Churches. Perhaps churches. But to confess there what?
That we used to see ourselves as handsome and noble
Yet later in our place an ugly toad
Half-opens its thick eyelid
And one sees clearly: “That’s me.”