Sunday, October 03, 2004

Meir Wieseltier


Every poet thinks sometimes
he's the last poet in the world.
How else could it be?
The world's all dust and consuming flames,
every grocery a volcano.
The world is muddy ripples
and smashing rocks,
and Poetry?
Poetry's swallowed up. Illegitimate daughter
of man's plots against Nature,
of a lust to couple and grab.

Someone is singing, might sing again,
can't hear you, won't hear you:
too much noise
that's more urgent, louder, lasting.
Poetry's swallowed up.
(It's like an unnamed island
in the misnamed Pacific Ocean:
some captain reported
he'd seen it. A geological mission
had already found it flooded. Some
hopefuls with exaggerated earnestness
sailed out to explore it, and
hit a sand bank)


when a motorcycle turns over on its rider's back
and horns rip through the street
birds fly off in panic
and the cat hides at the far end of the courtyard
the typist makes it with her boss
and a small-time operator clinches a deal with an assistant
the fringe Ecstacy dealers hit the road
and the fitness club fills up with weight-losers

A man sits at a scratched piano
in a middle-sized room with closed shutters.
He is playing.
He is playing slowly.
The instrument is damaged but tuned.
He has no score in front of him.
The room is almost empty.
It has a bed, table, lamp,
sink, and refrigerator.
And in a corner
a dusty pile of scores.

when the car thieves scorch the road
and the policemen play backgammon
phone-tappers change cassettes
and cats pick at the garbage
a handyman pastes wallpaper in a sex-joint
a convict knifes his cell mate
the movie is over the audience spills out
and the party is about to start

He plays for the sake of playing
phrases he never played before
and won't repeat tomorrow.
They immediately melt away.
For a moment the body obeys.
The fingers rise and fall.
Memory switches off.
The spiderwebs of the brain
spin slowly around him.
You could say: he masturbates
as a way of life.

when the thieves sneak back to bed
an unseen raven shreds the silence
a car reverses fast into a no-entry street
and a lone man dawdles on his way to pray
a moist woman laughts in her dream
a long-suffering worker bangs the garbage cans
a baby shimpers and then gives up
and the newly dead stiffens

The man sits at a scratched piano
and plays. The instrument quivers under him.
His back bends
or straightens slightly.
His lips murmer something.
His fingers are quick and springy.
His head light and hollow.
Playing lifts him like a wave
toward a jagged foggy shore.
That's where we'll leave him now,
slip away, and close the door.

-Meir Wieseltier, The Flower of Anarchy, trans. Shirley Kaufman (2003)

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