Tuesday, November 13, 2007

On Robert Lowell

Today is Tuesday, 13 November 2007.

I got up in the middle of the night, and was re-reading poems by Robert Lowell, from Life Studies, and realized I should have paired this one with the Madama Butterfly finale yesterday.

I think often of poor manic Lowell, dying swiftly and alone of a heart attack, in the back seat of a taxi transporting him from JFK airport to Manhattan.

This one is for Miss S-----, my great high school English teacher.

"Fall 1961"

Back and forth, back and forth
goes the tock, tock, tock
of the orange, bland, ambassadorrial
face of the moon
on the grandfather clock.

All autumn, the chafe and jar
of nuclear war;
we have talked our extinction to death.
I swim like a minnow
behind my studio window.

Our end drifts nearer,
the moon lifts,
radiant with terror.
The state
is a diver under a glass bell.

A father's no shield
for his child.
We are like a lot of wild
spiders crying together,
but without tears.

Nature holds up a mirror.
One swallow makes a summer.
It's easy to tick
off the minutes,
but the clock hands stick.

Back and forth!
Back and forth, back and forth ---
my one point of rest
is the orange and black
oriole's swinging nest!


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