Old and even
more tired than I usually am,
after a night up late enough to go deep
into the early morning, I’m still
anxious to write you
a letter, to write you into a letter,
to make something real of you
by making you real to this poem.
I am spending the night
beside the Hudson, where its water
is deep, the mountains surge
out of the river, and two mountainous
bridges span the divide. I am spending
the night in a room that is a little
too hot, and my feet are swelling as
my eyes droop as I type these few
words to you.
You are probably waking now
to a summer lengthening into a complete day,
the light not a revelation because it has become
constant, immovable. But are your fingers
working yet? Is your mind creating?
As you think of what you will be
doing next, do you imagine the words
as sounds, or visions, or meanings? Where in the crack
of meaning do you find your poems?
I have watched you create your words
by hand, seen you make words before my eyes
and tear them apart into something else,
wrenching meaning from the tilt of a letter. I have
listened to your voice change as you read your poems
aloud, your radio voice turning on. And I see the mania
of it, of you, your obsession with words, which is the first
and only calling of the poet. Everything else is unnecessary,
as you know, all we have is words.
Tonight, I drove across the river,
exhilarated by view, the plummet
hundreds of feet that only the roadway
kept from coming true, to spend
a night with friends, and our friendship
was words. Without those, there would be nothing,
no poems, no conversation, no laughing.
The poem makes sense to us,
you and me, because we want to communicate even
when we reduce a poem to the shapes of letters
that do not yet exist. The poem makes sense
to us as the locus of meaning, a place wherein
The poem, we know
is an object. Certainly a visual
poem is an object, a place where
we can begin to comprehend
the inner workings of text.
But every poem of running
words is an object as well.
We can hold it
in our hands. We can run it
under the light and see if something
shows up in the text. We can keep it
under a pillow, or trade it away.
We can keep it forever or
demolish it. If we cup our hands
and place the poem within it, and
if we are really quiet, we can peek
inside our hands and see another world.
Our palms are covered with mirrors,
and who we see there are ourselves and
the world, small but growing. It is larger
than it appears. It overpowers everything else.