Wednesday, July 23, 2008

O Gods of Smallest Clarity

I love this poem, the whole thing is lovely. But the line that really struck me when I heard the author read it was this:

....and those of us quietly/not anything to speak of....

Both its place in the poem, and the way she said it, made that line seem so sad. And I understand that sadness... the not-belonging to something, the loss of what--at least sometimes--seems like a rich and beautiful tradition. But I also feel that while the author had that tone, and felt that sadness, she wasn't apologetic or ashamed or unhappy about it...maybe she once was, but not now I don't think. But that's entirely speculation of course.

Anyhow, it's a great poem, I hope someone else out there enjoys it as well.

Full Text:


If only those perennial opposites, the bully
and the sweet worried one
slept, kept sleeping. Not side by side,
not the lion and the lamb, just that most
ordinary blind passage, brief
and profound, as it happens
all over the planet. I mean the prince
who's happy with gardening, and the other kind
plotting someone's downfall, each
going under for the night. Which is to say, not
our usual taking turns at it, not Greenwich
or daylight savings or eight flight hours from here
equals five hours early or late but right now,
this minute, by my marvelous powers
of desperation and delusion, it's
soldier and monk, Sunni and Shiite,
republican, democrat, all Muslims and Christians
and Jews and those of us quietly
not anything to speak of, no reason or rhyme or
respectively about it, no tit for tat
but everyone sleeping. And the president
curled fetal, his aides and think-tankers
all twitching in their dreams as dogs do,
on the scent or the chase, hours,
many hours to come. For that matter, the Pope is
drifting off and the greeter
from Wal-Mart, and the magician come out
of a long day's practice in a sword-crossed box
rests now, exactly like the oldest woman,
asleep on her side, empty as the young docent
at Ellis Island already certain
it's robot-work, telling the country's vast sad story
of promise and trouble. And I think so many
miners home from their dark to this
gladder one, sprawled out
on their beds where exhaustion is fierce, no longer
patient. Every child in the world is sleeping too,
hunger, once there was, but not here
in this dream, no gunflash, no flood.
Every mother minus panic. Every father
finding his daughters, his sons right where they should be. Even
the torturers gone into that place they might
nightmare for what they've done.
But not yet, not for a moment. And of those
who were done to, for them the rope and hood
and diamond-tooth wire, all banished
a few hours, forgotten
as dream is, in this, the real dream
to ink it out, beyond reach.
Believe me, I want to see
the despicable go down as much
as you do, and the innocent shine. But that's
sleeping too. Or so I try,
an experiment that may be stupid,
full of less not more, as in pointless, as in
hopeless, as in less than nothing
because--o gods of the smallest
clarity, let nothing happen
for an hour, for six hours. Rage.
Let that sleep too, its sorrow
no longer a brilliant rant, no longer anything,
a wash, a confluence of great waters
seen from a distance, the horizon a matter of
on and on where a speck out there
might well be a boat, the figure at the oars
untangling and stretching out. One eye
closed, then the other: welcome
no moon, no stars.

The poem is from her collection Grace, Fallen From.

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