Friday, June 17, 2005

the calluses on your feet will protect you

I just got this anthology from the nation, and while reading the following poem, thought (or rather felt) a quote from emily dickinson that describes true poetry as that which makes your head feel blown off and send shivers up and down your spine. Where I come from, they say that's the feeling you get when someone walks over your grave. I wonder, does that refer to the cemetery of life present or lives past? experiencing death in the moment, cemetery of nontime?


Two Views of a Cadaver Room

I

The day she visited the dissecting room
They had four men laid out, black as burnt turkey,
Already half unstrung. A vinegary fume
Of the death vats clung to them;
The white-smocked boys started working.
The head of his cadaver had caved in,
And she could scarcely make out anything
In that rubble of skull plates and old leather.

In their jar the snail-nosed babies moon and glow.
He hands her the cut-out heart like a cracked heirloom.

II

In Breughel's panorama of smoke and slaughter
Two people only are blind to the carrion army:
He, afloat in the sea of her blue satin
Skirts, sings in the direction
Of her bare shoulder, while she bends,
Fingering a leaflet of music, over him,
Both of them deaf to the fiddle in the hands
Of the death's-head shadowing their song.
These Flemish lovers flourish; not for long.

Yet desolation, stalled in paint, spares the little country
Foolish, delicate, in the lower right hand corner.

-sylvia plath, the nation, january 30, 1960

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