Sunday, August 16, 2009

The limits undone, by Neile Graham

Giuseppe Verdi - Kyrie Eleison, Requiem Aeternam
NBC Symphony Orchestra, Arturo Toscanini conductor (1940)

I call it sorrow that makes me leave
this house; unfolding the cloth that covers
the windows, I am closing the eyes of the dead.
It's grey, raining outside and it suits me well,
pulling the door to, turning the key in the familiar
lock one last time.
...............................This time I forgot to say
goodbye to each room, like I did as a child,
so I step through the soggy leaves and circle
the house trying to make it whole.

If I knew the words to make the sort
of spell this needs I would say them. Instead I walk
to the car, try not to look back.

Suddenly I'm miles away in the rain
on the highway and can't remember how
I got this far; the windshield wipers
scrape in front of my eyes and I'm driving inland -
away from the land's end,
from the house at the edge of it.

If I stare out the attic window at the night sea
I cannot quite make out where shore ends
and ocean begins: the limits of everything
undone in the darkness just as on the highway
grey road dissolves to grey sky.

I am leaving nothing, take the weight of my life
down this road, though I thought I had left
it behind. Sorrow, like darkness, like rain,
blurs all borders and everything comes flooding in -

I greet each room like a child.

from Spells for clear vision (Brick Books, 1994)
thank you Prospero for the music


Prospero said...

for me, great art touches without crossing or intersecting. It is being on the crest of a wave.

In geometry it is called a tangent. It touches a curve or surface only at a single point.

everything is there, without being there.

The requiem Aeternam is a disappearing act without disappearance.

road dissolves to sky

m said...

if it were more than a tangent, how would we stand it? ... beauty's disdain to annihilate us...

disappearing act without disappearance, that's what it is. beautiful words.

billoo said...

hello, mani! :-)

didn't realise you had this other blog. Er..that's all I've got to say, really. Just wanted to say hello (which I've already done, so I've made a complete hash of this comment and will probably delete it).




m said...

don't delete it - i'm very happy to see your name and have you visit.

i'm running to put the kettle on.

Prospero said...

Gorchakov tells his Italian guide, Eugenia, that "like all art, poetry is untranslatable." Earlier in Nostalghia we hear the chant of a Russian peasant which yields to Verdi's Aeternam requiem. Gorchakov, the Russian poet longs for his homeland. The music of two nations is intertwined. Is music translatable?

m said...


And so

it has taken me

all of sixty years

to understand

that water is the finest drink,

and bread the most delicious food,

and that art is worthless

unless it plants

a measure of splendor in people's hearts.

~ Taha Muhammad Ali ~

(So What: New and Selected Poems, 1971-2005,
translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin)