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… made a whirling world around our house this afternoon; and if the sky stays this clear, UD might be able to see an excellent meteor shower around three AM.

Longtime readers know that UD goes to her upstate New York house every August hoping to lie on the front field and see the perseid shower. She has seen a few of these, but sometimes the moon’s too full, the sky’s too cloudy, whatever.

Now here’s another shower – the Quads – due to appear in ‘thesda, and UD will be ready.

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Meteors tend to do what you’d think they’d do in poetry: They represent short bursts of brilliant life (as in, say, an elegy for Keats), or, more consolingly, they suggest a living universe of which we are somehow eternally a part. Even in way slangy pomo poetry – the contemporary form derived from modern poets like Frank O’Hara, the form UD calls the meta-maunder – you see the same symbolic value the Romantics gave the meteor.

Here, for instance, is a pomo maunder.

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Death, Is All

by Ana Božičević [Click on this link to read the poem uninterrupted by UD‘s commentary.]

I woke up real early to write about death (the lake through the trees) from
the angle of the angel. There’s the kind of angel that when I say
Someone please push me out of the way
Of this bad poem like it was a bus
.—well, it comes running &
tackles me and oh, it’s divine football—Or
in the dream when the transparent buses
came barreling towards us:—it was there.

[Loose, drifty, stream of pedestrian consciousness… This is Rilke brought down from the Chateau de Muzot to talk about angels in the argot of the American everyday. Angels protect us from truly destructive collisions with the too-blunt — too transparent — truths of our lives and deaths.]

Half of all Americans say

they believe in angels. And why shouldn’t they.
If someone swoops in to tell them how death’s a fuzzy star that’s
full of bugles, well it’s a hell of a lot better
than what they see on TV: the surf much too warm for December, and rollercoasters
full of the wounded and the subconscious
that keep pulling in—

[Taken too far, though, this angel-thing can get a little silly — can become a way of denying even the fact of our deaths, fuzzying things up until it’s all about vague comforting lies.]

Who wants to believe

death’s just another life inside a box, tale-pale or more vivid?
Not me. Like in Gladiator, when they showed the cypresses
flanking the end-road—O set
Your sandal, your tandem bike, into the land of shadows—of course
I cried. Show me a cypress and I’ll just go off, but
I don’t want that to be it.

[I haven’t the slightest idea what death is, but I’m not going to fall for myths and fables of an afterworld, a tale more pale or more vivid than the one I’m living, but still a tale, still a series of events happening to a being who continues to be me. I mean, I’m perfectly capable of falling emotionally for the kitsch of some imagined human sequel, but rationally I know better.]

Or
some kind of poem you can never find your way out of! And sometimes

I think I nod at the true death: when from a moving train
I see a house in the morning sun
and it casts a shadow on the ground, an inquiry
and I think “Crisp inquiry”
& go on to work, perfumed of it—that’s the kind of death
I’m talking about.

[So we can’t really know, but we sense that there are fake deaths (mythic deaths, mythic tv deaths) and truer deaths, deaths we intuit by being alive to what around us is fragile and perishing and somehow trying to transmit truths. Amid morning sunlight, a contrasting ground-shadow reminds us – in a non-painful way, a way having nothing to do with buses barreling into you – that darkness underlies light.

We catch death’s perfume in moments like these.]

An angle of light. Believe in it. I believe in the light and disorder of the word
repeated until quote Meaning unquote leeches out of it.

[She’s a poet, a writer. She may not have the faith of a Christian in angels, but she has the faith of the writer in the way intense receptivity to the world’s angles, combined with patient efforts to get the better of words, may generate meaning – even transcendent meaning.]

And that’s
what I wanted to do with dame Death, for you:
repeat it until you’re all, What? D-E-A-T-H? ‘Cause Amy
that’s all it is, a word, material in the way the lake through the trees
is material, that is: insofar, not at all.
Because we haven’t yet swam in it. See what I mean?
I see death, I smell death, it moves the hair on my face but

I don’t know where it blows from.

[Perfumed of it, she explains to her friend, who I guess has asked her to tell her about death. I smell it, I sense it – in a visceral way – all around me in the world, but since I haven’t experienced it – haven’t swam in it – I can’t say anything more about it.]

And in its sources is my power.
I’m incredibly powerful in my ignorance. I’m incredible, like some kind of fuzzy star.
The nonsense of me is the nonsense of death,

[Death is the mother of beauty, says Wallace Stevens; our felt sense of the brevity and value of our lives, our own nonsensical forms of fuzzy-star imagining — these are the sources of individual creative power.]

and
Oh look! Light through the trees on the lake:

the lake has the kind of calmness
my pupils’ surface believes…and this is just the thing
that the boxed land of shades at the end of the remote
doesn’t program for:

[Isn’t it more plausible to think of death as an ineffable calm final beauty, a beauty the world sometimes gently forecasts for us in dark-and-light moments, rather than a packaged, fully pre-imagined plot?]

the lake is so kind to me, Amy,
and I’ll be so kind to you, Amy, and so we’ll never die:
there’ll be plenty of us around to
keep casting our inquiry
against the crisp light.

[Love’s the ticket – above all, we cherish our sense of a fundamentally well-intentioned world. Richard Wilbur puts it this way:

“I feel that the universe is full of glorious energy, that the energy tends to take pattern and shape, and that the ultimate character of things is comely and good. I am perfectly aware that I say this in the teeth of all sorts of contrary evidence, and that I must be basing it partly on temperament and partly on faith, but that’s my attitude.”

Comely and good, we take care of one another and we take care of the world, generation after generation.]

Light is all like,
what’s up, I’m here I’m an angel! & we’re
all: no you’re not, that doesn’t exist. We all laugh and laugh…

Or cry and cry. The point is, it’s words, and so’s
death. Even in that silence
there’s bird calls or meteors or something hurtling
through space: there’s matter and light. I’ve seen it
through the theater of the trees and it was beautiful

It cut my eyes and I didn’t even care

I already had the seeing taken care of. Even in the months I didn’t have
a single poem in me, I had this death and this love, and how’s
that not enough? I even have a quote:
Love is the angel

Which leads us into the shadow, di Prima.

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One Response to “Snow flurries in wind and sunlight…”

  1. GTWMA Says:

    My wife climbed out of bed at 3 AM and was rewarded with 10 meteor sightings. I hoped for a few during my 5:30 AM dogwalk, but it was too cloudy by then.

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