Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I build a giant mountain in the centre of my living room. My wife and children climb it. ‘Because it was there,’ they call from the summit near the fluorescent lights. I fall asleep on the couch, a white lily spilling from beneath my ratty MY OTHER BELLY IS A SIX PACK t-shirt. The TV hums. It is our grandfathers asking the dawn to give us another chance. Our grandmothers, somewhere in back of the TV, stir the electronics and laugh their toothless laugh. It doesn’t depend on us, they say to the grandfathers.

I am dreaming. I am a vast potato floating near the buttery shores of the cosmic sea. I dream the world and it goes on forever. Through the windows of the living room, my children see far across the city and the air-conditioned breeze chaps their faces red. My wife is safe from cancer; birds nibble at her ears; build nests from her skin and feed their flightless babies. Teach them flying. In one nest, an egg neglects to hatch. It is huge. I dream it is the sun, hot and quiet above us. In every day there is a liquid bird sloshing its wings inside the sun. I dream the world, my back, the bruised couch. Day breaks but my children fix it with spit and snot and snowflakes. We get another chance.


gary barwin said...

So this is the problem I always have with endings. I'd like to wrap up with something deep, something consoling, but don't want it to just be a platitude or some opaque truism.

I'm thinking in the above piece to replace the last line (which is perhaps to obvious and unmediated) with "The moon fails" which is much less obvious and thus less directly consoling. I want to do both these things at once.

The best poems are able to pull this off. James Tate talks about this in his recent Paris Review interview, how he wants to begin a poem with shear invention, humour, and exploration, but that he wants to bring it round towards something moving. Is this the best thing for him? Do his best poems do this? I wonder. My favourite poem of his is the last poem in "The Shroud of the Gnome," about the blind shampooers. It is lovely and inspiring and leaves you with a sense of the transcendent but you don't have any idea why, or even what the transcendent is transcending.

But then again, even my seeing eye dog needs a seeing eye dog.

Razovsky said...

I find it very difficult to have a favourite James Tate poem. Even getting beyond his poems of several decades ago, like "The Lost Pilot" and "Rape in the Engineering Building."