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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Ode to Meaning


 

Dire one and desired one,
Savior, sentencer—

In an old allegory you would carry
A chained alphabet of tokens:

Ankh Badge Cross.
Dragon,
Engraved figure guarding a hallowed intaglio,
Jasper kinema of legendary Mind,
Naked omphalos pierced

By quills of rhyme or sense, torah-like: unborn
Vein of will, xenophile
Yearning out of Zero.

Untrusting I court you. Wavering
I seek your face, I read
That Crusoe's knife
Reeked of you, that to defile you
The soldier makes the rabbi spit on the torah.
"I'll drown my book" says Shakespeare.

Drowned walker, revenant.
After my mother fell on her head, she became
More than ever your sworn enemy. She spoke
Sometimes like a poet or critic of forty years later.
Or she spoke of the world as Thersites spoke of the heroes,
"I think they have swallowed one another. I
Would laugh at that miracle."

You also in the laughter, warrior angel:
Your helmet the zodiac, rocket-plumed
Your spear the beggar's finger pointing to the mouth
Your heel planted on the serpent Formulation
Your face a vapor, the wreath of cigarette smoke crowning
Bogart as he winces through it.

You not in the words, not even
Between the words, but a torsion,
A cleavage, a stirring.

You stirring even in the arctic ice,
Even at the dark ocean floor, even
In the cellular flesh of a stone.

Gas. Gossamer. My poker friends
Question your presence
In a poem by me, passing the magazine
One to another.

Not the stone and not the words, you
Like a veil over Arthur's headstone,
The passage from Proverbs he chose

While he was too ill to teach
And still well enough to read,
I was
Beside the master craftsman
Delighting him day after day, ever
At play in his presence
—you

A soothing veil of distraction playing over
Dying Arthur playing in the hospital,
Thumbing the Bible, fuzzy from medication,
Ever courting your presence,
And you the prognosis,
You in the cough.

Gesturer, when is your spur, your cloud?
You in the airport rituals of greeting and parting.
Indicter, who is your claimant?
Bell at the gate. Spiderweb iron bridge.
Cloak, video, aroma, rue, what is your
Elected silence, where was your seed?

What is Imagination
But your lost child born to give birth to you?

Dire one. Desired one.
Savior, sentencer—

Absence,
Or presence ever at play:
Let those scorn you who never
Starved in your dearth. If I
Dare to disparage
Your harp of shadows I taste
Wormwood and motor oil, I pour
Ashes on my head. You are the wound. You
Be the medicine. 

 

                                                  —Robert Pinsky

 

 

"Ode to Meaning" is reprinted from Jersey Rain, ©2001 with the kind permission of Robert Pinsky and publisher Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

 




Robert Pinsky, Emma Dodge Hanson

OUR NATIONAL TREASURE 

 

Presidential Poet, Robert Pinsky

 

 

Guest Poet Robert Pinsky is a Yank and a poet with a pen-swing that dances to the jazz of a smoky beat—Satchmo, Harry Belefonte, Lena Horne.

   

A New York Times Book Reviewer once noted: “Pinsky is our finest living specimen of this sadly rare breed, and the poems of Gulf Music are among the best examples we have of poetry’s ability to illuminate not only who we are as humans, but who we are—and can be—as a nation.”

 

The staff at Grey Sparrow have whispered for months, Robert Pinsky is coming to the Journal —that time has arrived.   

 

Meet Robert Pinsky, our national treasure, complete with credentials of brilliance and charm.