Nike (Victory) Adjusting Her Sandal
Relief from the balustrade of the Temple of Athena Nike
Marble. 3 feet 6 inches high, c. 410-404 BCE
(Acropolis Museum, Athens)
Marble. 3 feet 6 inches high, c. 410-404 BCE
(Acropolis Museum, Athens)
Animula, vagula, blandula
Hello, Little Thing, wandering and ineffable,
who now lives pleasantly (vaguely?)
with me as my “soul”--
once you've gone off, thinning, wan,
to that barren, X-ed out location,
we won't be together
the way we're used to being--
and you won't be cracking
all those jokes you used to,
“O whither, whither dost thou fly,
Where bend unseen thy trackless course,
And in this strange divorce,
Ah tell where I must seek this compound I?
. . . .
Yet canst thou without thought or feeling be?
O say what art thou, when no more thou'rt thee?”
Italicized selection is from Anna Laetitia Barbauld's translation of “Animula, vagula, blandula”
Authoritative words will range
beyond uncertainty, a sublime defining sound.
Yet I’ve made another zone, where the strange
orphics of the first will get turned around.
I might have said it’s hard to give up icons.
For here's a further sonnet where the Femme-
thing pivots, costumed as another paragon,
and locks into a poem. Is this the thing I am?
But really. Time for volta. Let it go.
Open being, tune
to that expansive resonance in the universe
of is-ness, its moody, gorgeous largeness.
Marvel to walk here, on these paths of bliss
even through rocky fields of sadness
with female compost rotting inside unmarked sites of ruin.
Yet hers another sonnet where the Femme-thing is given another please. I meant another plea. A zone. Here her; hear her. Dressed and re-dressed, custom after costume; is there any redress? You’d have to strip the poem, not the girl.
Yes, the marvel, the orphic turn, transcendence. This is privilege. Who can avoid their little bit of that? One must be true to what one knows. This doubleness. The girl-children hanging from a tree, raped and murdered. Or raped, and then self-murdered. Where does the resonant universe end and ethics begin? Shouldn’t they be co-terminus? simultaneous?
Punctual sites of ruin. Traces of the unmentionable sites of ruin. Ruins of the traces. Further erosion. How can the unmarked trace of the ever-whispered evanescent unremarked ever begin to be re-traced and tracked, un-murked and marked?
I am Eurydice questioning what I am doing.
Something bad had bitten me: I swelled up.
I am angry again, reverting, inside the
pretensions of poetry, its
endless mode of mythic memory,
I feel acute marginality.
of flowers. But still flowers!
Je est un diner at Exit 59,
Open 24 Hours,
the menu serving up
the sweets, from centuries of Rose.
Or its rancid opposite--diner coffee.
But nothing will fit.
Why am I questioning myself?
Why again this?
Nobody knows how to say me,
what to call it,
not even I.
Can no one say a name, just one just name
for this clot of blockage?
But why do I insist
on only “one name.”
Or that someone else say it.
Or that the names are me and my.
I fail my plethora.
My power lies
in the generative dissolve
The sphinx was there before Oedipus. She was the mystery to face.
Eurydic--what is it? It's awkward change?
while “orphic” is defined as long
lament, loss, beauty, and the strange
desire of trees, crept close to hear his song.
Eurydics? empty presences? zero-hero-ness?
a silent black intensity so strong
it tempts his glance back. His loss
lies in longing to see her, check her. He was wrong
but right. Was she in fact following his path?
Is she one thing, or pluralities of words,
some uncontrolled cross-currents of morass.
“The opposite of pain is pain, of ruth is ruth.
Her song is secret. Her sound is dim, unheard....”
Such poignancy denies the truth.
“Against the black”
wide as woe and racing as the world of need--cry out!
I am the language and I am the shout.
note: cited words from H.D.,”Eurydice”
Ah, it is amazing, this desire for authenticity, for the life of life, insofar as lives are sacred. And all are sacred. Therefore all are called. To hear is to be ready to answer. To answer is to build a shadow world: argument expands and thins, all so evocative, filled with hypotheticals but ready for risk. Thus to call out is to risk the risk. And to answer is to hope and to fear. All are scared, too; doesn’t sound as fine. Nor does scarred.
Such a practice, gaining and losing, rusting and disappointing says that no text, no matter how important, is ever finished and complete, but rather continuously generative, almost magical, even in its dramatic wounds. To write is an act of expansive unfixing; something rather demonic as well as something painful has happened. Intimate. Desirous. One day. Now. Frightened.
“The white fire of unnumbered stars.” It's true. Each star a little pint of milk, as for kids in school, giving you some new sidelight, lining up on the side of sidereal time.
Are fixed. But the planets present to our swimming ken just skim across the sky. One can see why they were called the “wanderers.” I’m actually my own opposite. My stakes have blind spots, too. But look up, Look! Venus and Jupiter hardly an "inch" apart. Right now!
Could I follow both their doubled wanderings?
“Three pinpoints of light” –did I have to choose among? I was locked in my half-gone body, could not exit and transcend; I had to wait, but why? Probably stupid doubt. The whole culture fell on my head. Oh, that! What did it cost to act? to travel out? to investigate? I gathered myself up, I waited for finality, but also failed to understand what love could accomplish with its precipitous yearning. I had once been on course, awkwardly tracing the rocky path, inclined to waver and become dizzied by this sudden exercise.
And besides, I was dead. Is this a metaphor, an image? who is this I--as mechanism here a tiny ticking machine run down. “Death cannot be lived,” he said, that man pulsing with knowledge of sexual urgency in everything, his thrilling energy. But my death was. I lived once then. And then I died again, but with a singing (intermittent? hollow? chipped?), a barely hearable exhaled breath. A cool draft from a side vent: that was me. I lived but also sepulchered a labyrinthine cave inside. It was beyond dark. Inside out was how I turned. I was an avalanche. I killed myself. A finding: There are grumbling under-numbered myths that hardly do get told. Or even made. Or hardly thought. But they hiss in the seams between porous sediments. Sentiments. And when I think them, if I do, reception staggers through darker broken shards from the erosion loosening the zones. The same, as though light. Like him I go as both, but all reversed. Verso verse. All reversed, but also turning, revolving.
Volta cannot happen only once. Like a bolt o’ volta. It is a way of patterning the ways of going. And now we have “proem,” we have “continuous volta,” we have sonnet as son-net, sondage, and we have the mind of the so-called author in a continuous limp inadequacy, painful to see, provoked to write (give it up! or get on with it!), backing off, sulking in remembered ooze of former wounds, and nursing “ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain.” So belated. So impolitic. So filled with notions.
And something else--a “place no longer to be found, / Yet the lost fragments shall remain/ To fertilize some other ground.” But is it true we cannot find it now? Or remake fragments as to what we need? Why insist that they are “lost”?
Citation from Anne Bradstreet.
Couldn’t there be a constellation
called “Blue Rider”? Turning in the sky
right next to “Moth”? alternative creation
of our zodiac, figured deep inside my eye.
Rising and swinging, woven out of waste,
pendulum-ed sidereal motion, human dust
names the animals, tells the fables, pastes
up shards from cosmic piles of cosmic rust
with metaphor. Like a diagram of stars on cardboard
with little lines between to make pictures of things
like ours, not the stars’ things,
as if stars could sort
out “Moth” or “Horse” or any "thing" at all,
by what wings they have, or feather,
or by what human primer clumps them all together.
Mine as good as any. Mine as seen. The stars are implacable. They
are not our toys or things, however much we want them ours.
Our human dust is really theirs.
The planets pass through conjunctions, wander apart, doll coins
realm being gigantic--
a stylistic problem how to tell this fact. So big
that no one can see it. We’ve made them metaphors for us.
And for unicorns idealized in their tenderness and trust.
But the sight of 20,000 light year stars actually exploding
outside the state, outside the home, outside our solar rounds,
but their own acts in the universe--
what is the biography of this implacable instrument
filled with minerals, chemicals and chance?
Looked at from there, I am nothing.
But I am already nothing--why do I need this nothing underlined?
Because here, in the sight of movements we can see, were created
stories of these stars,
chasing and fighting, abducting and killing and romancing.
An endless repeat of who I am--! is what is said. Do I believe?
Am I obliged?
Are only these tales true?
There is some space—from whence did it emerge?
how does rogue insight get to be deployed?
The oddity is I still feel space unscathed inside
and comfort in its generative void.
“No coward soul is mine.”
note: cited words from Emily Bronte
The in-between is evocative in theory, fraught in practice.
Any discussion is riddled with the unsaid.
I want to confess something, but I’m not sure what.
Is it scraps of the past in which I lived so dazed and vulnerable
that thinking of any event or what befell is like being blinded
by oncoming cars appearing over hills and suddenly fast curves?
A narrow road, at night. That's it? The past recedes still further.
How could it not? Me so in the dark, my memory
is no advantage. But worse still when it gets erased.
Sealed time. Unopenable. The perfect evocation
of the crypt. A cavity in which “conceal” itself is what
it won't release. The verbs are covered with mucus. Is this
the original, or the second trauma? If I’d said, joking,
something about an aesthetic crisis,
if I’d said this without meaning it, just playing
the way one does, who would be surprised
to find out I’m inside it, that it’s true.
Not you. You’re not surprised. But me--I am.
This work without value in the 1920s
got indifferent reviews
degenerate in the 30s
forgotten in the 40s
naïve in the 50s
an awkward bumbling in the 60s
purchased with excuses and cover stories
in 1970, either from prescience or pity,
but then hidden in storage by the Museum
as a shame, as a false move, as a waste of funds.
One of those curatorial errors
to be deplored.
And finally, a triumph—a triumph of the depiction of war, of men, of women,
of life in our time, a work that seems to know everything we needed to know,
a triumph of insight and understanding,
brilliant about its time, an original masterstroke
and thus by 2000 or so, we know it is a triumph, a triumph
because we finally know what we should know.
Should have known, And what it showed us.
Now we really understand it!
Am I right?
First finding, random. At least two figures
taken as distinct, implying different, even alternative
choices. Both golden. Both darkling. Met together. In certain lights.
Second finding. We are “socked in.”
Stick with the feeling, bottomed out.
Can’t see where we are, that fog so thick
in a timeframe and a built substance.
Like being buried alive.
Again, once the initial surprise
has been assimilated, shock remains generative.
Third finding. Or provisional conclusion:
Thus distance is vital: never feeling
quite at home. Epistolarity
often normalizes it (home? distance?), so the question
becomes who are you writing to, as if there were a “who”
or “what” (“dear tree, O tree”; “dear you” “dear O------“).
No one. The thing itself. The it. Uncoupled
from sex, love, knowledge of the past,
although all these saturate, as well;
still, uncoupled from everything except
the necessary and undefinable void.
It was an open/omen operation--
an epistolary exchange between shapeliness
and shapelessness, happening again and again,
rain blowing across the sightlines
with drops so thick and large they catch light’s
refractions. Curves. Several distortions
use the same palette, but different tonalities.
The compulsion is not timelessness but time.
To enter the space of being, it is a constant struggle, lifting the whole with a small lever, pitting one force against another, like pushing an imaginary rock off the mouth of an imaginary cave.
Which of these flames is “the stranger”?
There were smokescreens and guff,
disinformation from the myth—who was
the singer after all, what was
of the figure who got lost…
and was there a ghost?
Where was it hiding?
You threw it higher yet, the highest ever
that pink Spaulding ball
and moved under the underhanded throw
and watched it hover at the parabolic top
Up there, hanging, suspended as such—
How is this possible?
The thing looms whose
You. Dissolved for a second
in the blind spot from the sun.
But Calling. You were always calling.
—Rachel Blau DuPlessis
*These nine separate poem-works are from my fifty-five poem manuscript Eurydics. Based loosely on Sonnets to Orpheus, these began as somewhat unstable sonnets (with Rilke on my mind). Many works include further commentary often in prose, and citations of lines and bits collaged from the historically existing female-gendered poets now present in the Norton Anthology, as part of that chunk o’canon. The book’s premise is, we have a cultural sense of what “orphic” is, but do we have a clue what “eurydic” could possibly be? The book Eurydics was written between 2013 and 2017 as part of a set of books that I called “interstitial” or in-between. In fact, this book might even be called perverse: Persona poems? mythic allusions? sonnets?