Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It Happens - M. Blumenthal

I came across Blumenthal (1949- ) in the early 90s through his book Against Romance.  Trained as a lawyer, the calling of poetry was stronger and he has spent his career in the wanderings of an academic as a guest lecturer or visiting professor in various places, including Harvard and Hungary, where he stayed for four years as a Fullbright scholar.  He has won prizes but not the biggies - Pulitzer, National Book Award - and I'm not sure how he stands in the current "ranking" of American poets.   Regardless, his poems have a sardonic tone (sometimes tinged with sorrow), something with which I identify.  We are also contemporaries - he is a few years older - and thus share a common background, at least as far as the course of cultural and societal events.  (On the personal side, as you look at the photo, this is a man whose parents gave him away, almost at birth, to an aunt and uncle, a fact he didn't discover until he was ten years old. )  This poem is his "take" on an experience we have all had...)
It Happens

A man wakes. A woman wakes.
In the separate countries
that are their bodies, it is always
a season, a time of some fruitfulness,
and in their eyes they reveal
the shaken fruition of separate light,
the auspices of an empire
entirely their own. There are flowers
in the vase, tulips perhaps,
and outside, small flakes of snow
feathering into the streets
are a sign of some seasonal ascendancy,
a grief too separate from them
to be of interest, yet part
of the world’s wild order, part
of the making that will become them.

All night, they have shaken their wishes
from themselves like sequins, and they
reach out now, from the rapt attentiveness
of their bodies, to find each other again
in the semi-shock of a world peopled and disparate,
remote yet touchable. He, perhaps, has dreamt
of deer in a yard somewhere, goats
rubbing their clipped horns against a fence,
while she, she is thinking, as he reaches out
to place a hand on her beautiful thigh,
of the red carnation some man once gave her,
in a crowded station in some country
she no longer remembers. The white light
of a wintry day enters the room, and they
do not yet know how great, or small, will be
their love for one another, they do not yet know
whether the song they had sung last night
will survive the resurrected pasts of separate sleep,
whether the whiteness of this dawn is the white
of a clean slate, or merely a fog night has issued
over a continuing clarity, whether love
is really love at all, or whether
what happened before has happened again
and they are two separate empires once more—
drifting off and drifting on, reaching out
for what they once thought was dry land
but is only, alas, another profundity
of deep waters and strange occupants, things
too far beneath the surface to reach out and touch,
to see or to feel, too deep
for even flesh to answer to, or to call.

Michael Blumenthal- American (intimations)

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