Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sonnet 36 – (Keep your eyes open when you kiss) - John Berryman

 Another selection from John Berryman's sonnets has been long overdue.  For some background, the 115 poems, written in the 1940s and in one volume, were a lineal account of a love affair and not published until the mid-1960s.  To me, they are on a par with Neruda's, sharing a richness and passion of expression that is dizzying.  Both are to be read aloud and large, be it in front of the loved one as declarations or alone, as lamentations.  Either way, they are bold and cathartic, with wine or whiskey, day or night.  Sometimes, the syntax in Berryman can sound "Yoda-ish" by its placement of nouns and verbs, and it takes a little bit of effort to "get" all he is doing with language.  But the prize.... the prize when you do is so satisfying that you'll be ashamed of having complained.  Here, in this early one in the arc of the relationship, he turns the traditional "close your eyes when kissing" on its head and riffs on it.... while sticking to the sonnet structure. Wow!
 Sonnet  36 – (Keep your eyes open when you kiss) – John Berryman

Keep your eyes open when you kiss: do: when
You kiss.  All silly time else, close them to;
Unsleeping, I implore you (dear) pursue
In darkness me, as I do you again
Instantly we part . . only me both then
And when your fingers fall, let there be two
Only, “in that dream-kingdom”: I would have you
Me alone recognize your citizen.

Before who wanted eyes, making love, so?
I do now.  However we are driven and hide,
What state we keep all other states condemn,
We see ourselves, we watch the solemn glow
Of empty courts we kiss in . . Open wide
You do, you do, and I look into them.

                                                      John Berryman

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