The above is a photo taken at my former place of work, Smith Family Bookstore in Eugene, Oregon.
I found myself a little home(stacks)sick this past week as I took a stroll at a nearby bookstore. For me, there’s no real comparing bookstores with each other because, given enough time, things happen at one store that you carry with you no matter where you go.
The used bookstore here in Cincy has found a place in my reading memory for being the place where I ran across this week’s poem by James Merrill.
Merrill is a poet I’ve long been trying to get into. I’ve picked up books of his in NYC, Corpus Christi, & the above store in Eugene.
This week, however, I found the key into his work. It’s the kind of personal connection that is too bright to see clearly, you just say: Wow! I found the poem! I share it with you folks in that spirit.
I hope you marvel as I did at how he builds playfully and intriguingly into and out of a dream. The line: Fingers were running in panic over the flute’s nine gates, alone gets me going all over again.
I also was moved to find out what wisteria looks like because of this poem. Here you go:
The Mad Scene – James Merrill
Again last night I dreamed the dream called Laundry.
In it, the sheets and towels of a life we were going to share,
The milk-stiff bibs, the shroud, each rag to be ever
Trampled or soiled, bled on or groped for blindly,
Came swooning out of an enormous willow hamper
Onto moon-marbly boards. We had just met. I watched
From outer darkness. I had dressed myself in clothes
Of a new fiber that never stains or wrinkles, never
Wears thin. The opera house sparkled with tiers
And tiers of eyes, like mine enlarged by belladonna,
Trained inward. There I saw the cloud-clot, gust by gust,
Form, and the lightning bite, and the roan mane unloosen.
Fingers were running in panic over the flute’s nine gates.
Why did I flinch? I loved you. And in the downpour laughed
To have us wrung white, gnarled together, one
Topmost mordent of wisteria,
As the lean tree burst into grief.
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