My Interview With I.A. Richards by Göran Printz-Påhlson
Inversion is a counterfeit experience
there is but one irreversibility.
Chestnuts, rabid squirrels, slosh and sleet,
the sullen, birdstained wisdom of John Harvard.
O Fyffes bananas, obscene planks,
the flexes bared to vision like the sinews
in Vessalius. I grope my way
through the intestines of heuristic house.
Last night we heard in Kresge Hall
a lion-vested English poet fulminate
like an under-paid volcano against science,
applauded by a host of boffins.
Afterwards, a girl called Shirley took my hand
and wished to lead me through the maze
toward the magus posing there as Tannhäuser,
fettered with electric wires in a great maidenform.
“I never liked the man.” – “Grotesque…”
His face (a breakfast fruitjuice of a face
–like Santa’s after years of seven daily shaves)
frowns towards the window. I try
another angle – Oxford, Cambridge, the sad
dignified silence of his friend,
the poise of Perry Miller as a demon.
He floats like Peter Pan towards his country.
Suddenly, the telephone in boredom
jumps from the cluttered table, spelling
its coincidence of quick relief:
the establishing of friends of future
forfeits the nodding present, and we drift
through mists of April with the sleepy
drone of summer knocking at the door.
Time leaves us breathless at its wake.
The evenings walk together, and we flee,
convened, rebuffed, solidified and sad.
Memory whistles round that cataleptic hour,
wasted to the world but not to me.
The silent voice behind that black receiver
will speak and ask and read a poem
about the mountaineers of mind (if mind has
mountains) with verses streaming from their rucksacks.
One evening in the future we shall meet
and speak of music, indigestion and delight,
and Connie, lovely Connie, will comply
to show her knickers on request. The night
is full of eyes, and trees, and bushes
bristle with the flat twang of summer.
We finish our drinks and walk away.
My wife and I walk home in silence.
Friend, there is a carrot-farm in heaven
providing food for rabbits, remedies
for nightblindness. In your preferment
of the second-rate, Battersea Park amusements,
walks at night through warm, protective darkness,
tarry awhile, and first consider
those who dwell in darkness through the night
with electronic eyes, blistered by insights.
Drinking soda pop and smoking
innumerable cheap cigarettes. They
are the Kierkegaards of their own destruction,
breathing hatred on their bellies. Pity them.
But think also of the truly innocent,
the lonely typists in their immaculate rooms
with a small fridge and biscuits on the mantelpiece
where nobody except the caretaker has ever entered.
Friend, poet, the unterminated interview,
unwritten poem, unmade bed, or girl,
call out for completion. Do not
heed them. Learn how to revere
the unfinished, generating moments from its teeth
of happiness, hysteria and love
as useless, beautiful, incongruous and light
as sparks from high-heeled shoes against the flagstones outside M.I.T.
For Constance Horton Greenleaf
In Memory of Ivor Richards and Robert Gessner
Songs of Dock Boggs
There are gridiron reverberations
in the hills, sourmash
from the sheriff’s office.
As the gavroche innocence of a barnyard rape:
He offers a smile, mild
as pick-axe handles a
mile wide which kindles
the hide of rutabegas:
their red necks swabbed
by cool, pale blue grass
in the abstracted stare of poverty.
Bushwacking the melodies of God
for the breakdown of bushfires,
he nurtures illustrious health
with the grating pap
of pink indigence,
plucking the lure of life
from the audible mouchoir moment
when distant authority supperates
the blueridge landscapes of childhood.
Raw death: a clodhopper shovel
smack in the kisser.
In the Style of Scott Skinner
The kelp is not enough. Two hundred
thousand wet sea birds every
minute serve the mind with writs of
constraint in pizzicato dancehalls
all over the moody crags. A lonely kipper
is seen to flounder in the volatile traffic,
leaving his ladder, embarking
for France, land of cotillons and plenty,
prognathous and proud in the strathspey
prattle of little Jacobite girls in terror.
far, far away, o domine, from
glamor-grammer swot and sweet
mountain smell of mossy socks in Allenvale!
[“In the Style of Scott Skinner” originally appeared in the
Notre Dame Review]