Sunday, July 17, 2011

ceteris paribus

I would be remiss if I did not give a hat-tip at the outset to the late great Czeslaw Milosz, who made memorable use of the words "absence" and "counterfulfillment" in his poem "How It Was." (Read it aloud, please. Slowly, but not too slowly. Try to sort of waft the words out, like you're smoking a pipe in a warm garage. If the similitude is lost on you, then, please, go smoke a pipe in a warm garage. Black Cavendish would be best, but, really, just smoke what you have. Under no circumstances are you to read this poem silently. Phone up Ian McKellen or James Earl Jones and have them read it for you before you even think of reading it silently. Do as you wish with my poem, but you treat Milosz's work with the respect it deserves, d'ya hear me??) Though the poem was originally in Polish, the collection in which it is found, Bells In Winter, was translated into English by Milosz himself, along with Lillian Vallee, so I feel justified in crediting him, especially for "counterfulfillment." What an awesome, heavy word.

+ + +

for KB

I cannot help but notice the
Hole in the space beside me.
It bespeaks absence, placeless
Listing. An abrogation.

At the oddest times the thought will
Strike me: This moment, those times,
Should have been shared, but
Were instead spent solitarily.

It seems a pity, then, that
Clichés stand so readily by
To describe the sentiment of
Missing one held dear.

In light of this, a poem seems
Arduously self-conscious,
A protest against the reality of

How might one attest the fact?
How memorialize counter-fulfillment,
Shame, regret, et cetera, if all are so
Immensely old-hat for the Muse?

Wordsworth, Neruda and the Bard
Are of no help: They dumped me here,
Disconsolate, tipsy, on an untilled field
With nothing to plow with but a pen.

Well then.
I'll roll up my sleeves.
I'll try:

It was like a feeble hop
In lieu of a walk.

A whiff in place of
A draught.

Lonesome self-assurance,
Being alright, instead of delight.

I suppose none of this was really bad.
Just cheap.



  1. I'm going to wait for James Earl Jones before I start on the Milosz poem. Well, either that or wait till I can get my brother's pipe full of Black Cavendish.

    Yours, was lovely...judging from the content, I was just telling my brother that it's obnoxious that most of my best poetry arises from emotions I'd rather not have. I think I really felt it with "Being alright, instead of delight." But the whole thing certainly speaks to the heart.

  2. Great write-up, I am a big believer in commenting on blogs to inform the blog writers know that they’ve added something worthwhile to the world wide web!.. paribus