The Seven New York Elegies









The Seventh New York Elegy


At the end of the thought about reality,

at the confines of the longest meditation
where the meditating mind becomes the substance
of its meditation and becomes the object
of its meditating, reality becomes
the mind in the shadow of the ultimate thought.
For an ultimate thought must rise at the confines
of the contemplation of the real and the mind,
the way the sun is the maker of summer and it is
summer; yet in summer summer exceeds the sum
of all the solar minutiae and anecdotes
which diffract and herald summer's sovereignty,
the green plum of the sun in the sky's copper blue,
the scent of the green plum in the sky of the mind,
the insect heard as chirp or not heard but supposed,
but added by the mind to deepen the silence
in which all solar sounds converge as single noise,
as the single cicada of the listener
lying with open eyes under the copper tree,
composing out of all a single summertime
which in turn composes him as the summer man,
expression of the hills where he savors his peace,
propounder of the heat in which he meditates.
It may be that the ultimate thought is only
a possibility at the end of all thoughts
when all thoughts are reflections on their own matter
like a sibilant sea which shooes waves on the shore
woven of scintillating sibylline mirrors
in voluminous tiers of volumeless layers,
and moves in motionlessness within its movements,
moves and moves and moves on without ever moving.
It may be that it is not being. Out of reach
either by hand or notion. Above. Aside. Apart
like on July pavement the shadows of July
are of the sun and of the Julian bodies
and yet only a relation between the two,
belonging to neither in utter foreignness.
It may be. The ultimate thought is ultimate
to both reality and the mind and their bond.
It is deduced from their convergence and the ease
with which they both convene in a central season,
the summer in the mind basked in outside summer.
Therefore it may be that it is a shadow,
the ultimate thought, cast by the ultimate the,
whence things come to us as imprecise gerundives.
The ultimate thought then must be most central thought,
the trunk to both the copper tree and summer man,
the sun within the sun and the sum of summer.
It is in it we found the sense of centralness
of the eccentric sites of our experiences.
It is Ulysses in Penelope's ideas.

Crickets' lutes now replace cicadas' psalterions,
blue cantors hidden in the sapphire grass, voices
of modesty. The same scene the sky repeateth,
where stars' chorals succeed to the recitative
of the sun. Her elbows lean on the window sill.
Her chin rests on her palms. Her eyes study the sky,
then the black earth again, outlining vague details
of the opulent night where blurred shapes of hills heave
like the breasts of a giant woman in her sleep.
And the scent of the pine trees by the winding path
which zigzags at their feet is the woman's soft breath
under which mumbled words can be made out. One word,
one single soluble word over and over,
the syllables of which whisper now here now there,
as if they were echoes of a long faded voice,
scattered in the distance of the nostalgic ear,
heard in the rocky fields, where rocks grow out of grass;
by the plane tree's shadow, lighter than the plane tree's
silhouette of high noon against the strident sky;
by the shore where the sea weaves widths of whirring sea;
heard in the dry rustle of the lavender tufts;
in the mosquitoes buzz and the buzz of the heat
of the air, the warm air of the unending wait.
A name.
as if the whole of Ithaca gathered under
this whisper of the name of its absent ruler
the way Penelope gathers herself each day
and each night under the thought of her companion.
It is this time again of the night, this moment
most personal when all are asleep — all as one
singular mass of slumber in the blue manor,
save for Telemachus who tonight sleeps at sea
among playful porpoises and dangerous dreams.
She is alone in her room and paces. The lamp,
on the window, projects her outline on the wall
as if engraving an attic vase: black on red.
She smokes a cigarette slowly. Tobacco bits
stick to her dry lips. She takes a seat by the loom
and sighs. Billows of smoke swirl from her thin nostrils
and one thinks of sea creatures on Cretan craters
in crests of tentacles intertwined with lilies
dancing on frothy waves, half grotesque, half comic.
Today's motifs for the endless embroidery
came easily under her needles and her threads.
She knows not why. She does not wish to know. What is
is what is and should be: this world is a good world,
a world made of the things' placid, quiet goodness.
One's point is to try to remain in harmony
with it. Not very hard — yet such difficulty
to realize that! She takes a pair of scissors
and pauses. A faint smile comes to play on her lips,
part resignation, part acquiescence. The smell
of the sea stands by her like an older sister,
her hand gracefully curved over her blue chiton
holding a diadem of kelp bedecked with shells;
and the smell of pine trees stands by her. She knows them:
she wove them both today in a distant corner
of her never finished tapestry — a tribute
she pays to the island, a way for her to be
closer to that which is. People have come and asked:
“What is all this? You waste your precious time, my Queen.
We see you everyday seated by the window,
a shuttle in your hands, a basket at your feet
in which hanks bang against hanks — most unpleasant noise.
We see you in this hall working from dawn to dusk,
stopping only to smoke or to drink from the jug
your silent servant brings from the well in the yard,
and in which you refuse to let us pour some wine,
the silex scented wine of your fair Ithaca.
No one has been able to make sense of the rag
on your loom. It represents nothing: a few lines,
patches of red and blue, shapes without connection.
Look at my arms, my fists. They can kill a wild ox.
Their bulging muscles swell like the waves of the sea,
and could embrace you as the waves do Ithaca
in the comfort and the actuality of love,
whereas your widowed soul entertains spent fancies
when you weave this carpet unfit for our pig sties.
He is probably dead, the one you're waiting for,
and pearls grow in the holes that were his clever eyes.
I am not. You will be if you go on like that.
You can't live ever overshadowed by a ghost.”
It may be he is dead indeed. But dead for them.
Not for her. For her he is the heat of her heart
so brilliant now, even she cannot behold it.
She hears him and sees him, but not with eyes or ears:
she perceives him as thought — the thought behind each thought;
its source and center and strength and circumference
for which death is a word. It is as if a god —.
But he is not a god. It is as if —. She lights another cigarette,
leans her back on the wall. He is — the asymptote.
He is the abscise of her life's coordinates,
to which she would move closer, ever so closer,
yet knowing she cannot ever reach it. He is
the gorging pleasure when she bites into a fig:
the pleasure comes to her from without not within.
Yet it lies not in the fruit either, but between
the woman and the gourd of purple gritty grains.
He is the interval through which all is exchanged:
the act for its result, the thing for its idea;
the idea for another idea, a feeling,
a shadow, a daydream, some hazy emotion,
an image — or a thing hitherto unperceived,
a relation between things, a subtle pattern,
a motif. She lives in the summer of his sun,
knowing he is a projection of her desire
for an endless season of summery splendor,
a magnification, in reality's sky,
of her longing for him and of her memories;
yet knowing her desire to be part of the sun
not part of her. She looks at the night and she sighs.
How difficult it is to think in the nearness
of one's own origin; there, words are bumble-bees
dropping dead around one like they do in winter,
with a last buzz, before being burnt by snow-bites.
How difficult it is to be near one's being,
to be, and yet to know being from a distance,
know it as the impossible conjugation,
the last, ultimate thought to end all other thoughts,
the love one never felt, though it was one's own love,
the final Ithaca both seen and never seen.
At the extreme of her vision but the extreme
remains to be perceived and established... The sea
swells between pine tree trunks like an ecchymosis
of lustral lymph. The night smells of geraniums
and warm mica. She inhales profoundly. Scents waft
around her: dry ground, dry bark, dry darkness — odors
of a world of goodness steeped in ceaseless summer.
The peace of things which are what they are surrounds her
soothing her, deepening her passion for their peace.
She goes back to the loom. A gold-winged owl takes flight
and its ululations complete the night's landscape,
making it the landscape where an ultimate thought
may be thought, yet never completed — does exist,
but only as project of the contemplator,
as the wake of the owl the eyes cannot follow.
Now the scissors begin to snip through her day's work
and figures slowly disappear which were lions,
deer, forests, ideas, emotions — the alphabet
with which she spelled, over and over: Ulysses,
in Ithacan parlance — while crickets in the grass,
cantors of the cathedral of the lapis night,
echo the clipping sounds on their crisp citharas.

Let us think of a life lived from the postulate
that there is an ultimate thought. On the china
of the most simple mind it piles up perceptions
of the most abstruse kind, gathered from the garden
of a nearby reality seen thoughtfully
through a window ajar, one July afternoon
where the light of the day is a rock of crystal
in which all things are caught both as things and crystal,
as if they were conceptions of themselves, holders
of the truth of their truth, yet merely instances
of synonymy, words substituted for words
in the endless chatter of our voluble world.
There, before one sees trees, the crystal of the tree
comes to one, arboreal effulgence, and the day
shimmers before one's eyes, turquoise pulverulence,
and the light spins cobwebs of topaz among leaves.
In such a life, the garden and its beholder
result from the workings of a meditation
within the most abstract mind they both have evolved,
part idea and part apricot. Reality
becomes a revelation and a pronouncement,
where A and the projections of A, which the mind
continually conceives to know A in Ahood
and from it deduce B and the whole alphabet
of his pleasure, mingle in a single substance,
Alpha and Omega of the world of being,
where abstract suns beget actual, sensuous summers.
And the mind too becomes his own revelation,
that which, to reality, is reality's
echo and paradise, but earthly paradise,
Eden of dirt and dearth and death and bliss, Eden
as magnified silhouette of the here-and-now,
not the glory alone — but the glory also,
not the sole poverty — but poverty as well,
the fish bone in the plate of the poor fisherman,
and the wine of the night pressed by the sun's treading.
The ultimate thought, then, is an hypothesis,
from the formulation of which we may derive
a theory of life that is itself good life,
is the life that we live in the world we live it,
yet is its simultaneous epic transcription,
carmina majora, apocalypse, poem,
where each of us appears as his own Ulysses
and as heptameter composed by life's Homer.
The ultimate thought is ultimate Ithaca.

The churning and chirping and chanting of the sea,
the salacious beverage in cups of brouhaha,
fills his ears and the air. The day is emerald.
The clamorous people of the foam rush ashore
in a chaotic line of stampeding hurry,
then recede, mumbling ambiguous prayers,
and return to the sea to mingle with the sea.
A bird flies high above and his extended wings
seem to enlarge the sky, to deepen its soft depths
with an almost poignant insistence. From bushes
above his head glide puffs of constricted odors:
brittle and thorny leaves, decaying wood, dry rocks,
acrid chitin, compost. The fragrance of the earth
is so much more compact than the smell of the sea,
so much more local and condensed, like a peasant
hunched over the loaf of bread of his meal. A grouse
gobbles in the distance, bristles its copper tail,
then dissolves again into the grassy silence.
He does not wish to move yet. He lays on his back,
his face turned upward toward the sun and the sky,
his palms firmly pressing against the sand. His eyes
see nothing but the light of the translucent day
and the bird captive in the circles of its flight.
He rests in the certitude of the land, breathing
the certitude, letting it become him, become
the ground on which to meet with the thought of the land.
Ten years have now gone by since he left Ithaca,
ten long years at the end of which he came to learn
that it was Ithaca which left him, that he had
never been in Ithaca, never had a home,
or a wife, or a son. It had to be conquered,
that which for Ulysses is home. It had to be
willed first as what would be, and become, his and him;
built detail by detail, not drawn from remembrance
but from his own desire detached from what it had,
when it was not desire thereof, but sheer blindness
to the place which had been there, a long time ago.
It took time: ten odd years to found one's true dwelling
not as place in the past, but as place of the place,
the place as the idea of a place, as a thought
as precise as Ithaca was real, was island,
was body of blunt rocks and booming cicadas,
reclining on the bed of the sea, extending
its arms of lean pine trees to bid the sun to come
share its couch, and its dreams among the cicadas.
It took time to devise the blueness of the sky,
the peculiar dryness of hill stones, the fragrance
of the long afternoons which stretch between August
and pensive October, lined like espalier trees
crucified by the weight of a cosmos of plums
and frenzied wasps and bees; time to tend to the grass
growing from the first seed to the first blade swaying
under its first blossom of unrefined flowers;
one had to think of everything: grain, textures;
colors fading into more subtle colorings
in autumn; things massive in summer dwindling
to mere scrawny doodles in winter; forms of fruit
and forms of smells of fruit and forms of their decay.
Ulysses composed Ithaca at last, island
in the mind, suffused in the perennial sun
of his impersonal desire and he peopled it
with people made of thought, a tribe consubstantial
to its landscape and to the weather of its skies,
men and women begotten by their surroundings,
in ringing harmony with the earth they walked on,
with the moon they slept with, with the pains they suffered
and the joy they attained. At time, he would mingle
with them, invisible: a thought of theirs; a sigh
of pensive contentment at the end of their day,
where the body resembles a redolent fruit
almost exhausted by its own ripeness; a word
evading from their half parted mouths; an idea
contained like a kernel in a larger idea.
He became the result of his thoughts, the object
of his meditating mind, both father and son,
and thus founded a home which was his to desire,
his to wish to come back to and rule. Now he could
experience nostalgia and yearning for he lived
in a world which extended beyond Ulysses
in every direction, both inward and outward,
from which he could behold the real in changingness
and call it a good world in the light of desire,
like a plum ripening just in time for one's thirst
in the mutable light of a single summer,
and see it as the ultimate world in the thought
of the ultimate thought.
                                     The day as emerald
turned to day as turquoise. The sun was half the sky.
It hung in the foliage of its rays like a fruit
the flying bird was about to peck and gorge on.
The people of the foam kept coming and going,
crushing in their hurry their presents of sea-shells
and sea-weeds, forgetting the reason of their rush,
remembering only the extreme urgency
of their need to worship. The fragrance of the earth
arrayed him, welcoming him with benevolence.
All that which was was near, nearer than perfection;
all that which was was there, and he a part of it.
Ulysses rose. He smiled. He inhaled profoundly
the mellow profusion of the redolent air.
Trees shadows were inscribing on the umber ground
the first line of the poem of the turquoise day
in large letters specked with diacritical birds.
A thrush was heard — or maybe the wish for a thrush
sustained in high blue air a high note of pleasure,
which soared above the land and became, for the land,
its idea, its concept, its truth, drowning the drone
of the sea in endless, mellifluous lilting,
merging all sounds into one single utterance.
The thought and what it thought were now coinciding.
Unhurriedly Ulysses started walking home.

To think is to relate. To think is to study
the virtual poem of being and, thinking
about its rhymes and stresses, to grow the garden
where summer rules... We live in the world of winter,
of fall, of pallid springs and incomplete summers,
metaphysical paupers, devisers of hells
which we call home for lack of imagination,
for lack of confidence in this world physical.
Yet another summer summons us, vivid host,
at the end of the thought of our poverty,
from over the snowed fence behind which we shiver.
It is for us to see that it exists, for us
to set its second sun by the sun manifest
so that it shines for us and for the other sun
with the changing brilliance of an ultimate thought.
It must be so. The time has come. It will be so.
We are here and we are now: in reality
and in the mind. The point of junction of the two
is what remains to be brought to being, installed
as sun, at the center of our changing seasons,
so that even under the pressure of winter,
the frost frilled spruce, the uniformity of snow,
the simplification of glassy January,
the blue lips stuttering a speech of icicles,
the house without fire, the mind without allies,
we may know summertime and in summertime live,
projection in the world of the necessity
we feel for a lusher order, and pronouncement
of the necessity of the world as it is.
The idea of summer — the idea of summer
is the idea of man as copper tree, bearing
the green plum of the sun, sheathed in the sky's turquoise;
he grows at the center of the life which is his,
and from which no distance separates him; of which
he is the form and project, the meditation,
the propounder and keen theorizer, scholar
of its minutest scholia, profound abstracter;
his words are made of birds and of clouds, and his thoughts
are the nights alternating with the days, green dawns
turning into green days melting into green nights
in a single circle of green repetitions,
variations on the solar green, exquisite hues
moving from emerald to jade to obsidian,
from a thought about green to greenest thoughts, so clear
in his mind they are not distinct from their objects;
his progeny peoples the heavens of his earth
with prodigious beings born of his faith in them,
born of his own shadow as it rises and fades
among rocks, in the grass, across an unseen path,
and with whom he converses on reality,
on the ultimate thought which is reality
with convoluted words in most complex grammar.
To think of him as possible being, instance
of our stance in the persistence of the world,
is to think his being; and the ultimate thought
rises nearby, concealed in its proximity,
obscured by the brilliance of its imminent light.
The night is about to end. The mind is at rest,
the nearness of reality rises like dawn
and the ultimate thought comes as common season,
as summer, as excess, the ringing resplendence
through which they beckon to one another.
              The night is about to end. And we are at peace,
and, if we are not, then we can conceive a peace,
poised between life and death like a fruit on a plate,
on the window sill of a warm August morning,
where we accept what is as what must be and is,
incomplete part of an unfinished paradise
to which we add the thought of paradise as whole
conceived from the imperfection which is our world.
The summer man remains a summer dream, but one
we can dream every night, remember every day
as we toil in the garden of seasonal change.
The summer man remains a dream within the minds
of winter men... The ultimate thought is a thought
among others: it appears and dissolves... And yet
the sound of summer dawn drips in the air's cistern:
summer insects and summer birds in one single
summer jubilate. The blue in the window,
the adorable cast of most luscious turquoise
imbues the window pane with blue transparency
and fills us with a yearning for transparency,
for a coincidence with this transparency,
where the eye's atmosphere dissolves in summer hue,
so that the eye becomes brother to what it sees;
where distances between the and an are dissolved;
or replaced by distances between the and the;
or by proximities and consanguinities;
where the distance between what is and what is thought
is replaced by a stretch of garden where green plums
are suns to the summer of their mobile foliage;
replaced by a kinship of the highest lineage
in the gradual rising of an ultimate yes.

It is summer. The trees turn copper blue, blue-green,
green-red. The corn is young and sings a youthful tune.
Quails nest behind dry rocks on gleanings, feathered rocks.
The sky seems like a thought of the loftiest kind.
It is summer, a season larger than the sea,
deeper, bluer. Listen... Among tufts of high grass
where ripe green plums fall with a green ripe thump — listen:
the crickets of the mind obstinately compose
the poem of a summer man's initial thought.



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