Monday, December 8, 2008

Ralph Gustafson's "Homage To Antaeus"

(from “Two Antagonist Poems”)

The boulder the angel sat on can have
Its resurrection, I am after
Sensation most times now
Rather than eternity. I would rather
The barebone boulders -- that oversoaring
Mycenaean dome lacking
Agamemnon in it,
The exalted vaulting itself the legend,
Helen beautiful and the whole of Troy
Burnt rafters because of her. I’d rather
Go out and look at stars burning
To a cinder, unimplicated
Whether God is up there
With his unimpregnatable mother.

Grass that is grass
Stone that is stone

Music whose meaning is the sound it creates --
The diver’s grace, pagan sun on crystal --
Wisdom to stub my toe on the steps
Of the bridge at the Accademia in Venice;
I look at the scar on my left knee
I dropped on still there from last
July, the joy incorporated.


In a time when Western creators in their 40s and 50s write poem after poem of depressive pleas to acquire a pale enlightenment, and those in their 20s and 30s write of existential angst and the impossibility of grace, it's always a treat to experience Gustafson's sane voice. He was 82 when he wrote this, with two near-death diseases already behind him.

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