Monday, July 16, 2007


I'm packing books in earnest now, and stopped to re-read this poem, which I'd tagged with a Post-It note and read last year to my students. When Jason (Schneiderman) and Michael (Broder) had me out to read at the Ear Inn a couple years ago, I had the pleasure of reading with Wayne Koestenbaum. I thoroughly enjoy his work. This poem's a little quieter; of course in class we talk about the lovely haunting imagery as well as the formal structure:

The Ornate and Lovely Corner House

Oldsmobiles up and down the canals all night:
how they drive on water
is a mystery beautiful as it is absolute.
I ask the waiter

the origin of the automobile riding
by the fishmonger’s,
idling on the water’s surface, and he is surprised
to see me linger

over a question that to him is obvious.
When I finish my coffee
the night-prowling cars have vanished,
but from my balcony

tonight, in the ornate and lovely corner
house, with envy
I will watch the slow procession of the cars
that are too heavy

to float. And yet they float, a formation
not reflected
in tomorrow’s papers, my generation’s
tone, the tormented

air I am used to hearing in the daily speeches.
The sublime
visits me so rarely that when it approaches
there is no time

to regret my lack of preparation
for its luminous
arrival, its liquid organization.
This life is formless

and I do not understand most of it:
why no children
gather in my cool garden when the heat
grows violent.

- Wayne Koestenbaum, Ode to Anna Moffo

[photo: mini violet blooming on my desk]

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