I’m very proud of this latest poem. It is sentimental. I gladly admit that. But at least it is willing to resist the pompousness and academicness of all contemporary poetry. I can no longer open the New Yorker and find anything of significance. I feel at home in this style of appositive and addendum. I have one very humble aspiration: revolutionize poetry entirely, win the Nobel prize, own a dog named Seamus, or at least a cat, also named Seamus. Or Cormac. Or Fredrich, but only if he is hopeless and disturbed to high-anywhere-but-heaven-because-it-doesn’t-exist (A Nietzsche joke).
Anyway, this is a pretty good poem. And for the record, my dad is not dead. Sorry dad. You’re an inspiration.
What a pain in the ass, I think, as the priest speaks
Of confession, a language of love, she says,
How difficult it would be to be the builder
Of this space, how to construct the steeple, the naive,
The pews set to the the exact angle so the aisles
Are aimed and pointed toward the pinnacle,
The crucified spectacle we are required
to anticipate In our cheerless celebration of lent.
She is speaking of love, above all things,
Though she may as well deliver a sermon on sin,
On the reflection guaranteed by our 40 day fast.
Or deprivation, cutting out and cutting back,
Removing, replacing, making more simple
Our lives of clutter, Twitter, and self indulgence.
And yet, the building itself is extravagant.
No easy task, no matter your experience
in architecture or engineering,
Or the years spent on the job, building, concealing
The last joint or seam, where the beams of oak and alder,
Stained an icy gray, meet at a rare 70 degree miter.
And how to cut then on the saw at the milling factory–
A miracle in and of itself– and then join them,
While teetering on the rickety scaffolding,
The crane torqued and braced, holding
the leaning piece in place with its heavy chain.
Like the burden one feels holding up the truth,
That yes, last night I drank, nearly a fifth,
after the cat went to sleep, having to tell
the woman you love, who forgives you, again and again,
How you sat on the couch, drunk, in a puddle of piss,
Unable to imagine your life
Without alcohol, without sleep medication
Or outrage, full of fear, without your father, gone for so long now,
Without her, love or any language able to contain it.
But the crossbeams, who could have the patience,
To sand and stain, sand and stain, and set
Them, immovable by the metal brace, bore out
And sink the massive bolt that helps them cohere,
As if they are one piece. And this is love also,
The attention and time it takes,
To hold them and match them grain to grain,
A detail that might not be noticed, unless by a man like me,
So utterly imperfect he must find in perfection
A certain beauty that no one can achieve,
And more beautiful for being flawed in it’s many ways.
And how to confess, as the priest suggests,
That love must sometimes subtract, make room
For different joys to be added. Say goodbye
To the self you have been: underachiever, insomniac,
Anorexic, or alcoholic. Above all say farewell
To the gift you were given, the one you loved more than anybody else,
Your father. Lay him peacefully to rest
Into all your uncertainty. Then take her hand,
This woman who at the same time you love
And annoy, hold and hold at a distance. Let her in,
Let her narrow toward your terrible pinnacle,
The center of yourself, your burdens and lightenings,
leavings and enterings, endings and beginnings,
Let love hold your every earthliness, Seam or gap, joint or separation,
Where the beams of your aging limbs are held together,
Imperfectly beautiful, always noticed by the one who beholds them,
Even in their trespass, and whom confesses always to love you
Even when the walls of your beautiful body finally collapse.