Sunday, August 01, 2010

James Tate – Absences

It’s fun going back. We (I) get so caught up in what’s happening next, that the recent past often evaporates. So, looking back to the early 70s, here are a couple poems from James Tate’s third book, Absences.

Wait for Me

A dream of life a dream of birth
a dream of moving
from one world into another

All night dismantling the synapses
unplugging the veins and arteries . . .

Hello I am a cake of soap
dissolving in a warm bath

A train with no windows and no doors
a lover with no eyes for his mask
—inside is the speed of life

Who can doubt the worth of it
each letter written is obsolete
before it finds its friend

Our life is shorter now
full of chaotic numbers
which never complete a day

It will be the same
as it has always been
and you are right to pack

Your heart in ice
if you believe this.


A man is lost in a harpsichord of light.
On all fours he watches a mushroom grow.

Now it is the sixth night.
He is drinking at a stream,
his face is dun in the moonlight.

Through the still, fanned fronds
he sees an upright man approaching.
He tries to stand but the man
walks over him.

Morning: a greenfinch
and a long-tailed tit.

Night: through the silent fronds
a man on all fours stares
at a man on all fours.

Now it is the first night.


At 8/02/2010 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, John--also, your choices prove that Tate hasn't been writing the same poem for (gulp) 45 years. There's a huge difference between HINTS TO PILGRIMS/HOTTENTOT OSSUARY/ ABSENCES and RETURN TO THE CITY OF WHITE DONKEYS/THE GHOST SOLDIERS.

At 8/02/2010 9:48 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Very true, the early work and the recent work show completely different standpoints in regards to the self and the way the self participates in the poem (if not in the world).

He used to write voice-oriented lyrics, and now they're narratives. That's a big method change.


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