oh clack your metal wings, god, you are mine now in the morning

September 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Recently, I was scouring through some old filed-away notes that have too long been weighing down like fat the drawers of my desk. In the course of peeking and pecking my way through the boneyard of lectures forgotten & essays ill formed, I came across a handwritten poem by John Wieners. I remember being introduced to his book Hotel Wentley Poems many years ago now, and because one’s attention is always pulled this way & that, more often than not a good many thises & thats get lost in the shuffle and deal. Which is to say, I forgot about the poem & poet both. As I re-read it, I was struck by a hundred different things at once, but mostly by the impression that my, this is very good stuff.

A Poem for Record Players

Five hours later and
I come into a room
where a clock ticks.
I find a pillow to
muffle the sounds I make.
I am engaged in taking away
from God his sounds.
The pigeons somewhere
above me, the cough
a man makes down the hall,
the flap of wings
below me, the squeak
of sparrows in the alley.
The scratches I itch
on my scalp, the landing
of birds under the bay
window out my window.
All dull details
I can only describe to you,
but which are here and
I hear and shall never
give up again, shall carry
with me over the streets
of this seacoast city,
forever; oh clack your
metal wings, god, you are
mine now in the morning.
I have you by the ears
in the exhaust pipes of
a thousand cars gunning
their motors turning over
all over town.

Between the perfectly placed periods–a poem improperly punctuated (improper to itself, that is, and not merely according to the monarchical rule of grammar) being embarrassingly, which is to say, neither scandalously nor seductively, naked, in all likelihood pantsed by some schoolyard bully, poets & their creations typical targets of such–Weiners captures a remarkable moment of pure happening.

When the sounds of God & poet–if not one & the same here, indistinguishable, for who can say in the scheme of things which has priority–are muffled, what then is left? Quite literally, we find, everything else–all those untold, untold even in the telling, “dull details” that can only be described. Silence, of course, is always lost in the midst of description, the poet-God is rarely gone for long, so it is not the poem itself that is the moment of silence where everything is heard. Weiners is adamant: it is but a description.

Oh, but, look at the “here & now” invoked. Is the poet, this poet-God, once more describing, or is he appealing, silently, amidst the grammatical ambiguity, to the non-described sounds of the poem itself? If we listen carefully enough–that is, if we, the reader-God, muffle our own sounds–I suspect we, too, might hear how loud that metallic “clack” can become. It seems to me that the sounds, not the sounds of silence, Mr. Folk Singer, but the multiple manifold silences of sound, grow in intensity–from the intimacy of a scratched itch only you can hear to the shared annoyance at that damned bird squawking during intimacies, this silent clamor extends to the din of a thousand (probably more) cars–so many you never hear one, but somehow, indescribably, the thousand themselves.

If we stop talking, especially to ourselves–if we manage to muffle the sounds of our reading, if but for a moment–might we, too, occasionally hear everything in-between the periods (occasionally even the hyphens) of a poem?

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