Omphalos, Again

July 24, 2011

Imagine that the summer’s stringencies
Have found themselves alone
In a garden, so full of bone
Petunias and bone pansies
That the Omphalos stone, full
Of captive water, full
Of bio-mass, with its
Subterranean flow—exhibits ,
In lieu of flowers—cannot pretend
To be our final fortune’s final end.
Suppose instead the garden is an egg,
Its shell, the sky about to beg
Release from all this heat,  a tuft of X,
My friend, a silence, salient, stolen, so complex.

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4 Responses to “Omphalos, Again”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    The space between ‘exhibits’ and the comma…
    I like the idea of that space having significance. You know, it opens a whole new dimension in punctuation. The comma and the (space) comma. But, no, it’s just a typo. I’ve been too lazy to correct it. But, hey, maybe I’ll leave it for the time being—and, you know, now that I think of it, I was just reading something where the writer used a double comma, so maybe we’ve spotted a trend here. New adventures in punctuation!!!

  2. John Stevens Says:

    I’m always interested in the choices you make in writing. I completely agree about taking the sonnet form as a flexible model: why shouldn’t we? I didn’t think it needed the traditional turn, but you used the compression to great effect.
    You’re right that I read ‘exhibits’ first as a verb then as a noun – I liked that, and I presumed that the space before the comma was intended to warn the mind.
    Yes, so much depends upon the white chickens!

  3. extrasimile Says:

    I guess I’m thinking of the sonnet ‘form’ as being more a model that I am approximating, asymptotically approaching, riffing with, fooling around with…trying to keep its rules but not absolutely succumb to them either…rather than simply write. Look sometime at Henri Coles’ poetry. But yes, it’s been terribly hot here on Long Island; I wanted to keep the stifling heat in the garden, a garden of bone and stone, keep the lid on tight, as it were, so the pressure could build.
    The turning point before the sextet…well, perhaps I’m just not good enough for such things, but I will point out that (at least in my mind) the poem kind of revolves around the word ‘exhibits’.(Occupying a place close to the Omphalos stone.) Am I right in thinking that as you read, you read it as a verb, and then have to recalibrate and read it again as a noun?
    Do I have more in mind than just a garden in the hot summer sun?
    So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow…doesn’t it?
    Thanks again, John, your comments are always right on the money.

  4. John Stevens Says:

    I like the choice of sonnet form here, Jim: the compression & constraints build up the pressure, the heat, as the long sentence pushes on. Very effective – and that wonderful image of the garden as egg and the sky being a shell that needs to break apart in release!
    I think the rhyming couplets add perfectly to the accumulation of pressure.
    I notice you haven’t stuck by the traditional turning point before the sextet, but you were right: you’ve built the 14 lines up as a steady, ineluctible progression.
    And you’re not just talking about the summer, are you? I’m picking up hints of the span of human life, our hay-days, the end of life, the question ‘what’s it all about?’


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