Imago

March 16, 2012

Its eyes, as ice clings to pond’s eves,
lidless and always staring,
focused sideways, transparencies of detail
not so much like the pond itself…

Yet so much like your own self
that our breath breaks it apart—as if
in kissing its too hungry, inhuman lips,
we could find a final ecstasy…

As if we could be in the pond as fish,
as if we could be strands of quicksilver,
or strange messenger gods come to spawn
in the oily slime where all our seed must grow.

But we have stood in this water before, you and I.
Our old eyes have watched the old pond thaw,
watched it glow. Oh my land,
move lightly through the air again.

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4 Responses to “Imago”

  1. Anna Mark Says:

    the pond seems to me to be idealized, or at least a place of longing, a place where one might go (perhaps with another, or with other aspects of the self) to find “a final ecstasy”, a place of birth and origin, growth. and wishing for the land at the end seems to me quite a contrasting image, a move away from the quicksilver, mutation…to…I don’t know…something more secure, solid…? I’m still flowing through these words, or they are flowing through me.

  2. extrasimile Says:

    The other day I opened my Wallace Stevens book to a poem I had never read before called, ‘Imago’. (Really.) And while I wouldn’t want to say that the two poems have much in common (let’s have a little modesty here), the last line of the poem jumped off the page and begged to be put in to my poem too. (Well, sort of). At the time, I was fooling around with the syntax of the sentences and how they relate to the tone/ timbre of the poem, and I was not too happy with the ending I had…so I let it visit for a while…and it did seem to make friends with the rest of the poem…
    Well, I won’t continue with this little story, except to say that I really did write ‘Imago’ without an awareness of the Stevens poem, and that the last sentence of my poem is borrowed from his poem, the italics included. But consider: ‘Medium man…hears imagination’s hymns and sees its images…and feels the imagination’s mercies…a glacier running through delirium…making this heavy rock a place which is not of our lives composed…’ Mr. Stevens is playing in the big leagues here, and I have to think it is a poem that lead to his composing ‘The Rock’—surely one of the great poems of our time.
    A glacier running through delirium. My goodness.
    The nice thing about pronouns is that you can fool around with their antecedents until their innocent identities start to reveal some deeper sense of self, one that can be, at least, lightly traced in the mud. I think I will leave the question as to who ‘it’, ‘you’, ‘we’ and ‘I’ refer to, um…up in the air…um, lightly.
    I wrote a poem—it seems—almost two years ago called ‘Postcards, unsigned’ on this idea. https://extrasimile.wordpress.com/2010/04/02/postcards-unsigned/
    I don’t spend too much time going over things I have written in the past, but this poem still seems one of my better ones. Should you be interested, gentlemen…
    I am very, very satisfied with your thoughts.
    Jim

  3. Thomas Davis Says:

    This is a wonderful poem, Jim. I hear a hint of tom d’evelyn in the last two lines, and, as John says, Wallace Stevens. I agree with John that the start of the poem is stunning. But I guess I read the “It’ differently. I am not sure I am right. John and you seem smarter than I am way too often, but it struck me that the “it” is the pond itself, or at least the larger environs of the pond as a poem:
    lidless and always staring,
    focused sideways, transparencies of detail
    not so much like the pond itself…
    (I believe you are talking about the transparencies of detail that contain the pond, but are really a seeding from the poet’s vision).
    The reason I think that is the second stanza:
    Yet so much like your own self
    that our breath breaks it apart—as if
    in kissing its too hungry, inhuman lips,
    we could find a final ecstasy…
    A poem is so much like the poet’s self, and breath can break the substance, the eye of the poem apart so easily. By kissing its too hungry, inhuman lips we are often trying to find a final ecstasy.
    Then the multple simile:
    As if we could be in the pond as fish,
    as if we could be strands of quicksilver,
    or strange messenger gods come to spawn
    in the oily slime where all our seed must grow.
    This is simply great poetry that does not need much explanation. As if we could…in oily slime, which refers back to the machine age, I suspect, where all our seed, including our poems, must grow.
    The ending, as John says, seems to have a touch of regret:
    Our old eyes have watched the old pond thaw,
    watched it glow.
    Then the cry in the moment of remembrance:
    …Oh my land,
    move lightly through the air again.
    the regret, the desire for the vicissitudes of old age to allow us, the poet, to move lightly through the air again.
    John got this right for sure: Very, very satisfying.

  4. John Stevens Says:

    That’s a strong and convincing image you kick off with, Jim : the imago itself,with its strange insect-eyes “lidless and always staring” – and later the “too-hungry inhuman lips”.
    Funny thing, the imago – last stage of life for an insect and all over too quickly. That’s what you have in mind, I’m sure, when you say “our breath breaks it apart”.
    I’m not sure who the poem addresses (who the “you” is) but there’s strong sense of the fragility of life for us, as well as the imago, and in the last stanza I pick up hints of age and regret and wistfulness.
    I know you’re a fan of Wallace Stevens. His ‘Sunday Morning’ is full of the sense of the changeableness and transience of Life (as you will know better than I) stressing how necessary all this is, and I see something of his concerns here in your own poem.
    Very, very satisfying.


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