His Apotheosis

April 13, 2016

I reckon – when I count at all –
First – Poets – Then the Sun –
Then Summer – Then the Heaven of God –
And then – the List is done –
—Emily Dickinson

The casket that carried him away
should have been made with gold inlay.
He was that grand a man, the poet.
And all they buried with him was his white coat.
His head was kept above another man’s,
his cock inside a frock made of silver cloth.
He was that fine a craftsman, brought forth
to engender so regally. The sloth
of mind to trust his kith and kind
with such a wealth of material, though,
for everyone knew how much those poems
were worth, boggles the mind.
Imagine him wrestling with himself
just to find out if he could. Imagine
the crime of the century stolen in free verse—
of worse. Imagine his poem a hearse.

 

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2 Responses to “His Apotheosis”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    You know Thomas, I think Yeats was somehow in the back of my mind when I talk about how grand the poet was. It’s both true of Yeats and a little ironic. You perhaps rightly skip over the middle part of the poem and concentrate on the last four. I will do the same—except to say that the point was to give the poem a bit of the absurd, the whole funeral thing.
    Let me say first that I don’t know what the ‘crime of the century’ is. And which century are we talking about? The 21st century is a little young to be assigning awards to anything like that. Imagine if you picked the crime of the century in 1916. It’s a little scary what you’d leave out. So perhaps the ‘crime’ of the century is just meant to engender such thoughts (‘engender’ himmm.) And how could it be stolen? And who would want it? Well, you might steal it to prevent it, I suppose. Could you do that by writing poetry? Or ‘free’ verse? Yeats did write Easter 1916, with something of that persuasion. Or at least to prevent the next one. Does poetry really have such power?
    I just noticed you asked a profound question—Is death itself the crime of the century? Yes, but only if you mean every century and every death. Can poetry steal death?
    The above paragraph answers the wrestling with himself issue. I think I’ve got myself pinned.
    Jim

  2. Thomas Davis Says:

    You are such an outstanding poet, Jim. Lately there has been a clarity to your verse that I am somewhat astounded about. Part of the joy of what I have read over the years has been the puzzle that needs to be unraveled hidden in your lines. Still, I like this new phase you are going through a lot.
    This particular poem, with the quote from Dickinson as its header, is something else. It starts simply enough, saying, hey, this poet was worth more than those burying him mestatized into his funeral. It is a reflection on how society has the world wrong, at least from a poet’s perspective.
    But then the final four lines:
    Imagine him wrestling with himself
    just to find out if he could. Imagine
    the crime of the century stolen in free verse—
    of worse. Imagine his poem a hearse.
    What are we to make of them? The first two lines are straightforward enough: Poets often wrestle with themselves, and the idea that he did so just because he could defines his character as a man and poet. The word Imagine in the second of these lines is well placed. It enriches the second line, but is necessary to the third line. Still the third line is intriguing. What would be the crime of the century and how could it be stolen, especially in free verse? What kind of alchemy are we talking about here? How can a crime be stolen by poetry?
    But then, the most powerful line of all, Imagine his poem as a hearse, a physical symbol of death, of the business of signifying death.
    This would seem to hint at several things all at once. Is death itself the crime of the century? Especially the death of a poet? Can a poem transcend death into being the object of its metaphor?
    I would say that:
    The casket that carried him away
    should have been made with gold inlay.
    He was that grand a man, the poet.


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