Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Poor Argos

The rhetoric of images
Continues to torment me.
A long time ago, I knew

An emphatic professor
Who would bellow at students
"Be concrete, God damn it!"

Pushing the heels of his hands
Into his own eyes in frustration,
As if miming grisly old Oedipus.

I was young then. I stared hard
At everything and didn't expect
I could ever be caught far off guard.

I wondered. Was the sin of mellifluous
Or even slangy abstraction so great
As to make for despairing self-mutilation?

Then I ran into the poets.
Not the antique, oratorical poets
Whose flourishes could go on forever

Without any phrase homelier
Or more easily visualized
Then some allusion to a goddess.

No, I spotted the Imagists,
All long gone into the ground,
Canonized or forgotten themselves

Now, metamorphosed except, somehow,
Even now, even when one eschews
The minor tyrannies of parseable

Intent, one still feels one must chew
The scenery a bit, like a salad,
In deference to their healthful crudités

Of concrete reference, or else
One hasn't really kept watch.
I like vivid images as much as any

Reader, especially the surprises,
Sights linked by strange conceits,
No matter how personal or impersonal,

How arcane, radical, quicksilver
Tricky, musical, or message-delivering
The poem as a whole pretends to be.

I'm not immune to looking sharp.
I don't dislike dreams served bright
Blue and wide as eyes. There's verse

In the misleading appearances
Of describable things--this moony,
Sorrowful, heifer-white hill wrapped

For a cold spring under wretched,
Barely budded blankets of scrub
On her hunched shoulders, the grey

Pointillism of my night watchman's
Thoughts dissected, the distraction
Of a light, late flurry disguising

The knife of the ice that slips below
The fanned-out, feathery pale leaves
At my moonlit feet. But I hate the concrete.

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