This poem ought to be a failure. Rather than building toward a coherent whole, it is rather inert and meandering and ends by fizzling off into that ultimate of compositional cop-outs: ellipses.
And yet this poem has stayed with me, provoking some indefinable but definite response. I suppose it’s reassuring that some poems defy my best attempts to formulate a coherent poetics.
Thinking about the Past
Certain moments will never change nor stop being –
My mother’s face all smiles, all wrinkles soon;
The rock wall building, built, collapsed then, fallen;
Our upright loosening downward slowly out of tune –
All fixed into place now, all rhyming with each other.
That red-haired girl with wide mouth – Eleanor –
Forgotten thirty years – her freckled shoulders, hands.
The breast of Mary Something, freed from a white swimsuit,
Damp, sandy, warm; or Margery’s, a small caught bird –
Darkness they rise from, darkness they sink back toward.
O marvelous early cigarettes! O bitter smoke, Benton!
And Kenny in wartime whites, crisp, cocky,
Time a bow bent with his certain failure.
Dusks, dawns; waves; the end of songs. . .
Donald Justice (I) is here.