Friday, February 09, 2007

331. For Theodore Roethke - James Schevill

How he rolled down night streets
Like a barrel heaved from side to side;
How his heavy, high forehead,
Great chunk of a headstone,
Loomed over the polished bars
In a frenzy of glass-shaking laughter.

This was a master of witch-rhythms,
Gropings through the root;
A breeder in water
Floating light out of the depths;
A curious waddling land-animal,
Air-fingered, at home by waves,
Who took from the whitecapped sea
A sense of skimming.

He saw with his eye "close on the object,"
Staring at the disguises of God,
Stone, water, tree, elemental root,
Learning we need the catalogue
As well as the lyrical dance
To find a language
"natural to the immediate thing,"
A language to seize from the self-trap
A time of communion, to sense beneath
The facile ornaments the simple drawing
That is the source of fire.

Dance on! Dance on!
Through a country lost
In immigration fury,
Lost in the action,
Motion of disguise,
Burning of early angels,
Savagery of racial wars;
Through the long, tangled line of Whitman absorbing all
Down to your short line, end-stopped,
Paring everything away
To the final pause,
The breath that stops
As the song sings
Through death into

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