Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Function of Poetry

The Function of Poetry
For Kathryn

A man I didn't know died yesterday
His wife the childhood best friend of my daughter.
Forty years, three lives, two thousand miles
Displaced from me. We practiced different arts
And worshipped different gods; we might as well
Never have both read Donne or loved women
And children who, like Epicurean atoms,
Swerved from time to time improbably
Within a single delicate orbit. 

The question is whether the conscious mind
Transcends personal narrative in death,
Whether an unknown life now completed
Enlarges ours, its end informing ours
With its own fullness through the common points
Of unsuspected anecdotes. 
Is hardly more than random noted moments
In an otherwise neglected life,
Why are we here? Lou said, to tell stories,
To keep each other entertained along
The common road we travel through this life.
—July 27 2012


Curtis Faville said...

Well, a poem.

And not bad, either.

The extraordinary narrative you've been working on these last few years, is for . . . your descendants? Or . . .

I often think we need more local stories. For instance, I wish we had a "folk" record of this neighborhood--how it came into being, who the first "settlers" were, etc. How the roads were planned, etc. It's all part of an oral history which keeps dissolving behind us. Americans just keep moving on. There's the "back-splash" of Left Coasters who've gone back to points east. This must be consolidation.

What will America look like, when our civilization is as old as Italy's now is? Certainly our "ruins" will look less picturesque--? Who knows?

Charles Shere said...

Yes. Well, thanks. The poem is on the death of the poet Wilmer Mills, whose wife was our younger daughter's best friend in grammar school. I didn't know him, and know little about him, but am haunted by him, and his life, and work, utterly different from my own. The poem woke me up at twenty to six in the morning yesterday: an unusual occurrence, thank the muses.