What is most ancient
news: last year's model
and tilted skyward.
would spill, if from stone
At the ends of ends
furled wings, destined
The old bilad has burned
Amerigo to my soul. But what lands
In this unrepeatable experiment,
to praise the splinter in our Achilles—
there's no need for a careful map, just a sketch
IN THE OPEN LIGHT OF A SUDDEN COGNITION
Last night, apart, I dreamt I saw
Again, together, we come
And the watery version of our faces,
Reaching trees naked of rings,
And rooting into the blue beyond
"Stargazer" was inspired by [the oldest work at the Cleveland Museum of Art], an idol that dates from the 3rd millennium B.C. in modern-day Turkey. When we moved to Cleveland in August of 2001, we were lucky to live in the Friends Meeting House, just a twelve minute walk to the Cleveland Museum of Art. We walked there often, as my wife Amy was pregnant with our first child. Things got intense when Adele was born; she often had colic and needed to be held and walked in order to fall asleep. I remember many walks with her, sometimes in the bitter cold, and the museum was an oasis from the misery of early parenting. Somewhere inside the museum, still strapped to my chest, she'd fall asleep, and I'd walk the galleries, sleep-deprived, but transported by these works of art, like living dreams. I think of ekphrasis as a dialogue with other artists, a talking back that has always been part of my museum experience—the way a dream is only completed when one begins to tell it to someone else. "Stargazer" is a tight little poem—as if evoke the simplicity and beauty of this little idol. In it, I echo Thomas Merton's phrase, "that which is oldest is most new." But really, it's a poem that wonders about women's voices that have been lost to human history. One of my favorite moments of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar is when Esther spends time with the mute Miss Norris, wondering just what she would say, if she could say anything.
The title of "In the Open Light of a Sudden Cognition" is taken from a passage in Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams: "When after passing a defile one has reached an eminence where the ways part and where the view opens out broadly in different directions, it is permissible to stop for a moment and to consider where one is to turn next. Something like this happens to us after we have mastered this first dream interpretation. We find ourselves in the open light of a sudden cognition." Funny how this quote echoes Frost's "The Road Not Taken," the great poem of midlife crisis.
"Letterra Incognita" began as a letter to my younger brother David and at some point became a sonnet for Marilyn Hacker, one of the great American poets on exile. "Bilad" is the Arabic word for land, but with a certain emphasis and in certain immigrant contexts means "our land," or "the Old Country."