Wednesday, April 11, 2012

National Poetry Month: Stanley Moss

"Poets at Lunch"

(Stanley Moss)

to W.S. Merwin

I said, “Nothing for the last time.”

You said, “Everything for the last time.”

Later I thought you made everything more

precious with “everything for the last time”:

the last meditation, the last falling asleep,

the last dream before the final makebelieve,

the last kiss good night,

the last look out the window at the last moonlight.

Last leaves no time to hesitate.

I would drink strong coffee before my last sleep.

I’d rather remember childhood, rehearse forgiveness,

listen to birdsong or a Spanish housemaid singing,

scrubbing a tiled floor in Seville—

I’d scrub and sing myself. O Susanna

Susanna, quanta pena mi costi.

I would strangle the snakes of lastness

like Herakles in his crib

before I cocked my ear to Mozart for the last time.

There is not sky or clouds enough to cover

the music I would hear for the last time.

I know a bank whereon the wild thyme of

everything for the last time grows, covered with

deadly nightshade and poison hemlock.

No last, no first, thinking in the moment,

years ago, you prepared the soil in Hawaii

before you planted your palm trees, then shared

most of your days and nights with them as equals.

You built your house with a Zen room.

I made no prayer when I dug a hole

and pushed in a twelve-foot white pine,

root ball locked in green plastic netting.

I did not cut the netting, so twenty years later

a tall, beautiful, white pine died.

I lynched the roots. To save my life

I would let them seize, cut out a bear’s heart,

I would partake in its flesh.

But you would die before you’d let them kill that bear.

Again, I say, “Nothing for the last time.”

You say, “Everything for the last time.”

Sailor, I would have killed a stranger

to save the world. Sailor, you would not.

We kissed goodbye on the cheek.

I hope not for the last time.

Home, I look into my brass telescope—

at the far end, where the moon and distant stars

should be, I see my eye looking back at me,

it’s twinkling and winking like a star. I go to bed.

My dogs, donkeys and wife are sleeping. I am safe.

You are home with your wife

you met and decided to marry in four days.

STANLEY MOSS is the author of The Skull of Adam (1979), The Intelligence of Clouds (1989), Asleep in the Garden (1997), A History of Color (2003), and New and Selected Poems (2006). In 1977 Moss founded Sheep Meadow Press, a nonprofit press devoted to poetry, with a particular focus on international poets in translation. In "Satyr Song" he wrote: "In my seventh year, I had a revelation. A teacher asked me a question. I knew the answer. Miss Green, a horse-faced redhead, asked the 3A class of P.S. 99, Kew Gardens, Queens, a long way from Byzantium: 'What are you going to do in life?' Most of the answers remain a blur, but someone said she was going to be a novelist and someone said he’d write a play, or for the movies. I remember waiting; I was last to answer: 'I am certain I am a poet.' Then Miss Green said, 'I knew it. You, Stanley, are a bronze satyr,' and she whacked my erect penis with a twelve-inch Board of Education wooden ruler."

No comments: