Complacencies of the memoir, and late
Chats with Oprah in a sunny chair,
And the cynicism of an editor
About what he wrote, mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of truth.
He dreamt it up. And now he feels the dark
Encroachment of an old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent Oprah, and his publisher,
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of his dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Hazelton,
Dominion of the blood and self-redemption.
Why should he give his imagination to
What is authorship if it can come
Only in small audience segments and
Shall he not find in comforts of the contrived,
In pungent root canals, or else
In drug addiction,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within himself:
Bleedings on airplanes or blood on falling snow;
Grievings in rehab, or unsubdued
Elations with doomed lovers; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for his soul.
Our memoirists in the clouds have their inhuman birth.
No mother suckled them, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to their mythy minds.
They move among us, as muttering kings,
Magnificent, move among credulous peasants,
Until our credulity, virginal,
With heaven, brings such requital to their desire
The very best-seller lists discern it.
Shall our belief fail? Or shall it come to be
A fool's paradise? And shall these lies
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
Life will be much friendlier then than now,
No labor, no pain,
A tale of glory and glorious overcoming,
Recounted endlessly by our memoirists.
He says, "I am disturbed when wakened eyes,
As they read, test the reality
Of my words, by their hard questionings;
And when my books are shredded, and their pages
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?''
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven's hill, that has endured
As green lies will endure; or will endure
Like his remembrance of awakened eyes,
Or his desire for a credulous world, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow's wings.
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of writers make
Ambiguous utterances as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
Margaret Soltan’s blog, University Diaries, chronicles all aspects of contemporary American university life. Her essay “Don DeLillo and Loyalty to Reality” appears in the MLA’s forthcoming Approaches to Teaching White Noise. For this poem, she expresses appreciation to Wallace Stevens for "Sunday Morning."
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Anthropology Open Rank (Assistant, Associate, or Professor) of Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts