We had an all American lunch yesterday, lots of meat, little veggies. The sun had blossomed beyond description and it was the calmest breeze I ever did feel. We wandered around looking for coffee and food, as everything in our hotel had shut down for Labour day. On our way to food, we stopped by Prairie lights to pick up books, at least the guys did, and this made all the difference. What went from a warm, languorous afternoon, with beautiful people and a very cloudy sky, to a poetry fest at lunch. Evidence below. It was the most poetic french fries I ever did ingest. I was introduced to the poetry of Robert Hass, which also made my afternoon spiral into various directions, all luminous, all flickering with lights on water moving, the way the young man took his sandals off and read by the trees, the loud girls taking photos on the bridge screaming about being cover girls and so hawwwttt, the way you could almost forgive them the defilement of silence as they were so young and beautiful and unaware. I enjoyed the book a lot and the rest of my mad evening, which is another story altogether. This is the poem I was requested to read out loud at lunch, by Joel. It is gorgeous.
Privilege of Being
Many are making love. Up above, the angels
in the unshaken ether and crystal of human longing
are braiding one another’s hair, which is strawberry blond
and the texture of cold rivers. They glance
down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy—
it must look to them like featherless birds
splashing in the spring puddle of a bed—
and then one woman, she is about to come,
peels back the man’s shut eyelids and says,
look at me, and he does. Or is it the man
tugging the curtain rope in the dark theater?
Anyway, they do, they look at each other;
two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,
startled, connected at the belly in an unbelievably sweet
lubricious glue, stare at each other,
and the angels are desolate. They hate it. They shudder pathetically
like lithographs of Victorian beggars
with perfect features and alabaster skin hawking rags
in the lewd alleys of the novel.
All of creation is offended by this distress.
It is like the keening sound the moon makes sometimes,
rising. The lovers especially cannot bear it,
it fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that
they close their eyes again and hold each other, each
feeling the mortal singularity of the body
they have enchanted out of death for an hour or so,
and one day, running at sunset, the woman says to the man,
I woke up feeling so sad this morning because I realized
that you could not, as much as I love you,
dear heart, cure my loneliness,
wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him
that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.
And the man is not hurt exactly,
he understands that his life has limits, that people
die young, fail at love,
fail of their ambitions. He runs beside her, he thinks
of the sadness they have gasped and crooned their way out of
coming, clutching each other with old, invented
forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready
to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely
companionable like the couples on the summer beach
reading magazine articles about intimacy between the sexes
to themselves, and to each other,
and to the immense, illiterate, consoling angels.
From HUMAN WISHES (Ecco Press, 1989)