Conversation with Lucie Brock-Broido’s poem Herculaneum
One has turned & the others go on.
In this obviate hour the river is deeper than you think, twisting between its industries
& in dreams, at least, I can drown in it, luscious.
I want what I want and as with all unkowtowable women am stricken & deviate &
Oranges in wintertime. Perhaps we have forgotten to
b) make worlds
c) know what a city is
d) all of the below
But still there are sweet recent inklings of the exquisite (I claim)
How long will this beauty of mine last?
There is ash in it. Always has been.
The third line is by James Merrill: a glosanelle
Rising, without regret, I pick up my pen.
Days I can write always have their wild shine
Though in Now’s black waters, burn the stars of Then
Sometimes faintly visible, their fires grown thin
Only sparks inside darkness, gestures not signs,
Yet, rising without regret, I pick up my pen
And try to recall all those years, nearly ten,
That we knew & we loved, both the hard & the kind,
While in Now’s black waters, burn the stars of Then,
Not pearls within onyx, not pricks of a pin,
Unsealing the celestial inside the wet rind,
No though rising (without regret), I pick up my pen,
I cannot allow for the water’s black tin
To be just a containment for stars that swim blind
Still in Now’s black waters, burn the stars of Then,
A presence I cannot accept nor pretend
Doesn’t exist in this world of dark pine,
Only rise, without regret, and pick up my pen
To write these drowned starts, composing the din
Of the stark currents crashing with every smooth line,
As in Now’s black waters, burn the stars of Then,
Where, rising without regret, I pick up my pen.
CATHERINE OWEN has published ten collections of poetry and three of prose. She lives by the Fraser River and works in film props.