When Delmore Schwartz reads about tadpoles
in Encyclopædia Britannica, at Yaddo,
something happens inside the stem of poetry,
something elastic, and it bends a little.
He’s living through the winter in Saratoga Springs,
outside his habitat of choice,
wriggling in the histories of complicated angers,
imagining a creature unaffected by light.
Such are the options of nature, which collects
and pays out on its own time.
Thoughts accumulate and shed behind his unavailable eyes.
Somewhere in the confusing trees, a Palm Warbler
rests in its migratory path, wags a delicate tail,
and whistles so sweetly, you’d never think
of all it needs just to survive.
Even when it’s calm, the resting heart’s moving,
brandishing bloods, renewing itself,
depleting, renewing. Are you there,
American poetry? Isn’t it exhausting?
From where he sits in the farmhouse,
Delmore’s parents are indistinct as material
floating in the fluid that supports the brain,
little dots swimming in the intrathecal space,
shifting in time, and he wants his memories of them
to be remote, and pure as a child’s brainstem,
tentative, involuntary, practically larval.
Copyright © Persea Books 2016
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