Poem of the Week | December 21, 2015

This week we’re delighted to offer a new poem by Chard deNiord. Chard deNiord is the new Poet Laureate of Vermont. The author of five books of poetry, including Interstate (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), The Double Truth (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011) and Night Mowing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), he teaches English and Creative Writing at Providence College. His book of essays and interviews with seven senior American poets (Galway Kinnell, Donald Hall. Maxine Kumin, Jack Gilbert, Ruth Stone, Lucille Clifton, Robert Bly) titled Sad Friends, Drowned Lovers, Stapled Songs, Conversations and Reflections on 20th Century American Poets was published by Marick Press in 2012. He lives in Westminster West, Vermont with his wife Liz.
 
Author’s note

I don’t have an explanation for this poem as I think it speaks clearly enough on its own as a love poem with apocalyptic intimations. I wrote the first draft of it on a few paper napkins at a bar near my terminal during a layover at LAX. It took several years to complete, however, since I didn’t initially realize the diachronic implications of my inspiration. My first intention was simply to write a love poem in the present tense, but I soon realized as I started to revise the poem just how wise the poet of the Song of Solomon had been in his use of absence in the series of love calls that resound throughout that poem. Emily Dickinson captures the power of this same ironic lyricism in her line, “It was the Distance—/ Was savory.” I didn’t complete the poem until after the terror attacks in Paris last month. My penultimate ending included only American states as the territory over which the speaker flies and communes with his beloved. With each revision, I came to see how increasingly international, allusive, and historical the poem needed to be in its contemporary setting.

 

Layover

 

What do you think?
Answer me, for the water has not
canceled the sad memories in you yet.

 

Dante, Purgatorio, Canto 31, line 10-12

 

Listen, the music of strangers here
in the Eschaton Lounge where
the air is thick with so many waves
my fillings buzz with the frequencies
of this most biblical age. I’m so
lonely amidst the crowd in
Terminal X that when Security
booms in the voice of God

 

For all the unfortunate obvious reasons
unattended bags will be destroyed

 

the blur between the talk talk
talk of my fellow travelers
and me in all my self-palaver
suddenly clears into a scene
from The Opera Of Me In Love
With The Girl Who’s Also a Deer.
The terminal doubles as a set
for the hidden singer in the open.
The crowd disperses in its
randomness as the chorus for
this performance of the errant
pilot besotted with her, her
the Queen of Sheba, Beatrice,
and Desdamona—the complex
stewardess who has returned
in mufti as the cynosure of
today, that is, tomorrow, my
blue blue beloved who’s also
Laura—the woman who waits
for me in every city, then flies
away on duty.
Who urges me
to carry on the saga.
“Dearest
Beloved in the distance that’s
also near, the songs you sang
in your sleep are a lullaby here.
Those little things we said
in passing without a thought
haunt me now you’ve taken
off.
I’m on the lam without you
beneath a sky whose clouds scud
by like captions for the dead.
Only you can arrest me.
I’m sitting
here at the end of the bar waiting
for you to find me, so tired and ready
to test my theory, which is my love
on the ground, vain as it is;
to lie down with you right here
at the bar, which is also the Nile
in spring. Conceive a time outside
of time in the form of a child
whose name we keep a secret.
Who plays the lyre like Orpheus
and signs his name Anonymous.
You know, those things we talked
about in the air above Egypt,
France, Ukraine, and America.”

 

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