Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I am looking for a picture to go with Mahler's music

                    And have decided on this one with clouds from last year.

And on this poem by Robert Pinsky, though it is about a different time of day. It is in Robert Pinsky Selected Poems, FSG, 2011, pages 73-74. The poem was also published as Section 2 of the "City Elegies" in The Figured Wheel; new and collected poems, 1966-1996, Farrar Straus Giroux,1996.  You can read all of these elegies together here. They are delicious, melodic and not difficult to understand.

House Hour

Now the pale honey of a kitchen light
Burns at an upstairs window, the sash a cross.
Milky daylight moon,
Sky scored by phone lines. Houses in rows
Patient as cows.

Dormers and gables of an immigrant street
In a small city, the wind-worn afternoon
Shading into night.

Hundreds of times before
I have felt it in some district
Of shingle and downspout at just this hour.
The renter walking home from the bus
Carrying a crisp bag. Maybe a store
Visible at the corner, neon at dusk.
Macaroni mist fogging the glass.

Unwilled, seductive as music, brief
As dusk itself, the forgotten mirror
Brushed for dozens of years
By the same gray light, the same shadows
Of soffit and beam end, a reef
Of old snow glowing along the walk.

If I am hollow, or if I am heavy with longing, the same:
The ponderous houses of siding,
Fir framing, horsehair plaster, fired bricks
In a certain light, changing nothing, but touching
Those separate hours of the past
And now at this one time
Of day touching this one, last spokes
Of light silvering the attic dust.

Think about writing elegies to a place, a place at a particular time. Notice in this poem, for instance , the details of older home construction, accumulated snow, and immigrant neighborhoods that are specific to older Eastern cities. Often elegies are written for a person who has died, but an elegy for a place can also contain a quality of remembrance of what has passed and gone. Specific details, as in these poems, focus the attention.

The poem is lyrical, but not regular in line length, number of stresses per line, nor lines per stanza. Each line begins with a capital letter, regular punctuation is used and often the line breaks are concurrent with phrases, but not always. There are some very elegant linebreaks in this poem that will repay your attention. Read it out loud!

I also think the next to last word is very interesting because it brings in the suggestion of Attic, which refers to Ancient Greece and takes one even further back in time.