2:44 PM Posted by James Owens

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The Real Woman in Sunlight

That day the river lay beautifully
like a woman on her lover’s bed,
as if a woman’s flanks could shine
the way sunlight caressed the water,

and she and I—the real woman,
not the river—climbed from the water
dripping, to eat bread and fruit
and lie on moss beneath the trees,

trying to take as much of the sky
as possible into our eyes. Spirit—
it seemed the bread in our hands
might verge into spirit, so lucid

was the air holding us, and the trees
were finally emblems of spirit
from the cool earth to the upper twigs
mixing with sky. The shine of a bee’s wings

as it crawled unstinging over the woman’s
belly became the shine
of spirit going abroad,
embodied there in sunlight

and the sun’s meeting with water
and skin. Who would not want a vision
of the world where this
would be enough for the woman,

a sufficient way of speaking about life,
or of the spirit speaking for itself
in the bee exploring her belly,
dipping around the rim of her navel

and flying from between her breasts?
Imagine that sort of world—
imagine that we watched the bee
and turned hungry toward each other.


from Loan of the Quick (Sow's Ear Press, 1998)

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10 comments:

sam of the ten thousand things said...

I remember the first time I read this poem - The closing three stanzas are as strong a journey into possibility as is possible with words. Great piece, James.

James Owens said...

Thank you, Sam. The problem is, the possibilities of words go only so far... What then? If we need something beyond words?...

Roxana said...

I think we are so made as to always need something beyond the words. in one of his Psalms, which I know you read, Arghezi writes: 'I want to touch you and to yell, 'He is!'. but then, after touching and yelling, it always happens that we find this not 'enough' as well, or 'sufficient'. and then we need to come back to the words. not any words, but the poet's words. you say 'the real woman in sunlight', but isn't this 'real woman' in fact the essence of that 'imaginary one', that the poet carries within himself independently of any real, earthly lover?

I so love this primeval vision:
and she and I—the real woman,
not the river—climbed from the water
dripping, to eat bread and fruit
and lie on moss beneath the trees,

trying to take as much of the sky
as possible into our eyes.

no photograph could express this, only a painting, I think. thank you, James.

Sorlil said...

At first this reminded me of your 'Movies about Anonymous Women' poem and I wondered if the ending was going to contrast with the Edenic beginning as in that poem.
I found these lines to be the most intrieging, I found a great sadness in them:

"Who would not want a vision
of the world where this
would be enough for the woman,

a sufficient way of speaking about life".

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Oddly enough - and I'm thinking of Sorlil's comment - I went back to Loan of the Quick and "Movies about Anonymous Women". The opening stanzas put me in mind of Hedy Lamarr in Ecstasy, 1933. The visual presence in the poem - though I'm not certain you had the film in mind - connects with her perfomance. Both are powerful.

Cristina said...

James,
this is a lovely poem. And Roxana is right,nothing else could express the same emotion, the same univers. Lovely!

James Owens said...

Thank you, Roxana. You are right, of course, this is the essence, the ideal. Maybe even "the Ideal," there is that much of the Platonist in me -- try as I might to uproot it -- and so the essence-woman can seem even more "real" than the earthly lover. She is, as you will know already, Eurydice / Eve / A--. But then, there are luminous moments when the essence and the earthly lover are indistinguishable, and those are moments when the poem writes itself.

James Owens said...

Sorlil, thank you. I had not thought of "Movies about Anonymous Women," but they really are companion pieces in a way, I guess. "Movies...." is one of those poems --- there are a couple of others --- whose ending I think is just hilarious, and I always laugh when I read it to a group -- but nobody else ever gets the joke....

James Owens said...

Sam, I haven't seen Ecstasy for a long time, and I don't think I had it in mind ... but it is always interesting, the way one think evokes another, the links that are created....

James Owens said...

Mulţumesc, Cristina, şi eşti binevenita aici. I'm happy you came. I don't know if anything else could express the same emotion. The thing about art -- photography, painting, music -- is that I am constantly surprised by discovering what it can express. So with this surprrise, who knows?