9:35 PM Posted by James Owens

I will be away for the next week, climbing trees, whispering secrets to bears, and folding swathes of the night sky like squares of brilliant laundry --- not that anyone could detect that I've been here during the past week by reading this blog....

The title of the poem below is a combination of phrases from a conversation between Paul Celan and Jean Daive. The poem's best line is stolen.


The world is of glass. Disappearance is within us.

These summer evenings of low clouds and heat,
the lake goes milky in the last minutes before sunset,

light clinging to the waves as the world darkens.
I don’t recognize myself in my joys. My emptiness glows….

One of the words in the dream was your name.
Unlike the others that broke open in the air

and melted like strange hail,
your name was a small red stone

shot through with silken glimmers of quartz,
still wet where it had washed on the sand.

On my palm, it seemed to tremble, but maybe
that was my pulse. Your name smelled of the deep water.

I closed it in my mouth, happy
with its small weight on my tongue,

and stepped into the waves, swimming back
into the dream, back out of the dream,

bringing you with me.



suzi said...

Enjoy your time away, will you be literally climbing trees?

Love the beautiful watery dreamy poem,very sensual. Could see it nestling among Carol Ann Duffy's Rapture anthology.The first stanza of 'You' is one of my favourite:

"Uninvited, the thought of you stayed too late in my head, so I went to bed, dreaming you hard, hard, woke with your name, like tears, soft, salt, on my lips, the sound of its bright syllables like a charm, like a spell."

Back to your poem. I really like the undulation of the waves and swimming in and out of the dream.

As for stolen lines, hmmmmmm? The only thing that comes to mind is 'I closed it in my mouth, happy with its small weight on my tongue.' It reminds me of the short story 'The Things They Carried' I'll have to go back and search out a copy to check.

Anyway, second rate poets borrow, first rate poets steal.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Excellent form, James. I like the presence and action of light here. A nice echo of the Man-moth and the subway. Thanks for the post, and enjoy your time.

Sorlil said...

Are we to guess which is the stolen line? :)

If so I pick - "I don’t recognize myself in my joys. My emptiness glows…." A beautiful line but it doesn't sound like you!

I particularly love the first and sixth stanzas.

Roxana said...


Sorlil :-)

perhaps the best line is hidden in the longing which is hidden in the name which is hidden in the small red stone smelling of the deep water. because i read this poem as a poem about longing, a mystical search for the essence of the beloved, which is embodied in her secret name. whoever can find the name, and become one with it, feeding on it almost - as one feeds on love - and then disappearing in it, this is important too - is the chosen one, the one who can erase the line between dream and reality, absence and presence.

it is very beautiful, James.

Sorlil said...

Roxana - yes I googled the line afterwards and realised it was yours. Of course, I should have known :)

James Owens said...

Hi Suzi: No, I only literally climb the trees when the bears are not friendly. They were pleasant enough this time, chatty and offering licorice, so I resisted the temptation --- which is remarkable, since as a rule I don't resist temptation.

Thank you for the Duffy quote. She has always been a poet who meditates on language, though I'm not sure enough readers have noticed that in her.... The Other River has been a favorite of mine. I was pleased with her recent ascension into the rarified regions of the etherial realm.... What do you think of this development? (And Sorlil, the question is for you, too.)

James Owens said...

Thanks, Sam The Man-Moth ... I hadn't thought of that, but it is there, isn't it? These things just become a part of one's blood....

James Owens said...

Sorlil: You're right :-) But I thought it sounded so much like me that no one would ever know....

Thank you for mentioning the sixth stanza. That's the one I was worried about. So many times I've, scowling, chastised students for saying soemthing or other "seemed" --- either it was or it wasn't, so say so!.... But sometimes things do seem....

James Owens said...

Roxana: I am no longer surprised --- I've seen it before --- that you are a better reader of my poems than I am :-)

Yes, the secret name of the beloved, known (to both of them, or only to he who has found it?) and weighed and cherished like the precious find it really is --- beyond speech but taken inside, into the body, into the spirit, where it lives, and heals the rift between word and thing, between presence and evasion, between the beloved's body and light and the shadow at the lover's heart, which is a premontion of absence --- this is all... this is joy....

Roxana said...

ha, Sorlil, you googled it :-) this is sooo funny! :-) and terrifying also, one writes some silly things somewhere on the net and they remain there and can be traced back to one :-)

James: perhaps i am (sometimes) a good reader -thank you for that! - but you've got the _words_, even if you play (sometimes) at 'stealing' the - allegedly - best line :-) however i am with Sorlil on this one, it doesn't sound like you.

Sorlil said...

I think Duffy's a great choice for poet laureate, so glad that Andrew (who?) Motion is gone. She's great for raising public awareness of poetry plus I've no doubt her royal poems are going to be Very Interesting!

I've long admired some of her poems but I've got to admit I wasn't at all impressed with her as a reader when I saw her at StAnza, she came across as rather bored to be there!

Neil said...
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Neil said...

This is a stunning poem -the title is the only thing I don't much like. The opening lines are so strong - I say this in envy, as someone who naturally writes good closing lines but weak opening ones. And there are so many contestants for the poem's best line. My own favourite is "your name was a small red stone".