Thursday, April 05, 2007

Undebased silver

This is still my favorite Robert Lowell poem. It is certainly not his best, nor his most famous. I like it precisely for its sentimentality--the reading of it always ignites in me a desire to be loved like that. One of the things I like about Lowell's poetry generally, especially in Life Studies, is its attention to the particulars of the America contemporaneous with his own life--the details, the things. There's a sense of mis-en-scene in Lowell that you get with few other poets. You are placed in a now historical world, replete with all of its things, all of its props. In one poem in Life Studies, which I am too tired to look up right now, there is a reference to a certain kind of door knob. In this poem, the last in For Lizzie and Harriet, the "prop" detail are the coins produced before LBJ. I need to read Histories.


Our love will not come back on fortune's wheel--

in the end it gets us, though a man know what he'd have:
old cars, old money, old undebased pre-Lyndon
silver, no copper rubbing through . . . old wives;
I could live such a too long time with mine.
In the end, every hypochondriac is his own prophet.
Before the final coming to rest, comes the rest
of all transcendence in a mode of being, hushing
all becoming. I'm for and with myself in my otherness,
in the eternal return of earth's fairer children,
the lily, the rose, the sun on brick at dusk,
the loved, the lover, and their fear of life,
their unconquered flux, insensate oneness, painful "It was . . ."
After loving you so much, can I forget
you for eternity, and have no other choice?

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