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Saturday, 26 February 2011

Robert Duncan: Salvages: An Evening Piece



A plate in light upon a table is not a plate of hunger. Coins on the table have their own innocent glimmer. Everything about coins we obliterate in use and urgency. How lovely the silver dull disk glimmer is. Shells without remorse. The rubd antique nickle dated 1939 Liberty portrait relief of Jefferson and, beyond, darkend with use, a grimy patina beautiful 1929 buffalo head nickle.


Bottles. An aluminum tea pot with wicker handle. A remnant length of Italian shawl worn by my grandmother in the 80s, this too, increasing as beauty in dimness. The reds, ochres, blacks and once perhaps almost white natural cotton yellowd. The wearing, the long use, the discoloring. It would be becoming to beauty in words worn out. As a poetry to be discolord.

File:Mercury dime.jpg

It is not the age it is the wearing, it is the reversion of the thing from its values. One nickle, then two dimes brighter, a newness, fresh-minted (yet, when I look -- in god we trust -- it is 1944, the god is Mercury with winged helmet; the other, a bust of Deus Roosevelt roman style with sagging chin and stuck-up defiant nondescript head -- this is 1947 -- in god we trust). Then two nickles, the grimy ones. One shiny fifty cent piece above. (Beyond) a fourth nickle showing Monticello E Pluribus Unum.

File:War Nickle.jpg

This mere ninety cents is more, is all piece by piece in art, as they are here, pieces of glimmer as rare as the mysterious chalice with faces and figures on the casting from the greek house and rider.

File:House key.jpg

Notes on use and values.

.....Then the litter. The gleams of silver and nickle seen as coins of light in the litter. A key, another gleam, an ancient evocation, a coin-silver spoon, a chipt cheap cup-shaped cup with a grey glaze without the imperfections of beauty beautiful because it is a cup. A large brown glass bottle of vitamins that look like beans. Papers. A letter from a friend, a program in my own script black and definite (defiant) arranged over the white paper. Matches. An envelope.


In the late hour left after the history of the day, taken with a will before bedtime -- how transformd the world is! The silence almost reaches us in which an original, all that has been left behind, tosst about, of us remains.

Beautiful litter with thy gleam and glimmers, thy wastes and remains! The tide of our purpose has gone back into itself, into its own counsels. And it is the beauty of where we have been living that is the beauty of the hour.

This post dedicated to Aram Saroyan

Salvages: An Evening Piece
: Robert Duncan, 1950 (from A Book of Resemblances, 1950

Indian Head nickel (obverse): designed by James Earle Fraser, 1913: image by Einar Einarsson Kvaran, 2005
Buffalo Head nickel (reverse): designed and by James Earle Fraser, 1913: image by Einar Einarsson Kvaran, 2005
Composite image of 1936 Winged Liberty Head (Mercury) dime, designed by Adolph A. Weinman, 1915 (obverse image based on portrait of Wallace Stevens's wife Elsie Kachel Stevens): original obverse image by Bobby 131313, 2006; composite image by Cholmes75, 2006
WW II period US Liberty Head nickel (Monticello/reverse side), designed and engraved by Felix Schlag,1938: image by Cholmes75, 2006
House key: photo by Linuxerist, 2006
Spoon: photo by Ari Abitbol, 2008
Street Item: Garbage, Berkeley: photo by Dorothea Lange, 1945 (Dorothea Lange Collection, Oakland Museum of California)




Thanks! -- "And it is the beauty of where we have been living that is the beauty of the hour."


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, planet next to moon above branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

repeated in a succession of
instances, yet is what

can be present kind of part
of center, formal, etc.

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
white of moon in blue of sky on horizon

ps. white on red roof but not on ridge -- cold enough last night but clear, no rain (nor snow). . . .

TC said...

A beauty, Steve, as clear as this sharply chilly morning.

By the by, about that bottom image of "litter" -- Dorothea Lange and RD were both living in Berkeley at the time, and so possibly trod that same ground...

TC said...

The profile on the Winged Liberty Head (Mercury) dime, in the third image from the top (in case anyone's interested and missed the attribution) is that of Elsie Kachel Stevens, the wife of Wallace Stevens.

(Is that what's called "being on the money"?)

Artemesia said...

Origins of the dime:
Pic. Of Elsie Steven’s lost sculpure and her pic. below.
Steven’s family snubbed Elsie and subsequently, Wallace turned his back on them.

Artemesia said...

Sorry..First link was a dud. Elsie looks to have been an impish muse, albeit quite beautiful too! I was writing about Stevens of late and was delighted to meet his Elsie here. Thanks,

TC said...

Very interesting, Artemesia, to see
the lost bust of Elsie.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about and enjoying this and all the thoughts and mental images it engenders all day. It does remind me of my own mind when I'm drowsy in bed but thoughts and visions are still marching along and also of my dreams and how they seem to me when I awaken. I even ran an unintentional experiment today during a car ride from Pennsylvania to New York and confirmed this. There are so many memorable lines, thoughts and images here. I agree about Steve's wonderful poem and I really love the ps.



I saw that yesterday, Elsie Stevens on the dime, struck a chord (in memory) but I'd forgotten -- thanks again for being our resident historian of so much otherwise lost (or never known) "instances". . . .