Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Wallace Stevens: The Lack of Repose


Detailed aerial view of beam-steering mechanism and antennae of Arecibo Radio Telescope, Puerto Rico. from which, in 1974, a message was aimed in the direction of globular cluster M13, 25,000 light years from Earth: photo by Alessandro Cai, 2006

A young man seated at his table
Holds in his hand a book you have never written
Staring at the secretions of the words as
They reveal themselves.

It is not midnight. It is mid-day,
The young man is well-disclosed, one of the gang,
Andrew Jackson Something. But this book
Is a cloud in which a voice mumbles.

It is a ghost that inhabits a cloud,
But a ghost for Andrew, not lean, catarrhal
And pallid. It is the grandfather he liked,
With an understanding compounded by death

And the associations beyond death, even if only
Time. What a thing it is to believe that
One understands, in the intense disclosures
Of a parent in the French sense.

And not yet to have written a book in which
One is already a grandfather and to have put there
A few sounds of meaning, a momentary end
To the complication, is good, is a good.

Radio telescope of Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico (largest radio telescope in the world)
: photo by H. Schweiker/WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF (NOAA)

Wallace Stevens: The Lack of Repose, 1943, from Transport to Summer, 1947


Anonymous said...

Seeing and feeling these communicating vessels is mysterious and powerful. I expect Stevens would have enjoyed seeing the poem rendered this way.

TC said...


Thanks so much for sensing the hints of a connection beween the images and the words.

(Was beginning to suspect that this post, like the Arecibo Message, had been a generously conceived but ultimately useless mechanism, aimed into the wrong part of interstellar blogspace.)

I think Angelica encapsulated the "meaning" of it (the post, that is) for me by saying that everybody at some point feels the need to be in contact with something beyond themselves -- something "out there", beyond the life of the individual, whether there's actually anything out there or not.

Of course this could mean "out there" not only in space but too, and probably especially, "out there" in time, across the biological generations.

The genetic chain, in this metaphor, being the fragile thread of contact. understanding compounded by death

And the associations beyond death, even if only