April 26, 2011

21 Days/ 21 Poems: A Love Poem

You, Therefore
—for Robert Philen

You are like me, you will die too, but not today:
you, incommensurate, therefore the hours shine:
if I say to you “To you I say,” you have not been
set to music, or broadcast live on the ghost
radio, may never be an oil painting or
Old Master’s charcoal sketch: you are
a concordance of person, number, voice,
and place, strawberries spread through your name
as if it were budding shrubs, how you remind me
of some spring, the waters as cool and clear
(late rain clings to your leaves, shaken by light wind),
which is where you occur in grassy moonlight:
and you are a lily, and aster, white trillium
or viburnum, by all rights mine, white star
in the meadow sky, the snow still arriving
from its earthwards journeys, here where there is
no snow (I dreamed the snow was you,
where there was snow), you are my right,
have come to be my night (your body takes on
the dimensions of sleep, the shape of sleep
becomes you): and you fall from the sky
with several flowers, words spill from your mouth
in waves, your lips taste like the sea, salt-sweet (trees
and seas have flown away, I call it
loving you): home is nowhere, therefore you,
a kind of dwell and welcome, song after all,
and free of any eden we can name.

“You, Therefore” by Reginald Shepherd. Fata Morgana. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007

When Reginald Shepherd visited Miami Dade College in 2007, I had the pleasure of hearing him read from this collection. During the brief time that we spoke, I discovered a very warm and generous man who was willing to share his gifts with our students and they were enamored by his brilliance. 

The speaker in the poem while contemplating his imminent death creates from fragments of memory a portrait of his lover: “strawberries spread through your name/ as if it were budding shrubs.” The lush descriptions of natural phenomena, “you are a lily, and aster, white trillium,” drive his relentless desire to define the relationship. It is a failed attempt. His love is beyond language, which metaphor can only suggest: “therefore you, / a kind of dwell and welcome, song after all,/ and free of any eden we can name.”

Reginald Shepherd (April 10, 1963 – September 10, 2008) was an American poet and born in New York City and raised there in the Bronx. He died of cancer in Penascola, Florida, in 2008.
Shepherd graduated from Bennington College in 1988, and received MFAs from Brown University and the University of Iowa, where he attended the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop. He subsequently taught at Northern Illinois University and Cornell University. In his last year at the University of Iowa, he received the "Discovery" prize from the 92nd Street Y, and his first collection, Some Are Drowning (1994), was chosen by Carolyn Forché for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs' Award in Poetry.
His other collections are: Fata Morgana (2007), winner of the Silver Medal of the 2007 Florida Book Awards; Otherhood (2003), a finalist for the 2004 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Wrong (1999); and Angel, Interrupted (1996).
He is also the author of A Martian Muse: Further Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry (published posthumously in 2010), Orpheus in the Bronx: Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry (2007) and the editor of The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries (2004) and of Lyric Postmodernisms (2008).
His work has been widely anthologized, including in four editions of The Best American Poetry and two Pushcart Prize anthologies. His honors and awards include grants from theNational Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, the Florida Arts Council, and the Guggenheim Foundation. His 2008 book of essays, Orpheus in the Bronx, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism.[1]

Source: Wikipedia


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1 comment:

Rethabile said...

If poems can haunt, this is one of them. I find the way the images are flung across the canvas new, and there is no shortage of them.