November 30, 2008

The Eye Seeking Safety, the Mind a Veil

The province of the poem is the world.
When the sun rises, it rises in the poem
and when it sets darkness comes down and the poem is dark .

and lamps are lit, cats prowl and men
read, read--or mumble and stare
at that which their small lights distinguish
or obscure or their hands search out

in the dark. The poem moves them or
it does not move them. Faitoute, his ears
ringing . no sound . no great city,
as he seems to read--

a roar of books
from the waddled library oppresses him
his mind begins to drift .
Beautiful thing:

--a dark flame
a wind, a flood--counter to all staleness.

Dead men's dreams, confined by these walls, risen,
seek an outlet. The spirit languishes,
unable, unable not from lack of innate ability--

(barring alone sure death)

but from that which immures them pressed here
together with their fellows, for respite .

Flown in from before the cold or nightbound
(the light attracted them)
they sought safety (in books)
but ended battering against glass
at the high windows

The Library is desolation, it has a smell of its own
of stagnation and death .

Beautiful Thing!

--the cost of dreams.
in which we search, after a surgery
of the wits and must translate, quickly
step by step or be destroyed--under a spell
to remain castrate (a slowly descending veil
closing about the mind
cutting the mind away) .


--William Carlos Williams, "The Library" (1949) from Paterson