05 June 2006

Marianne Moore


Openly, yes,
with the naturalness
     of the hippopotamus or the alligator
     when it climbs out on the bank to experience the

sun, I do these
things which I do, which please
     no one but myself. Now I breathe and now I am sub-
     merged; the blemishes stand up and shout when the object

in view is a
renaissance; shall I say
     the contrary? The sediment of the river which
     encrusts my joints makes me very gray, but I am used

to it, it may
remain there; do away
     with it and I am myself done away with, for the
     patina of circumstance can but enrich what was

there to begin
with. This elephant-skin
     which I inhabit, fibred over like the shell of
     the coconut, this piece of black glass through which no light

can filter—cut
into checkers by rut
     upon rut of unpreventable experience—
     is a manual for the peanut-tongued and the

hairy-toed. Black
but beautiful, my back
     is full of the history of power. Of power. What
     is powerful and what is not. My soul shall never

be cut into
by a wooden spear; through-
     out childhood to the present time, the unity of
     life and death has been expressed by the circumference

described by my
trunk; nevertheless I
     perceive feats of strength to be inexplicable after
     all; and I am on my guard; external poise, it

has its center
well nurtured—we know
     where—in pride; but spiritual poise, it has its center where?
     My ears are sensitized to more than the sound of

the wind. I see
and I hear, unlike the
     wandlike body of which one hears so much, which was made
     to see and not to see; to hear and not to hear;

that tree-trunk without
roots, accustomed to shout
     its own thoughts to itself like a shell, maintained intact
     by who knows what strange pressure of the atmosphere; that

brother to the coral-
     plant, absorbed into which, the equable sapphire light
     becomes a nebulous green. The I of each is to

the I of each
a kind of fretful speech
     which sets a limit on itself; the elephant is
     black earth preceded by a tendril? Compared with those

which vacillate like a
     translucence of the atmosphere, the elephant is
     that on which darts cannot strike decisively the first

time, a substance
needful as an instance
     of the indestructibility of matter; it
     has looked at electricity and at the earth-

quake and is still
here; the name means thick. Will
     depth be depth, thick skin be thick, to one who can see no
     beautiful element of unreason under it?

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