28 July 2008

James Merrill

[from James Merrill's From the First Nine: 1946-1976, 1981]

The Mad Scene

Again last night I dreamed the dream called Laundry.
In it, the sheets and towels of a life we were going to share,
The milk-stiff bibs, the shroud, each rag to be ever
Trampled or soiled, bled on or groped for blindly,
Came swooning out of an enormous willow hamper
Onto moon-marbly boards. We had just met. I watched
From outer darkness. I had dressed myself in clothes
Of a new fiber that never stains or wrinkles, never
Wears thin. The opera house sparkled with tiers
And tiers of eyes, like mine enlarged by belladonna,
Trained inward. There I saw the cloud-clot, gust by gust,
Form, and the lightning bite, and the roan mane unloosen.
Fingers were running in panic over the flute's nine gates.
Why did I flinch? I loved you. And in the downpour laughed
To have us wrung white, gnarled together, one
Topmost mordent of wisteria,
As the lean tree burst into grief.

From the First Nine. Poems 1946-1976


  1. Anonymous12:16

    Fabulous! I've never read any Merrill, but I'm running out right now to find some. I love that parade of images, "milk stiff bibs,"fingers running over the "flute's nine gates," and the couple "wrung white, gnarled together."

    Thanks as always for sharing.

  2. Buy his collected poems -- it's worth every penny.