Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Franz Wright (II)

I finished Walking to Martha's Vineyard and am on to Entry in an Unknown Hand, but I just can't help myself from sharing a couple more poems by Franz Wright. I'm glad I spread the love to another with my first post last week; here's to a second week inspiring more.

The first of the two poems below may be the most honest vision of baptism I've read: death to "that insane asshole" -- i.e., "the old man" of Romans 6 -- and marriage of the one born in water and the one born in spirit through the one healing word of the One able to speak it.

And the second needs no introduction except to say: either as the culmination of the collection, or from the sheer flat-faced truth of the closing line, or both, when I finished "The Only Animal," I couldn't help but cry. All of Franz Wright's poetry, and no less all of the gospel, may be summed up in the single "and yet" that turns this extraordinary poem.

- - - - - - -


By Franz Wright

That insane asshole is dead
I drowned him
and he's not coming back. Look
he has a new life
a new name
which no one knows except
the one who gave it.

If he tastes
the wine now
as he is allowed to
it won't, I'm not saying it
turn to water

however, since You
can do anything, he
will be safe

his first breath as an infant
past the waters of birth
and his soul's, past the death water, married—

Your words are spirit
and life.
Only say one
and he will be healed.

- - - - - - -

The Only Animal

By Franz Wright

The only animal that commits suicide
went for a walk in the park,
basked on a hard bench
in the first star,
traveled to the edge of space
in an armchair
while company quietly
talked, and abruptly
the room empty.

The only animal that cries
that takes off its clothes
and reports to the mirror, the one
and only animal
that brushes its own teeth—


the only animal that smokes a cigarette,
that lies down and flies backward in time,
that rises and walks to a book
and looks up a word
heard the telephone ringing
in the darkness downstairs and decided
to answer no more.

And I understand,
too well: how many times
have I made the decision to dwell
from now on
in the hour of my death
(the space I took up here
scarlessly closing like water)
and said I'm never coming back,
and yet

this morning
I stood once again
in this world, the garden
ark and vacant
tomb of what
I can't imagine,
between twin eternities,
some sort of wings,
more or less equidistantly
exiled from both,
hovering in the dreaming called
being awake, where
You gave me
in secret one thing
to perceive, the
tall blue starry
strangeness of being
here at all.

You gave us each in secret something to perceive.

Furless now, upright, My banished
and experimental

You said, though your own heart condemn you

I do not condemn you.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this deep and moving poem