Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Roger Mitchell

Boston Common

“Boston had solved
the universe,” wrote Adams (Henry), but for that
tiny blemish, slavery. Teutonic
objectivity, Yankee reticence, and Mount
Vernon Street’s close
proximity to its own ideas

relieved Henry, not just of deity and doubt, but,
too, the word, “I,”
so troublesome, invasive, slippery, open
to all sorts of tendentious distortion
(longings masked as polity; enslavements, freedoms;
confinements, rights),
I barely breathes in uttering the like.


It was the fall I sat in the small monastic room
in Charlbury
with the signed picture of Allen Dulles above
the desk watching me write, among others,
the poem about Allende’s widow
on the second
anniversary of his overthrow,

wondering what the Hungarian emigre whose
name I’ve suppressed
did besides profess history at Illinois
and what he had done in the past to earn
the gratitude and the glossy photograph
of the CIA’s
avuncular, pipe-smoking director,

and in a small Oxfordshire village a split-level
and completely
detached house which he rented to American
and other academics along with
a car and a sturdy, plain assortment of plates
and furniture,
the kind that over time would never break.

Weekly rap sessions with the Oxford Marxists kept me
passages in Althusser, Macherey. Here was
an understanding of the world the world
no longer wanted, one that would increasingly
retreat from life,
and as it did so, make increasing sense.

Large forms loom against the sky. The bit of history
I know slips off
into one of time’s damp cul-de-sacs. In its place,
a misbegotten rage. The enemy
is everywhere, next door, in the air we breathe, the
way we breathe it,
smiles on our faces, hope’s ghost in our hearts.


“Set Me Where You Stand”

It was an all-English morning this morning, just off
Beachy Head, down
the coast from Dover. A kestrel and a skylark
both obliged by helicoptering straight
above us. The sun shone chalky white on the clean
cut cliffs, off which
Gloucester thought he’d pitched himself in Lear. Now

so popular a spot to throw your worries to the wind,
they put a phone
right at the top of the down’s last lift. It claps air
at three hundred feet or more from where,
if you leapt, you’d make a heap of clabbered ham on
the rocks. “Hello.
           This is me calling. Is anybody there?”


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