What, should we get rid of our ignorance, the very substance of our lives, merely in order to understand one another?R. P. Blackmur
by R. P. Blackmur (1904 – 1965)
My friend, what brothers us in each? – I take,
most mine out of the wordling worlds we bled,
not life, but what is takeable, the dead.
I say the dead. Things cannot sleep nor wake,
nor grow nor lessen, upleap nor ever slack,
which have been changed between two selves. I said
the dead – what’s not but was. This struggle-bread,
the pressed wafer of knowledge, this I break.
I eat the past, the matter we have been,
and so eat god, a fast; devour my part
in you. Yet you’re untouched. You say that’s so
of me? – my dead selves only you draw in
your often eye and seldom smile? Live heart,
we lag – we are ahead of all we know.
There are days this long winter, when it is difficult to be surprised. Then comes along a March sunny day, the sparkle of snow-diamonds bedazzle contrasted by the denim blue of long shadows, that blue that only exists in spring-snow right before it melts, and I am awestruck by the simplicity of white. I had the same feeling reading R. P. Blackmur’s poem Struggle-Bread. How could I have missed this poem, these long years? Where had it been hiding? Blackmur published sparingly his own poetry, but commented elegantly as a critic on others work. I wonder what held Blackmur back from sharing more; modesty?
My Dog My Wife and Most Myself
by R. P. Blackmur
Because the elm-tree buds are red
in sunlight, yellow-brown in shade,
I think not of a living thing —
my dog my wife and most myself —
but that I think of it as dead.
Because the harrowed land is black
and the wet wales ashine like flesh
in sunlight, dull blue steel in shade.
this much I do expect, and hate,
I shall be fertile so when dead–
fertile and indiscriminate.