Wednesday, February 14, 2007


The 6 a.m. January
encaustic clouds
are built
in a waxy gray putty
whizzing by with spots
of luminous silvery
crack-o'-the-world light
coming through, an eerie
end-o'-the-world feeling
yet reassuring
like an old movie.
Do I really have to go out there?
Now a hint of muted
salmon tones breaking
a warmish band
of welcoming pinkish light.
Is it like this every morning?
My head still in the dark.
Worry, eck! But the brightening
russet-tipped cloud ballet
reminds me of something
in Pliny, yea, Pliny.
Can't imagine opening
the door today in a toga.
Work and more,
yes, work
sends us into the draft.

--Peter Gizzi, in the London Review of Books

Light that suggests both the end of the world and an old movie; clouds that in their solidity first resemble Jasper Johns's preferred medium, encaustic, then as they take on color call to mind a different art form altogether; apprehension about the immediate future, and absorptive recall of classic literature -- Peter Gizzi's poem yokes opposites and near-doubles as it eases from curmudgeonish recoil at the weather to brace up, yeomanlike, and face the day. Those are the ideas.

As for the words, "Wintry Mix" is a terrific steal from the Weather Channel, and who would expect the poem to conclude with draft, a word usually used to describe how the outside impinges on the indoors. I won't go so far as to say that the invented phrase crack-o'-the-world has the stamp of actual human speech, but I enjoy how it calls to mind the more familiar phrase will-o'-the-wisp, and even more how it casually evokes both hominess and excitement. The poet isn't a special soul or maniac who enjoys ordinary winter weather, but he's not unaware of the sensation it brings either. As for the reference to Pliny (the Elder, I assume), cursory googling reveals that he attended to his paying work early in the morning so that he might have time at night to read and write.

(I'm reminded, too, of another early winter riser poem; William Carlos Williams's "January Morning" scans better than as altered by August Kleinzahler for the title of his book -- "I have discovered that most of / the beauties of travel are due to / the strange hours we keep to see them." Dangerous for a poet to hew so closely to a much greater talent, but that's a discussion for another time.)

Peter Gizzi's new book is The Outernationale; I'm looking forward to reading it. I for one had to go out into the sleet today, and was pleased to have this poem in my head as company.

Jordan - #




I'm Jordan Davis.
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