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luís soares

Blog do escritor Luís Soares

George Oppen - Of Being Numerous: Sections 1-22

1

 

There are things

We live among ‘and to see them

Is to know ourselves’.

 

Occurrence, a part

Of an infinite series,

 

The sad marvels;

 

Of this was told

A tale of our wickedness.

It is not our wickedness.

 

‘You remember that old town we went to, and we sat in the ruined window, and we tried to imagine that we belonged to those times—It is dead and it is not dead, and you cannot imagine either its life or its death; the earth speaks and the salamander speaks, the Spring comes and only obscures it—’

 

 

2

 

So spoke of the existence of things,

An unmanageable pantheon

 

Absolute, but they say

Arid.

 

A city of the corporations

 

Glassed

In dreams

 

And images—

 

And the pure joy

Of the mineral fact

 

Tho it is impenetrable

 

As the world, if it is matter,

Is impenetrable.

 

 

3

 

The emotions are engaged

Entering the city

As entering any city.

 

We are not coeval

With a locality

But we imagine others are,

 

We encounter them. Actually

A populace flows

Thru the city.

 

This is a language, therefore, of New York

 

 

4

 

For the people of that flow

Are new, the old

 

New to age as the young

To youth

 

And to their dwelling

For which the tarred roofs

 

And the stoops and doors—

A world of stoops—

Are petty alibi and satirical wit

Will not serve.

 

 

5

 

The great stone

Above the river

In the pylon of the bridge

 

‘1875’

 

Frozen in the moonlight

In the frozen air over the footpath, consciousness

 

Which has nothing to gain, which awaits nothing,

Which loves itself

 

 

6

 

We are pressed, pressed on each other,

We will be told at once

Of anything that happens

 

And the discovery of fact bursts

In a paroxysm of emotion

Now as always.   Crusoe

 

We say was

‘Rescued’.

So we have chosen.

 

 

7

 

Obsessed, bewildered

 

By the shipwreck

Of the singular

 

We have chosen the meaning

Of being numerous.

 

 

8

 

Amor fati

The love of fate

 

For which the city alone

Is audience

 

Perhaps blasphemous.

 

Slowly over islands, destinies

Moving steadily pass

And change

 

In the thin sky

Over islands

 

Among days

 

Having only the force

Of days

 

Most simple

Most difficult

 

 

9

 

‘Whether, as the intensity of seeing increases, one’s distance from Them, the people, does not also increase’

I know, of course I know, I can enter no other place

 

Yet I am one of those who from nothing but man’s way of thought and one of his dialects and what has happened to me

Have made poetry

 

To dream of that beach

For the sake of an instant in the eyes,

 

The absolute singular

 

The unearthly bonds

Of the singular

 

Which is the bright light of shipwreck

 

 

10

 

Or, in that light, New arts! Dithyrambic, audience-as-artists! But I will listen to a man, I will listen to a man, and when I speak I will speak, tho he will fail and I will fail. But I will listen to him speak. The shuffling of a crowd is nothing—well, nothing but the many that we are, but nothing.

 

Urban art, art of the cities, art of the young in the cities—The isolated man is dead, his world around him exhausted

 

And he fails! He fails, that meditative man! And indeed they cannot ‘bear’ it.

 

 

11

 

            it is that light

Seeps anywhere, a light for the times

 

In which the buildings

Stand on low ground, their pediments

Just above the harbor

 

Absolutely immobile,

 

Hollow, available, you could enter any building,

You could look from any window

One might wave to himself

From the top of the Empire State Building—

 

 

Speak

 

 

If you can

 

 

Speak

 

 

Phyllis—not neo-classic,

The girl’s name is Phyllis—

 

Coming home from her first job

On the bus in the bare civic interior

Among those people, the small doors

Opening on the night at the curb

Her heart, she told me, suddenly tight with happiness—

 

So small a picture,

A spot of light on the curb, it cannot demean us

 

I too am in love down there with the streets

And the square slabs of pavement—

 

To talk of the house and the neighborhood and the docks

 

And it is not ‘art’

 

 

12

 

‘In these explanations it is presumed that an experiencing subject is one occasion of a sensitive reaction to an actual world.’

 

the rain falls

that had not been falling

and it is the same world

 

. . .

 

They made small objects

Of wood and the bones of fish

And of stone. They talked,

Families talked,

They gathered in council

And spoke, carrying objects.

They were credulous,

Their things shone in the forest.

 

They were patient

With the world.

This will never return, never,

Unless having reached their limits

 

They will begin over, that is,

Over and over

 

 

13

 

           unable to begin

At the beginning, the fortunate

Find everything already here. They are shoppers,

Choosers, judges; . . . And here the brutal

is without issue, a dead end.

                                            They develop

Argument in order to speak, they become

unreal, unreal, life loses

solidity, loses extent, baseball’s their game

because baseball is not a game

but an argument and difference of opinion

makes the horse races. They are ghosts that endanger

 

One’s soul. There is change

In an air

That smells stale, they will come to the end

Of an era

First of all peoples

And one may honorably keep

 

His distance

If he can.

 

 

14

 

I cannot even now

Altogether disengage myself

From those men

 

With whom I stood in emplacements, in mess tents,

In hospitals and sheds and hid in the gullies

Of blasted roads in a ruined country,

 

Among them many men

More capable than I—

 

Muykut and a sergeant

Named Healy,

That lieutenant also—

 

How forget that? How talk

Distantly of ‘The People’

 

Who are that force

Within the walls

Of cities

 

Wherein their cars

 

Echo like history

Down walled avenues

In which one cannot speak.

 

 

15

 

Chorus (androgynous): ‘Find me

So that I will exist, find my navel

So that it will exist, find my nipples

So that they will exist, find every hair

Of my belly, I am good (or I am bad),

Find me.’

 

 

16

 

‘. . . he who will not work shall not eat,

and only he who was troubled shall find rest,

and only he who descends into the nether world shall rescue his beloved,

and only he who unsheathes his knife shall be given Isaac again. He who will not work shall not eat. . .

but he who will work shall give birth to his own father.’

 

 

17

 

The roots of words

Dim in the subways

 

There is madness in the number

Of the living

‘A state of matter’

 

There is nobody here but us chickens

 

Anti-ontology—

 

He wants to say

His life is real,

No one can say why

 

It is not easy to speak

 

A ferocious mumbling, in public

Of rootless speech

 

 

18

 

It is the air of atrocity,

An event as ordinary

As a President.

 

A plume of smoke, visible at a distance

In which people burn.

 

 

19

 

Now in the helicopters the casual will

Is atrocious

 

Insanity in high places,

If it is true we must do these things

We must cut our throats

 

The fly in the bottle

 

Insane, the insane fly

 

Which, over the city

Is the bright light of shipwreck

 

 

20

 

—They await

 

War, and the news

Is war

 

As always

 

That the juices may flow in them

Tho the juices lie.

 

Great things have happened

On the earth and given it history, armies

And the ragged hordes moving and the passions

Of that death. But who escapes

Death

 

Among these riders

Of the subway,

 

They know

But now as I know

 

Failure and the guilt

Of failure.

As in Hardy’s poem of Christmas

 

We might half-hope to find the animals

In the sheds of a nation

Kneeling at midnight,

 

Farm animals,

Draft animals, beasts for slaughter

Because it would mean they have forgiven us,

Or which is the same thing,

That we do not altogether matter.

 

 

21

 

There can be a brick

In a brick wall

The eye picks

 

So quiet of a Sunday

Here is the brick, it was waiting

Here when you were born

 

Mary-Anne.

 

 

22

 

Clarity

 

In the sense of transparence,

I don’t mean that much can be explained

 

Clarity in the sense of silence.

George Oppen - And Their Winter and Night in Disguise

The sea and a crescent strip of beach

Show between the service station and a deserted shack

 

A creek drains thru the beach

Forming a ditch

There is a discarded super-market cart in the ditch  

That beach is the edge of a nation

 

There is something like shouting along the highway  

A California shouting

On the long fast highway over the California mountains

 

Point Pedro  

Its distant life

 

It is impossible the world should be either good or bad  

If its colors are beautiful or if they are not beautiful  

If parts of it taste good or if no parts of it taste good  

It is as remarkable in one case as the other

                                                                   As against this

 

We have suffered fear, we know something of fear  

And of humiliation mounting to horror

 

The world above the edge of the foxhole belongs to the flying bullets, leaden superbeings

For the men grovelling in the foxhole danger, danger in being drawn to them

 

These little dumps

The poem is about them

 

Our hearts are twisted  

In dead men’s pride

 

Dead men crowd us  

Lean over us

 

In the emplacements

 

The skull spins  

Empty of subject

 

The hollow ego

 

Flinching from the war’s huge air

 

Tho we are delivery boys and bartenders  

 

We will choke on each other

 

Minds may crack

 

But not for what is discovered

 

Unless that everyone knew  

And kept silent

 

Our minds are split

To seek the danger out

 

From among the miserable soldiers

George Oppen - Ballad

Astrolabes and lexicons
Once in the great houses—


A poor lobsterman


Met by chance
On Swan’s Island


Where he was born
We saw the old farmhouse


Propped and leaning on its hilltop
On that island
Where the ferry runs


A poor lobsterman


His teeth were bad


He drove us over that island
In an old car


A well-spoken man


Hardly real
As he knew in those rough fields


Lobster pots and their gear
Smelling of salt


The rocks outlived the classicists,
The rocks and the lobstermen’s huts


And the sights of the island
The ledges in the rough sea seen from the road


And the harbor
And the post office


Difficult to know what one means
—to be serious and to know what one means—


An island
Has a public quality


His wife in the front seat


In a soft dress
Such as poor women wear


She took it that we came—
I don’t know how to say, she said—


Not for anything we did, she said,
Mildly, ‘from God’. She said


What I like more than anything
Is to visit other islands…

George Oppen - Town, a town...

Town, a town,

But location

Over which the sun as it comes to it;   

Which cools, houses and lamp-posts,

    during the night, with the roads—

Inhabited partly by those

Who have been born here,

Houses built—. From a train one sees

    him in the morning, his morning;   

Him in the afternoon, straightening—

People everywhere, time and the work

    pauseless:

One moves between reading and re-reading,   

The shape is a moment.

From a crowd a white powdered face,   

Eyes and mouth making three—

Awaited—locally—a date.

 

*

 

Near your eyes—

Love at the pelvis

Reaches the generic, gratuitous

                   (Your eyes like snail-tracks)

 

Parallel emotions,

We slide in separate hard grooves   

Bowstrings to bent loins,

                     Self moving

Moon, mid-air.

 

*

 

Fragonard,

Your spiral women   

By a fountain

 

‘1732’

 

Your picture lasts thru us

 

                  its air

Thick with succession of civilizations;   

And the women.

 

*

 

No interval of manner

Your body in the sun.

You? A solid, this that the dress

                        insisted,

Your face unaccented, your mouth a mouth?   

                        Practical knees:

It is you who truly

Excel the vegetable,

The fitting of grasses—more bare than   

                        that.

Pointedly bent, your elbow on a car-edge   

Incognito as summer

Among mechanics.

 

*

 

‘O city ladies’

Your coats wrapped,   

Your hips a possession

 

Your shoes arched   

Your walk is sharp

 

Your breasts

         Pertain to lingerie

 

The fields are road-sides,   

Rooms outlast you.

 

*

 

Bad times:

The cars pass

By the elevated posts   

And the movie sign.   

A man sells post-cards.

 

*

 

It brightens up into the branches   

And against the same buildings

 

A morning:

His job is as regular.