Incertezza del Poeta

Roger Finch

—Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)

It is not
    merely not knowing which to portray,
        a headless female torso
or a bunch of bananas, each velvety spot
    on their leopard-yellow skin miming
        some small fleck of corruption
beneath her pearly husk; the poet must say

who he is
    today, old or young, woman or man,
        wise or feeble-minded. Words
require a transformation. Mirrors are his,
    holding in their icy walls a face
        that did not exist before;
he must mask his own with their quicksilver plan,

moulding clay,
    if he can, from his features--lines, planes,
        softened-by-sorrow contours.
The hunter learns to fear as he walks the way
    of tigers, sniffing in the fragrant spoor.
        So poets in the dropped tracks
of other poets stand, entering the pains

of slayer
    and slain: both are statuary still,
        angel's wings salt-bright in flight
or else stiffened in that pose imposed by air.
    The poet sees his own live parchments
        draw such nightly luminescence,
the spirit of what he may write, if he will.


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