A friend of ours once, for a laugh,
Took a breezy photograph—
A frozen, balmy stab at truth
And thin facsimile of our youth
(Assuming similes can explain
That star reflected in a windowpane),
Our half-life in a jalopy
Contained inside its carbon copy,
Pre-dating as it did
Faces where our futures hid,
An immortal modern icon
Sprung from a crafty Nikon,
Our photogenic freshman souls
Filed away in cubbyholes
For the cryptic later ends
Of a shifty camera lens,
Hardly up to the demands
Of our grainy waving hands,
Or, above the foaming pier,
The adolescent hemisphere.
When finally the winter bleaches
Such mementos of their beaches
And the souvenirs we book
Are more stolen than took,
When the island’s long-gone light
Has faded into seedy white
And none of us today recall
That lavish summer or its fall—
When the worlds around us wane,
May that snapshot sky remain:
Although its visions are invisible,
Its shadows hint at the original.
The very concept of publishing is to me reductive. Like the photograph in the poem, the artifacts of our self-regard validate us for a day, but can always be reworked to possibly better effect. By freezing a life in passing, we inhibit its further progress. In creating something that reduces life to a second, we give it a transient immortality.
In the same way, a novel is only a temporary photo of a world in passing. The truth of its phrases changes as they are written, but it is too long to redo, and, in any case, the redoing itself would be false before it was finished. Although Balzac tried. He littered his proofs with so many changes that he spent his profits on editing fees.
Every time the eye blinks it is reborn. We layer lives like leaves onto each vision. At some point, one vision, if we keep at it, seems vaguely representative, or at least not blurred by the immense speed of the world through its nebulous suns.
Novels, poems, photos, films that are entertainments must present a well-made whole. But art is not a whole, but a hole. It is a work in progress. It is only despair at passing time which prompts us to “finalize” something.
It is Zeno’s paradox, where Achilles can never catch the tortoise because he halves the distance between them, and then halves that, and thus can never reach anything he chases. The point of this parable must be to mock such parables.
Zen poetry by definition can never be written. A river or an ocean is real because its content constantly changes. A pond is an unsuccessful river, static, stagnant, limited, confining, claustrophobic, sullen. Of course it has dragonflies, fireflies, frogs, fish: moving parts which transfigure it. But in human terms, a pond is what we prefer. It is knowable, lovable, measurable. We overlook its algae; we value it for its stability.
I am always improving my ponds. Poetry is one of their moving parts, a reflection on their wind-driven ripples. This is by way of saying that “Encore” is a new version of the also once-new version of the presciently-named “Encore” from Sea Sun.
Why should I try to fix anything? Maybe we write about things to fix them. As an offering to the mysterious forces that outline the flow, to Bach for transcribing the endless, always changing, clandestinely symmetrical universe, to Nabokov for catching his childhood in Russia at the last possible moment. To xerox mornings, with its false starts, its fogs and clearings. And as a warning to the young: youth is a wormhole, not a goal.
Rue de Varenne
September 7th, 1997
March 25th and 28th, 2005
September 11th, 2021