Marilyn McCabe herein presents trenchant meditations on the mysterious and heart-rending duality (good and evil) of the human soul (think: Proust/Idi Amin). Marilyn is an old friend, a poet, translator, singer, and cross-country skier from Saratoga Springs. She is pretty much a regular contributor to these pages. See especially her translations of Rilke, Éluard, Silvestre, and Apollinaire (the last three put to music—sung in this instance by the uber-talented Ms. McCabe). These poems come from Marilyn’s brand new book Perpetual Motion, just out with The Word Works (2012).
There’s a baby
in the crisped litter
of a roadside wood today, made pale
and lovely by an October snow.
Then even the skin is brittle.
It’s never the big thing
but the fine and permeative that destroys
often beautifully. How are we a thing that hates
and is so hard to hate?
There’s a boy
tucks a note into the pocket
of a coat he’s sending a stranger, saying
“Have a good winter. Please write back.”
A branch breaks, a lamp flickers,
the dog digs at a flash of something
paler than snow. A boy uncrinkles a note.
What happens next?
In the zoo’s amphibious tanks’ blueglowcurved
half hidden things dark dim dark dim
Kierkegaard said that we are two
selves divided, one divine, one sullied
by its reflection in the group;
I look up no one I recognizeI am
eight years old and my group has disappeared
to try to see the self in others
is despair, but despair is the beginning
of the shadowed path toward God.
Run to the open doors run through the bucking storm
where’s my group I cry no one no self to find myself
And who are we without each other,
sweat smelling, shuffling,
God so far away and flickering?
dark dim dark dim dark
Professor of nesting, teach us to adhere,
to mongrel, to creep in purpose, to suspend
with aplomb and be the center of desirous flying,
the center of love.
Rector of eaves, teach us to look down backwards
at the angry citizens always wanting entry, to refuse
the attentions of sky by hiding well
and shouldering the cloak of architecture.
Technician of wonder, teach us to travel by mud,
to house in humility, hum
without sound. We make you from our bodies
but you are more than we will ever be.
You build us to build you to build us to build you
in buildings you may outlast.
Professor of such little beauty.
Rector of refusal.
Technician of this short time.
Marilyn McCabe’s book of poetry Perpetual Motion was chosen by judge Gray Jacobik to be published as part of the Hilary Tham Capital Collection by The Word Works in 2012, and her chapbook Rugged Means of Grace was published by Finishing Line Press, 2011. She is a regular contributor of poetry book reviews for Connotation Press, and her poetry has appeared in print and online in such magazines as Nimrod, Painted Bride Quarterly, Numéro Cinq, and the Cortland Review.
I am daunted to say that this is my first encounter with Ms. McCabe. It surely won’t be the last! The depth and penetration of these poems are simply dazzling.
Congratulations, Marilyn. Love the Wasp poem best.