personal, poetry

On “Topography”

So my wife says that I shouldn’t just post poems (or excerpts) without explaining why.  So here’s why I posted the excerpt from “The Topography of History.”  I’m very interested in the ideas of continuity and change.  I love the image of the river that is both constant (you can draw it on a map) and flowing (someday that water will reach the ocean).  I feel like that.  There are all these selves that I’ve lived at different times of my life, in different places and with different people, but I’m still myself.  Or at least I want to believe I’m always myself, that there is some sort of me that is constant.  But I know I’ve changed.  A lot.  Sometimes I feel like a stranger, to others and to myself.  And that’s why I’ve started this blog: to chronicle some of that change, to understand my history, to not lose my love down the river.


2 thoughts on “On “Topography”

  1. sw says:

    I came across the following poem by Robert Bly, McGrath’s Midwestern comrade, this morning. It made me think of the McGrath piece, especially the bit you excerpted (amongst my favorite TM lines). -sw

    Mourning Pablo Neruda

    Water is practical,
    in August, water
    into the buckets
    I carry
    to the young willow trees
    whose leaves
    have been eaten off
    by grasshoppers.
    Or this jar of water
    that lies
    next to me
    on the carseat
    as I drive to my shack.
    When I look down,
    the seat all around the jar
    is dark,
    for water doesn’t intend
    to give,
    it gives anyway,

    and the jar of water
    lies there quivering
    as I drive
    through a countryside
    of granite quarries,
    stones soon
    to be shaped
    into blocks for the dead,
    the only thing
    they have left
    that is theirs.

    For the dead remain
    inside us, as water
    in granite-
    hardly at all-
    for their job is to go away,
    and not come back,
    even when we ask them.
    But water comes
    to us,
    it doesn’t care
    about us, it goes
    around us, on the way
    to the Minnesota River,
    to the Mississippi,
    to the Gulf,
    always closer
    to where
    it has to be.
    No one lays flowers
    on the grave
    of water,
    for it is not
    it is gone.

    • I really like that. Thanks for sharing.

      Unrelated to the poem, but I love the short stories of his ex-wife Carol Bly

      Those lines from McGrath blew me away when I read them the first time. I had to reread it a few times immediately, and I’ve kept returning to it ever since. Thanks for sharing that with me, too..

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