Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"To My Wash-stand" by Louis Zukofsky

No. 22 ("To My Wash-stand")

             To my wash-stand
in which I wash
             my left hand
and my right hand

             To my wash-stand
whose base is Greek
             whose shaft
is marble and is fluted

             To my wash-stand
whose wash-bowl
             is an oval
in a square

             To my wash-stand
whose square is marble
             and inscribes two
smaller ovals to left and right for soap

             Comes a song of
water from the right faucet and the left
             my left and my
right hand mixing hot and cold

             Comes a flow which
if I have called a song
             is a song
entirely in my head

             a song out of imagining
modillions described above
             my head   a frieze
of stone completing what no longer

             is my wash-stand
since its marble has completed
             my getting up each morning
my washing before going to bed

             my look into a mirror
to glimpse half an oval
             as if its half
were half-oval in my head   and the

             climates of many
inscriptions human heads shapes'
             horses' elephants' (tusks) others'
scratched in marble tile

             so my wash-stand
in one particular breaking of the
             tile at which I have
looked and looked

             has opposed to my head
the inscription of a head
             whose coinage is the
coinage of the poor

             observant in waiting
in their getting up mornings
             and in their waiting
going to bed

             carefully attentive
to what they have
             and to what they do not

when a flow of water
             doubled in narrow folds
occasions invertible counterpoints
             over a head   and

             an age in a wash-stand
and in their own heads

Source of the text - Louis Zukofsky, Complete Short Poetry.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997, pp. 52-53.

TJB: This essay-chant moves from close-observed reality to imagination with intensely transitive-hypotactic clauses, with a major shift at “so.”

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