OPENING AN OSCAR WILLIAMS ANTHOLOGY
In appearance I am a cross between John Dryden and W. E. Henley,
judging from the photos in the back of O. Williams's Little Treas. of Great Poetry.
In scenery I like little hills you can see around. (Williams was a little too
early to include William Stafford.) But my face, as terrain, is too plain.
So I'm putting tiny finches on my eyebrows where they fly wild, bits
of earth on the fissures that've opened up the last three years, moss in
the pouches under my eyes, and miniature beavers (bred from moles)
in my hair, in my hair. The tone of lyric is never too heavy, even Poe brooding
a kind of levity. It must be the typeface, a kind of whiteface in which "Chaplinesque"
laps miles with Dickinson's facial expression, her slightly startled and too-pale face
on which Poe's eyes could be glued, on which Poe's eyes could be glued. The test
of a lyrical volume is whether the lines can be doubled, as in some limerick refrains
and no alteration of tone, I say no alteration of tone, the eyes
looking right at you or cabinet skew, to show they are thinking of other than you
with an ear a bit cocked for ovation. I could do if I had to a bouillabaisse stew
and put in some saffron, a shellfish or two and with shallots the thing
would be edible. The pub owner ast me, I thought and I sez, with shallots I'd manage
a good bouillabaisse, without eel p'raps not unforgeddable. My face if grown over
and habited by little moths with the faces of owls (hybridized like the beavers)
would be worth remark and like Oscar, I'd rent myself out like a national park
or standing in rain say this poem again. And again.
Copyright 1997 by Gerald Burns