a new place...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

David Ignatow

from Shadowing the Ground: 63

I must train myself to no longer exist
but as a stone lifted and thrown
to wherever I land, a new place,
a new odor to it and new sound
and action surrounding me, all this
without the thought of loss, despair,
or hope, a preparation for loss.
Such a life would be god’s, if one
existed. But it is life I can assume
is god’s, and I can live it.


The focus of this Ignatow poem reflects the most ancient of poetic rivers – stepping outside the self – to live as a a stone lifted and thrown to wherever I land. Places, odors, and sounds that are new. A place beyond despair - and here is the truest part - and a place beyond hope. Shedding all those weights – and there are many – that hold back the best part of whatever the self is. Letting go. “Such a life,” Ignatow writes, “would be god’s.”

Ignatow begins the poem: “I must train myself”. The answers, however far-reaching or improbable they may be, begin within. The poetic I – so vital to great writers from Vallejo to Bishop, from Dickinson to Borges to Snyder – is believable in Ignatow’s world. There is a choice, a perception, an accepting of the moment.

But the real import is that it’s a life I can live. It is a life – considereing the implications that Ignatow raises at the end of the piece – that should be or, at least, can be lived beyond the world of things.


LKD said...

You know, I keep coming back to this, then leaving without saying anything.

I will eventually say something.

In the meantime, I hope you don't mind, but I stole the poem's first line (I think I'll have it tattooed as a bracelet around my left wrist) as well as that more beautiful than beautiful O'Keeffe painting that you posted in on the side of your blog.

I'd never seen it before and I'm head over heels in love with it.

The painting reminds me of how trees looked like when I was a child.

When I was a child, I used to think trees were people.

SarahJane said...

I think this was the first Ignatow poem I ever read, and I was immediately smitten. I just got his collection "Against the Evidence" last month which is full of wonderful poems, but this remains one of my favorites.

SarahJane said...

oh, and laurel never saw the o'keefe before either, i see. i just commented on that on her blog.... smile

poet with a day job said...

GREAT poem, Sam. You always manage to post the poems that ground and center me.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks, Laurel, Sarah, & Melissa, for the read and comments.

Stu said...

If I had to choose ten lines to live by, these would be among the better choices.

I appreciate the laying bare of hope as 'a preparation for loss'.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Great point, Stu. Thanks for the comment.