21 February 2013

These Casual Atlantises

A poem by Marsden Hartley: "Melville: After Reading the Encantadas."

(Painting No. 48, Marsden Hartley, via Wikimedia Commons)

(After Reading the Encantadas)

How our almost severing head swirls,
electric necromancer,
muffled whimper of seabred engines,
deafening whirr of renascent categories
of the scale heights of sun-crossed wind
tattering in softly pleated areas of vapors
intrinsically strange;
lizards shifting their vast vicarious avatars
in creases convergent with gray and orange;
tortoises plagiarizing the staid centurion
counting its rippling segments; the scorpion
during aspects dourly courageous, closing on
its own throat with its own mandibles,
naturally at the rear, reaching back when
deficit of freedom prevaricates the dream
the very ends of the earth, these casual Atlantises
thus--swooning under,
and we, foolish fever-fantasies buried down
under the thunder
the heavy weight of all this desolating
tapestry--this hyper-worn fabric
edged with smoldering facets, if you like,
of glittering, somewhat precious stone.
O burdensomely the enchanted falls upon our
making common breath expensive,
formidable--the way to live.

(Selected Poems, 1945)


  1. Look at the size of these words.

  2. apropos of a poem "after" Melville!