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Study for the World's Body: New and Selected Poems

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A remarkable collection representing early and recent poems by David St. John, the critically acclaimed author of Hush, The Shore, ...

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Overview

A remarkable collection representing early and recent poems by David St. John, the critically acclaimed author of Hush, The Shore, and No Heaven.

GUITAR

 

I have always loved the word guitar

I have no memories of my father on the patio

At dusk, strumming a Spanish tune,

Or my mother draped in that fawn wicker chair

Polishing her flute;

I have no memories of your song, distant Sister

Heart, of those steel strings sliding

All night through the speaker of the car radio

Between Tucumcari and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Though I've never believed those stories

Of gypsy cascades, stolen hoses, castanets,

And stars, of Airstream trailers and good fortune.

Though I've never met Charlie Christian, though

I've danced the floors of cold longshoremen's halls,

Though I've waited with the overcoats at the rear

Of concerts for lute, mandolin, and two guitars –

More than the music I love scaling its woven

Stairways, more than the swirling chocolate of wood

I have always loved the word guitar

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060950163
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/3/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

Prizewinning poet David St. John is the author of ten collections of poetry, including Study for the World's Body: New and Selected Poems, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, as well as Where the Angels Come Toward Us, a volume of essays, interviews, and reviews. He is the co-editor, with Cole Swenson, of American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry. He teaches at the University of Southern California and lives in Venice Beach.

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Read an Excerpt

Description

My salt marsh

--mine, I call it, because

these day-hammered fields

of dazzled horizontals

undulate, summers,

inside me and out--

how can I say what it is?

Sea lavender shivers

over the tidewater steel.

A million minnows ally

with their million shadows

(lucky we'll never need

to know whose is whose).

The bud of storm loosens:

watered paint poured

dark blue onto the edge

of the page. Haloed grasses,

gilt shadow-edged body of dune. . .

I could go on like this.

I love the language

of the day's ten thousand aspects,

the creases and flecks

in the map, these

brilliant gouaches.

But I'm not so sure it's true,

what I was taught, that through

the particular's the way

to the universal:

what I need to tell is

swell and curve, shift

and blur of boundary,

tremble and spilling over,

a heady purity distilled

from detail. A metaphor, then:

in this tourist town,

the retail legions purvey

the far-flung world's

bangles: brilliance of Nepal

and Mozambique, any place

where cheap labor braids

or burnishes or hammers

found stuff into jewelry's

lush grammar,

a whole vocabulary

of ornament: copper and lacquer,

shells and seeds from backwaters

with fragrant names, millefiori

milled into African beads, Mexican abalone,

camelbone and tin, cinnabar

and verdigris, silver,

black onyx, coral,

gold: one vast conjugation

of the verb

to shine.

And that

is the marsh essence--

all the hoarded riches

of the world held

and rivering, a gleam

awakened and doubled

by water, flashing

off the bowing of the grass.

Jewelry, tides, language:

things that shine.

What is description, after all,

but encoded desire?

And if we say

the marsh, if we forge

terms for it, then isn't it

contained in us,

a little,

the brightness? <<P>

Four Cut Sunflowers, One Upside Down

Turbulent stasis on a blue ground.

What is any art but static flame?

Fire of spun gold, grain.

This brilliant flickering's

arrested by named (Naples,

chrome, cadmium) and nameless

yellows, tawny golds. Look

at the ochre sprawl--how

they sprawl, these odalisques,

withering coronas

around the seedheads' intricate precision.

Even drying, the petals curling

into licks of fire,

they're haloed in the pure rush of light

yellow is. One theory of color,

before Newton broke the world

through the prism's planes

and nailed the primaries to the wheel,

posited that everything's made of yellow

and blue--coastal colors

which engender, in their coupling,

every other hue, so that the world's

an elaborated dialogue

between citron and Prussian blue.

They are a whole summer to themselves.

They are a nocturne

in argent and gold, and they burn

with the ferocity

of dying (which is to say, the luminosity

of what's living hardest). Is it a human soul

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Table of Contents

Slow Dance 3
Iris 6
Six/Nine/Forty-Four 8
Wedding Preparations in the Country 13
Dolls 14
Gin 16
Hush 18
The Shore 21
Blue Waves 23
The Avenues 25
Guitar 27
Elegy 28
The Boathouse 30
Hotel Sierra 32
Song Without Forgiveness 35
Until the Sea Is Dead 36
Winter Fires 43
The Day of the Sentry 44
A Hard & Noble Patience 46
The Lemons 47
Desire 49
Woman and Leopard 50
Shadow 53
Meridian 54
Interlude: Hephaestion's Prayer 56
Wavelength 57
The Reef 58
The Swan at Sheffield Park 59
Black Poppy At the Temple 64
Chapter Forever 66
An Essay on Liberation 67
The Man in the Yellow Gloves 68
Leap of Faith 75
No Heaven 76
Terraces of Rain 81
Francesco and Clare 83
The Doors 85
Last Night with Rafaella 87
To Pasolini 90
I Know 107
My Friend 108
My Tea with Madame Descartes 111
Meditation 115
Lucifer in Starlight 116
A Fan Sketched with Silver Egrets 118
Mercenary Muse 121
Los Angeles, 1954 122
"Who Is She . . ." 125
Merlin 126
Study for the World's Body 131
Notes 141
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