The River of My Intellect

Mariner14 July 2016

I row Cavafy
to a rendezvous with Rilke,
to sup with Orpheus
at Duino.  How elegiacal
the sonnet of it all,
Cavafy spicing it up
with an Alexandrian tenor.

A wind hovering helps me
row Hopkins to Chaucer,
who fall into conversation
with monk, parson,
friar, nun,
and the nun’s priest,
an exegesis of a conversation.

I pick up Whitman,
every grain of the old salt.
I pick up Basho,
How aching his feet
from so long a journey.
They converse with
an excess of brevity.

To Homer I hand my oars.
He knows better than I
a way round an among
the islands.  Though blue
to my modern eyes,
to his ancient eyes
the sea is “wine dark.”
And it is this combination sea
I watch the oars’ blades cut,
and the sea slide off them
at each stroke.  He rows us
as far as the edge of the Styx,
and then turns back.
We are not done with living yet.

I row Coleridge’s Mariner ashsore.
Was that a mistake?,
the collar round his neck
become a stock.

And then how is it that
I find myself on the Merrimack,
parsing distinctions of shades of light
with Thoreau.  I row,
tired, toward
the evening of this poem.

Philip Kuepper
(10 July 2016)

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