So it is midnight, and all
The angels of ordinary day gone,
The abiding absence between day and day
Come like true and only rain
Comes instant, eternal, again:As though an air had opened without sound
In which all things are sanctified,
In which they are at prayer—
The drunken man in his stupor,
The madman’s lucid shrinking circle;
As though all things shone perfectly,
Perfected in self-discrepancy:
The widow wedded to her grief,
The hangman haloed in remorse—
I should not rearrange a leaf,
No more than wish to lighten stones
Or still the sea where it still roars—
Here every grief requires its grief,
Here every longing thing is lit
Like darkness at an altar.
As long as truest night is long,
Let no discordant wing
Corrupt these sorrows into song.
NOTE: I chose to post this poem on the night of September 10th because I was thinking of 9/11 the next day and stumbled upon Reginald Shepherd’s blog and Alvin Feinman. I’d never heard of either of them till then. I was stunned with the virtuosity of this poem by Feinman and almost equally stunned that I couldnn’t find his work in print. But I was also deeply moved by Shepherd’s blog. It’s impossible to read what he wrote there without coming to know something of the illness and physical pain he’s suffered over the last years. The post I read that night described symptoms and diagnoses that I knew, from personal experience, would mean that Shepherd would not be long in this world.
As it turned out, I was heartbreakingly correct. The very next day, I received news from Julie, a frequent visitor to this blog and a wonderful poet-blogger herself, that Reginald Shepherd had died, the very night before, the night I posted this poem.
Shepherd touched me deeply in that short time, as perhaps only a poet can. I have also been moved by the depth of sorrow in the American poetry community following upon his death and by the tributes to him. Julie and I have been talking about this in comments and I’ve posted some links there. There is something deeply poignant about finding a poet in the moment he died, through his passing and onward. The more of us who discover him, the more likely the poetry will live. His friend and blogger, Christopher Hennessey at ]Outside the Lines has his own comments and many links to Shepherd’s work and to the tributes to his life and work. He has updated an original post with links and perhaps will keep doing so.
My deepest sympathies to Christopher.