Sunday, May 27, 2012

Robert Pinsky: Being Of Air

“Deciding to remember, and what to remember, is how we decide who we are.” ~ R. Pinsky
There's an austere beauty in the poetry of Robert Pinsky. And craft, rough-hewned and knotted, born from a life tested in the field of deeds. I picked up his Selected Poems at City Lights Books in San Francisco a few weeks back and I've been feasting ever since. Below is a video of Pinsky reciting "Samurai Song" and "Rhyme."
When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.

When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.

When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.

When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.

When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.

When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.

Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.


Air an instrument of the tongue,
The tongue an instrument
Of the body, the body
An instrument of spirit,
The spirit a being of the air.

A bird the medium of its song.
A song a world, a containment
Like a hotel room, ready
For us guests who inherit
Our compartment of time there.

In the Cornell box, among
Ephemera as its element,
The preserved bird--a study
In spontaneous elegy, the parrot
Art, mortal in its cornered sphere.

The room a stanza rung
In laddered filament
Clambered by all the unsteady
Chambered voices that share it,
Each reciting I too was here--

In a room, a rhyme, a song.
In the box, in books: each element
An instrument, the body
Still straining to parrot
The spirit, a being of air.

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