In the sinking whalebrow
I read you—
you recognize me,
into the harpoon (1)
There is no way to contain you in this, all of you, all of what you were and all that you will have become by the time, if there will be such a time, when we meet again.
Instead, I can tell you that, sleeping, silently, I came to gloomy Ithaca. Precisely to Ithaca I came sleeping; me, another nobody, unrecognized by all who saw me. I came to Ithaca, that day, sleeping, to find you, and I found I didn’t know where I was.
That day, the signs which lessened my discouragement, and restored my faith in something like the unseen god of cinema, seemed to multiply around me. If memory, thanks to the consolation of oblivion, offers no bridge from itself to the present, it at least allows us to breathe a new and celestial air: new, despite the fact, and even because we’ve breathed it before; and the air of true paradise because it’s of the one we’ve lost.
Tell me, Muse, of the man of many devices . . . (2)
I can tell you that my fear of my own death vanished as soon as I recalled the taste of your flesh, that taste of our foundered home that has no taste, and therefore has the sharpest taste. At that moment, the nobody I had been moved outside of time, outside of action, outside of immediate enjoyment, each time the miracle of analogy made me escape from the present.
Silently, sleeping, I came ashore at Ithaca, seaspawn and seawrack, returning to a world of things that once possessed you, held you fast within their cryptic might. I didn’t have to bow and scrape to enter their monarchy; there were no secret compartments within which the magic of things was locked. Whatever I gave up was never anything more than all the words that would forever fail to revive me.
No, in silent sleep I drifted home to sharptasting Ithaca, your Ithaca, in which I can find you, while losing you, in every sound and image: in the way that piece of pipe is lying there, in the water falling over rocks, in this keen yelp sundering the street. Losing you I find you in every way some otherwise inconspicuous thing suddenly acts so that one’s heart skips, and whatever was always meant seems finally to regard itself. Wet grass and cracked concrete: the true doors of the real. Portals to you.
Somehow in silence, I traveled home to here asleep, trying to think, to pull what I’d once felt out of the shadows. I had to make a leap into the not-yet-conscious, into the truth and absolution of images and sounds, toward the countenance of something still nameless. The only means of doing so was to find and found this thing. This nameless thing that emerges, as I do, again and for the first time, into the world, and will never leave it. This thing of love’s black sail. This foundered foundling thing. This thing of you.
The gusts of wind were very hard and the night very dark, but our little whaleboat glided away like a thing of life. (3)
(1) Paul Celan
(2) Homer, The Odyssey
(3) Thomas Nickerson, Desultory Sketches of Thos. Nickerson