Content on the Other Side of Chaos

                    A poem has secrets that the poet knows nothing of.
                    It takes on a life and a will of its own. It might have proceeded differently—
                    towards catastrophe, resignation, terror, despair—and I still would have to claim it.

                    Give me a library
with a sense of civilization to guard me
                    joylessly, another
persona devoid of personality, a
                    yearning other than the
jealousy wandering this torch-lit heart scorched by
                    a kiss of loneliness,
wounded by a touch of madness, wanting more than

                    this, a poached mussel steam-
ing inside a fist’s punch, a fuming tourist tired
                    of opening up like
a gift for ravenous strangers who don’t give a
                    shit, exploiting my tor-
ture while exploring others’ abandoned moorings
                    to anchor this barge of
uncertainty burying in ashen tongues of

                    splintered winter my be-
ing so mystified by darkness somehow living
                    inside light, a ripen-
ing virus assaulting this deciduous life’s
                    shrinking vessel of night
with its violent sprinkling of stars scarring my
                    thoughts, shooting down wishes,
grinding them all to a bitter halt, throwing off

                    sparks, this smouldering mind’s
inextinguishable wanting to seem bright in
                    the face of fallen gods,
those idols who, with dulled brilliance and blunted spears,
                    took my ideals and smashed
them under a mountainous mushroom cloud of a-
                    tomic applause, a stoned
republic of megaphone-mouthed heretics ta-

                    citly trashing the fra-
gile pathos of my protest’s tragedy, the gauche
                    bruising of their unread
palms a measure of their attack’s success, an au-
                    dience of amateur
archers playing at Cupid, making of my mis-
                    fortune target practice,
mocking my distress, making of it a real hit,

                    the exile of silence
asking if I’m content on the other side of
                    chaos, rising above
the getting off by taking on the weightlessness
                    of gun-smoke, you who shoot
unanswered glances, read to me what anxious hands
                    have eagerly rubbed off,
robbing of their nascent graves authors whose twice-birthed

                    narratives rise one hum-
ble decibel above a whisper to a third
                    life of partying on
the edges of backlit pages, those scrolls no one
                    has yet screened for latent
danger, a flood of information testing the
                    ebb of love in the lat-
ter days of reason, instant gratification’s

                    apathy a silent
killer, and you, you who glance at me like a squeak-
                    ing wheel your own greasi-
ness can’t repair, read for me what no one else seems
                    to know keeps this machine
running, those passages beneath the flickering
                    of a dozen egg-white
days a yoked hand scribed for some traitorous patron

                    our descent falls from, don’t
deny me the new burden of ancient tools, let
                    me use your voice to paint
walls with echoes of what knowledge once was so that
                    I no longer have to
look at what it now is, what bone-yard wisdom has
                    become, somewhere beyond
the sundown of their skulls’ thickness these delinquents

                    share with me an impa-
tience and indebtedness to the same heritage,
                    although language is the
gulf dividing idiots and geniuses, I
                    somehow envy this man-
sion’s insignificance, desirous to be filled
                    as it is, with empti-
ness, to part with the affliction of thoughts, and cross

                    over its plaster-thick
border of broadly-stroked waters, broken doors im-
                    possible to open
without getting wed and into trouble, diving
                    through the plasma of to-
morrow’s marrow, following veins of gold beyond
                    the fissure of your lips
into the canyon of your arms, finding my Self

                    fractured, cracked open hard
but content now on the other side of chaos—
                    when I put it in my
head it becomes ideology and I don’t
                    live it, when I put it
in my mouth it becomes wisdom because you make
                    me earn it, learning love
the hard way, taking it in before it takes off.

1Stanley Kunitz, interviewed during the winter of 1977 at his home in Greenwich Village at New York City by Chris Busa in “Stanley Kunitz, The Art of Poetry No. 29” of The Paris Review, Issue 83, Spring 1982.