Monday, April 11, 2011

Annie Dillard ~ Metaphysical Model with Feathers

What I know of dimension
Is an old suspicion:
That time is a crack as long
And thin as a wing.

Time is whole and fully fledged always.
We discover its fullness; we pace it out blind on the wing.
We live in time's quills as senseless as lice.
And the eagle - the petrel? -- and the petrel,
Rock Peter walking on water, the petrel
Full noiselessly flies.  It plies
The created ages; it beats the boundless along,
Rising without  surcease, spiraling down,
Sliding breastbone bent and feeling
The inbound curve of the real.

If time cruises the breadth of the timeless,
Perpendicular, buoying its wings, then
We may guess the style of the rest:

This is the shape of the one god, holy,
Who generates the ages, rapt,
Who tolerates time as a hole in its side,
A petrel blind and churning.  This
Is the one god, flailed by wings,
And this is the one time, this raveling hole,
Swift in god and voiceless, black beak shut.

I love what Annie Dillard dares here - most of all I love her language.  It is the language of the poem that has helped it stay with me all these years.  The sonic beauty - it can walk along beside you - you can feel the steady stride and when it steps into a dance.

I remember taking dance lessons and how difficult it was to follow another person's lead.  You may have the steps worked out in advance for a particular type of dance but doing it with someone was different than doing it theoretically.  Two breaths have to find a unison within the work of the music.  Working with a poem seems very much like that to me - you meet the poem hand to hand and you step through it together as though it were a dance.  Within that model, this poem is one of my favorite dances.  I love the music in the language and the dance.  I like how she takes on big themes and though I'm not sure I agree or even understand with what is going on in this poem intellectually (it made much more sense to me in my twenties than it does now), I still continue to like the dance.

Metaphysical Model with Feathers by Annie Dillard appeared in the The Atlantic Monthly vol. 242 (October 1978): 82.