Thursday, July 28, 2005

Tom Sleigh

While I was at the FAWC, I heard Tom Sleigh read several of his new poems. He is a great reader; his tone, expression, and manner add energy to the work, and he has a subtle way of bringing the listeners into the world of each poem with him. Very enjoyable.

I picked up a copy of his book The Dreamhouse, published in 1999 by the University of Chicago press. Here is one of the poems from that book I really like (pp. 50-51):

The Hammock

Your hand pushes me away
so that I float into the night,
then swing back, back from the nebulae
to our drifting conversation.

Among the race of star demons
what I saw out there--
golden chains, the spindle, sirens
chanting the music of the spheres--

blurs and streaks across star-flung
distances the chain-link fences
can't fence out. Between
your hand and the hammock's

slow rocking the Void
expands, twisting threads
tautening, slackening, stretched
almost to breaking:

Do you feel that wobble
of earth's axis, space
whirling past the ice-capped pole?
The pines like judges stare down at us:

What should we recant, here,
tonight, as if we'd only just begun:
Off-center already, losing
equilibrium? The world-soul moving

through the strung-out stars moves
in threads that creak and moan,
breathes between your mouth and mine.
Pushing me away, you bring

me home, your attraction drawing
down the alchemical sign:
Love draws the soul
the way a magnet draws iron.


This is a beautiful depiction of an inherent connectedness of all life, of "golden chains" which bond us all together, transcending even the boundaries of "chain-link fences:" divisions of politics, religion, culture, race, etc. As the speaker glimpses the "nebulae," s/he understands the illusory nature of these divisions; it is one "world soul" which exists, expanding and contracting, connecting life through "threads that creak and moan," and living in the space between people, not inside them. These tenuous threads, often stretched to near breaking, pull us inevitably together.

3 comments:

Gilbert Koh said...

Mmmm. Lovely.

Amy said...

I know, I love this poem. I'm wondering if anyone has a darker interpretation...

Josse said...

God this is a lovely poem. Now all i need is someone with a lovely voice to read it out loud to me :-)