Weekly Poem: ‘The New Intelligence’
By Timothy Donnelly
After knowledge extinguished the last of the beautiful
fires our worship had failed to prolong, we walked
back home through pedestrian daylight, to a residence
humbler than the one left behind. A door without mystery,
a room without theme. For the hour that we spend
complacent at the window overlooking the garden,
we observe an arrangement in rust and gray-green,
a vagueness at the center whose slow, persistent
movements some sentence might explain if we had time
or strength for sentences. To admit that what falls
falls solitarily, lost in the permanent dusk of the particular.
That the mind that fear and disenchantment fatten
comes to boss the world around it, morbid as the damp-
fingered guest who rearranges the cheeses the minute the host
turns to fix her a cocktail. A disease of the will, the way
false birch branches arch and interlace from which hands
dangle last leaf-parchments and a very large array
of primitive bird-shapes. Their pasted feathers shake
in the aftermath of the nothing we will ever be content
to leave the way we found it. I love that about you.
I love that when I call you on the long drab days practicality
keeps one of us away from the other that I am calling
a person so beautiful to me that she has seen my awkwardness
on the actual sidewalk but she still answers anyway.
I say that when I fell you fell beside me and the concrete
refused to apologize. That a sparrow sat for a spell
on the windowsill today to communicate the new intelligence.
That the goal of objectivity depends upon one’s faith
in the accuracy of one’s perceptions, which is to say
a confidence in the purity of the perceiving instrument.
I won’t be dying after all, not now, but will go on living dizzily
hereafter in reality, half-deaf to reality, in the room
perfumed by the fire that our inextinguishable will begins.
Timothy Donnelly is the author of “Twenty-seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit” (Grove, 2003) and ‘The Cloud Corporation’ (Wave, 2010). His poems have appeared in such magazines and journals as Fence, Harper’s, the Iowa Review, the Nation, the New Republic and the Paris Review. He is a poetry editor for Boston Review and a full-time faculty member of the Writing Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters.