Weekly Poem: C. D. Wright reads ‘Obscurity and Legacy’

BY artsdesk  March 24, 2014 at 2:53 PM EST


C. D. Wright reads her poem “Obscurity and Legacy” at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.

Obscurity and Legacy

After Pura López Colomé’s
Fabula disuelta, ensimisada
translated by Forrest Gander
Again
To get up
To get up on legs that stretched, strode and straddled
To unplug the mud from the end
Of the barrel
Again
Which would involve
Having hands
Or
Having a hand
One that understood the consistency of mud
Also
What sprang from the same consistency
The hand
That hung their door at an angle
That gawkily shore the lamb
A hand that had warmed itself in the cavities
Of a fallen man
With barely suppressed feelings of kinship
And
Revulsion
The same hand that dug a spud
From an abandoned mound
To eat with clods adhered to its skin
A hand that felt secure
Only
If not
Near peerless holding a pen
Felt
Natural, numerous, never-ending
That peeled the skin off a birch
After
The writing paper was finished
That he might inscribe
His ardency
Adieu
That would drift past as a strip of charpie
Then drift
Past a window as a clean white shirt
Bearing a husband
Freshly bathed and shaved
To get up
Again
On the undestroyed elbow
Red and raw
From the unpatched uniform
Forced into wearing
To be beside oneself
To be up on one raw red elbow
To have been forced
Into uniform
Beside blown off parts of oneself
Before
Being blown away not knowing
Parts of his lonely body were gone
His busted up bookish being fleeing
And
Once
Blown over the furrows
Once
The creed crested so little would be left
Ploughshare
Broken coulter
A few useless silver objects
From
An all but involuntary wedding
And
Now
Never
To come back
To the everlasting paradigm
Of the nearness of a known body
Leaf on leaf worm on worm snow on snow
Now
Be the woman thoroughly exhausted
Drained discolored defeated
To have gotten up
To have gone to her dresser
Before
Getting up
Again
And hoisting her hoe to the wrecked field
To have gone to her dresser
Before
Seeing her wracked visage
Now
Be the shoulders dusted as shoulders can glare
Be the credits scrolled slowly and boldly
Be the air expanding at supersonic speed
Be the windows let p and the tree
The centenarian tree dependably there
There
The tree just
Standing
There
The chestnut from which she descended
Leaf on leaf
Worm on worm
Snow on snow
Born from what resplendent reason
To irrigate this dumb mud
With his oblivious blood
Who always thought he would
Once
Again
Get up
After sucking her breast
After
Putting away his nibs
After
An exceptional dinner with friends
Die in the snow

C. D. Wright’s poem “Obscurity and Legacy” is published in “Lines in Long Array: A Civil War Commemoration: Poems and Photographs, Past and Present.” In recognition of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery commissioned 12 modern poets to reflect on our contemporary understanding of the war.

An earlier version of this article said the “National Poetry Gallery” instead of the “National Portrait Gallery.”