Such Is the Sickness of Many a Good Thing

By Robert Duncan 1919–1988 Robert Duncan
Was he then Adam of the Burning Way?
hid away in the heat like wrath
      conceald in Love’s face,
or the seed, Eris in Eros,   
      key and lock
of what I was?      I could not speak
      the releasing
word.      For into a dark   
      matter he came
and askt me to say what
      I could not say.      “I ..”

All the flame in me stopt
      against my tongue.
My heart was a stone, a dumb
      unmanageable thing in me,
a darkness that stood athwart   
      his need
for the enlightening, the
      “I love you” that has   
only this one quick in time,
      this one start
when its moment is true.

Such is the sickness of many a good thing   
that now into my life from long ago this   
refusing to say I love you has bound   
the weeping, the yielding, the
      yearning to be taken again,
into a knot, a waiting, a string

so taut it taunts the song,
it resists the touch. It grows dark   
to draw down the lover’s hand   
from its lightness to what’s
      underground.

Robert Duncan, “Such Is the Sickness of Many a Good Thing” from Bending the Bow. Copyright © by Robert Duncan. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Bending the Bow (1968)

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Poet Robert Duncan 1919–1988

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Religion, Love, Relationships, Unrequited Love, Heartache & Loss, Realistic & Complicated

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Robert  Duncan

Biography

Described by Kenneth Rexroth as “one of the most accomplished, one of the most influential” of the postwar American poets, Robert Duncan was an important part of both the Black Mountain school of poetry, led by Charles Olson, and the San Francisco Renaissance, whose other members included poets Jack Spicer and Robin Blaser. A distinctive voice in American poetry, Duncan’s idiosyncratic poetics drew on myth, occultism, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, Love, Relationships, Unrequited Love, Heartache & Loss, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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