Conversation 4: On Place

By Rosmarie Waldrop b. 1935 Rosmarie Waldrop
I sit in my own shadow, she says, the way my mother gave birth to it. In artificial light, blinds drawn against the darkness of power.  I think of you as if you were that shadow, a natural enclosure, a world, not a slight, so I can wander through your darkness. Has our contract inverted time, made our universe contract, a cramped bed for two? And when I say your name, do I draw water, a portrait, curtain, bridge, or conclusion?

Place there is none, he quotes. Not even to hang up our archetypes. Let alone Star-Spangled Banners. We go forward and backward, and there is no place. Therefore it is a name for God. My eye, steadfast on traffic lights, abolishes the larger part of the round world. I should look at my feet. Space sweeps through us, a hell of distances bathed in the feeble glow of emptiness. Outward mobility, unimpeded. Suddenly we’re nobody home, without any need of inattention, imposture, or talent for deceit.

The wind whips my skin as if it were water, she says. My skin is water. For wind read wind, news, sky falling. Is it a mental disturbance or the higher math of love if I hear you talking under my breath and from the torn fragments assume the sun is far away and small, and a look can cause a burn? Superstition, too, is a kind of understanding, and to forgo it may have consequences.

Clusters of possibilities whiz through our head, he says. Electric charges, clogged highway, screeching brakes, a house too full of guests. With grounds for disagreement and miscarriage. The light rushes in dry, screaming. But the opaque parts of the nerve oppose the noise and void the options. Then the project must be prolonged in terms of lack.

Rosmarie Waldrop, “Conversation 4: On Place” from Reluctant Gravities. Copyright © 1999 by Rosmarie Waldrop. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Reluctant Gravities (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1999)

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Poet Rosmarie Waldrop b. 1935

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Relationships, Nature, The Body, Arts & Sciences, Sciences, The Mind, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Prose Poem


Poet, translator, and editor Rosmarie Waldrop has been a forceful presence in American and international poetry for over forty years. Born in Germany in 1935, Waldrop studied literature and musicology at the University of Würzburg and the University of Freiburg before immigrating to the United States in the late 1950s. She received a PhD from the University of Michigan in 1966. While at the University of Michigan, Waldrop . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Nature, The Body, Arts & Sciences, Sciences, The Mind, Language & Linguistics

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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