The Balustrade

By Keith Waldrop b. 1932 Keith Waldrop

in memory of Edmond Jabès


“And so her worries ran on into the other world.”

                                            The Tale of Genji


1


ultimate boundary: arms
stretched
sideways to represent
nothing


supreme
accomplishment: ends
of the earth



2


I will forget
first what
happened, then
ideas


then all my
feelings, forgetting
finally what I’m
up to now


pose


accept


almost some expiring
embers signifying
momentary joy



3


and a bare knife also
figures


 
4


amnesia retrograde and
anterograde—unable
to acquire new
information and the


old store lost


blessed are the feet
finite on this
unfinished page


defy


conquer


divine denominations de-
rived from prepositions


equivalent to
end, the sky
wears out as well


 
5


earth’s limit against the
soles, bordering
air, but my toes


point


come to the world’s con-
clusion, distinguishing
infinity from
the boundless


a figure of Death in
the plural of majesty


a bronze vase, as
vessel for nothing


burnt flesh
figured
by the living animal


the “name, address
and flower” test


images of weeping
friends, signifying
weeping


 
6


immaterial
mystery, imperfect
misery


I start at the
coast, my
limit the
shore opposite


not movement mere
direction


 
7


mist dancing


 
8


ocean’s music


 
9


an ornamental barrier or
parapet along the
edge of
this terrace, this
balcony, this etc.


inconceivable splendour
signifying a choice
of evils


nameless objects
seen imperfectly by
the flame from sticks


a nearer though still im-
perfect view
back to past ages


watery track . . .
 


10


. . . Isle of the Dead
 


11


stranger both to
model and to
copy


unable to relate
the garment to the body


absolute border: surface
and line and
point, alien to all
experience


weaving a sound over the
water, not to
harbor there but
to surpass the port


 
12


objects of regret in
a mysterious
accent


I will forget all my
words, first
proper names, then common
nouns


adjectives next


next interjections and
at last (even)


gestures


obscurity of the dawn
signifying


love of self
 


13


on a page of
sand, appearance
of a footprint


 
14


I heard the
speech of one
unknown to me


the report dying
gradually away


I heard
a voice I
had not known


the righteous lifted
up, while we
remain suspended


I can hear a
voice I no
longer recognize


a sort of tear, symbol
of poured wine or else
the splash of the wine poured


he caused him to
hear


a tongue which he
knew not


 
15


he temple figured by
a frame, inlet to the
sanctuary, narrow pass
between columns


then a track
leading across and
beyond
the balustrade


this room and a
skein, succession
of generations, some
kind of existence
 


16


the spin
begins to wobble


the bare
surface where earth
meets air and becomes
horizon


 
17


to remember you, as Aristotle
would insist, is not to
recall you


not clever or quick
enough for
recollection


but in the slow
turn of
attention, I do


bring you back, which
does not mean I know you


a picture


 
18


two eyes, or one
triangle—sight
in abstracto


 
19


uncertain of
the way


 
20


thrown


 
21


I will forget
to appreciate
Klee, Tristam
Shandy, Emma
Kirkby


then
forget how to
do what-
ever


finally forget
anger and finally
fear


common noise, a common
languor, uncanny and
pensive silence

Keith Waldrop, “The Balustrade” from The House Seen from Nowhere. Copyright © 2002 by Keith Waldrop. Reprinted by permission of Litmus Press.

Source: The House Seen from Nowhere (Litmus Press, 2002)

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Poet Keith Waldrop b. 1932

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Biography

Keith Waldrop, who was awarded the 2009 National Book Award for poetry for Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy, has been a prominent voice in American poetry for over forty years.  He is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, prose, and translations. With Rosmarie Waldrop he co-edits Burning Deck Press.

Waldrop was born in Emporia, Kansas in 1932. He enrolled in the pre-med program at Kansas State Teacher’s College, but his . . .

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SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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