from The Ambition of Ghosts:  I. Remembering into Sleep

By Rosmarie Waldrop b. 1935 Rosmarie Waldrop
I. Separation Precedes Meeting

The cat so close
to the fire
I smell scorched
breath. Parents,
silent, behind me,
a feeling of
trees that might fall.
Or dogs.
                 A poem,
like trying
to remember,
is a movement
of the whole body.
You follow the
into more fog.
Maybe the door ahead
the facts
from natural affection. How
can I know. I meet
too many
in every mirror.

When I was little,
was I I?
My sister? A wolf
smothered in green virtues?
of memory. Once
I’ve got something
I lie
down on it
with my whole body.
Goethe quotations, warm
sand, a smell of hay,
long afternoons.
                            But it
would take a road
would turn, with space,
in on itself,
would turn
occasion into offer.


For days I hold
a tiny landscape between
and index:
shimmer of blue between pines.
No smell: matchbook.
Sand as schematic as
into memory,
with my blood,
to the accretions
in the arteries,
to be read with the whole
body, in the chambers
of the heart.
The light: of the match,
at last.
Concentration: a frown
of the whole body. I can’t
remember. Too many
in all directions.
Slow movement into
                                   Distant boots.
Black beetles at night. A smell
of sweat.
                 The restaurant,
yes. You’ve no idea
how much my father used to eat.
Place thick with smoke.
Cards. Beer foaming over
on the table.
                     And always
some guy said I ought
to get married,
put a pillow behind my eyes
and, with a knowing
sigh, spat
in my lap.
The present.
As difficult as
the past, once a place
curves into
           Hips swinging elsewhere.
Castles in sand.
Or Spain. Space
of another language.
is a body of water.
You follow your lips
into its softness. Far down
the head finds its level

6. Tropisms
Inward, always. Night
curls the clover leaf
around its sleep.
The bodies of the just
all night,
through subterranean caves
which turn
in on themselves.
of forgetting. Need
of blur. The air,
large, curves
its whole body.
Big hammering waves
flatten my
Inward, the distances: male
and female fields,
rigorously equal.
The drunk fell toward me
in the street. I hope
he wasn’t
disappointed. Skinned
his sleep.
And a smell of snow. Quite normal,
says the landlord, the master
of rubbish, smaller
and smaller in my
curved mirror.
                         I have un-
good luck: my sleep
always turns dense
and visible. There
are many witches
in Germany. Their songs
descend in steady half-tones
through you.

You’ll die, Novalis says, you’ll die
following endless rows
of sheep into your
even breath.
like Mozart, a living
kind of air,
keeps the dream
around itself, its
missing core.
after image of pleasure
of the whole body
my sleep:

9. Introducing Decimals
A dream, like trying
to remember, breaks open words
for other,
hidden meanings. The grass
pales by degrees, twigs
quaver glassily,
flowers the window.
Intimate equations more complicated
than the coordinates of past
and Germany. The cat
can’t lift its paw,
its leg longer and longer
with effort.
A crying fit
is cancelled. An aria jelled
in the larynx.
Nothing moves in the cotton
coma: only Descartes
pinches himself
an every fraction
must be solved.

Rosmarie Waldrop, "The Ambition of Ghosts: 1: Remembering Into Sleep..." from Another Language: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1997 by Rosmarie Waldrop.  Reprinted by permission of Rosmarie Waldrop.

Source: Another Language: Selected Poems (Talisman House Publishers, 1997)

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Poet Rosmarie Waldrop b. 1935

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Living, Youth, Coming of Age, Relationships, Home Life, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, The Body, The Mind, Philosophy, Reading & Books

Poetic Terms Series/Sequence


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 Living, Youth, Coming of Age, Relationships, Home Life, Family & Ancestors, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, The Body, The Mind, Philosophy, Reading & Books

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Series/Sequence

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