This poem operates on my tenderest muscle tissues as harpoon and actual cautery, both. It functions as a critical emendation of T.E. Hulme’s somewhat shrill cry, “It is essential to prove that beauty may be in small, dry things.” Oh, the poem is certainly not roomy–and it is by no means damp, but it adds heat to what is small and dry.
The Difficult Farm is never glib, never chary, but these eleven pellucid couplets, in their radical recognition of this one talking man, especially forbid unseriousness, either on the level of form or affect. This quality of seriousness is not, never, to be confused with humorlessness: there is some certain revel here; Heather Christle isn’t coy or cute but she is canny (one example: she has identified this man among several while avoiding the mistake of identifying with him). But I dare you only to laugh at this talking man and not to feel deep shame of the kind you’d feel if you laughed, just laughed, at the foppery of your own grandfather. Or rather, Heather Christle dares you, I should think.
ONE OF SEVERAL TALKING MEN
Because my head is a magnet for bullets
I am spending the day indoors. First
I admired the topiary for several hours
and when my eyes began to ache I rang
for lunch. Lunch arrived with injunctions.
I considered my feet. I did not consider
my altitude. Because I stuffed myself
into the reliquary, I am finding movement
difficult. Luckily, I would not dream
of dancing in this outfit. You must be
a foreign exchange student. Allow me
to make an observation. We live beneath
a frugal moon, and only in her bad light
do our women seem consumptive.
Though what do I know. I am, moreover,
a senatorial moment, and if you don’t
forget me, I may do it myself. You could
conceivably think I’ve never known love,
but I suspect that in the war years, when nurses
bandaged my wounds with repetitive flair,
there existed between us if not affection,
at least a sense that the subject could arise.