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The Ghost in the Stone May 23, 2015

Posted by The Typist in Poetry, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Travel, Writing.
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Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody’s shouting
“Which Side Are You On?”
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row

I remember listening to this, the almost prophetic lines, almost a year ago to the day in that window of time between my graduation and leaving for Europe, wondering what lines an intent and malcontent young man a thousand years hence would–given an fortuitous manuscript in an ancient tongue–would render into his own poetry: Pound’s or Dylan’s?

I cannot see the future any more clearly clearly  than Ezra Pound could see the past. My current desire is to find a narrow swath of time, a butterfly’s worth say, in which to find some peace, the surcease of the black verses of Pound or early Dylan.  When I need to get away from the chatter of streetcars and the lowing of trombones,, I think of the Castle, Brunnenburg, last outpost on the winding castle road and guardian of the springs that watered the mountaintop fortress which loomed over it.

Madness. Pound is madness wrought fine, at once the distilled essence like  Nick’s fine grappa from the grapes that surrounded us, and the great stone in which the reader must discern the form. I followed the steep Via Ezra Pound and immersed myself for a month, my studies interrupted everyday by a gourmet lunch fresh from the Castle farm tended by his grandchildren, up late, falling asleep sitting up in my tiny room in the croft, and up again early scribbling marginal transcriptions of the sense of it from Terrell’s agate companion. Madness.
image
Ruins of Brunnenburg, 19th century engraving

I would do it again in a moment, for there I discovered not Pound’s truth but my own: dedication to something I loved beyond all reason, at least two healthy meals a day, and the steep climb to town if I wanted dinner or cigarettes. A mind well engaged and a body well fed and worked hard at least once a day. To live well and work hard at something worthwhile, not just to pay the bills.

I would leave today.I have my passport and 30 Euro found months later stashed in various pockets of my clothes.

I sit here sipping a Campari and soda (there is cava in the fridge, but not just now) listening for imaginary vaporetti passing along the canals of New Orleans. Yes, Venice: Venice is an essential part of the equation, four days our reward for hard work but still kept on task, following in Pound’s footsteps, passing our hands over the smooth sandstone pommel on the bridge leading to the small piazza where a young Pound contemplated tossing his early verses into the canal.

I am so often to tired to write much. Books of poetry topple constantly from their otherwise undisturbed stack. I sometimes go through my meager manuscript and consider what, if any of it, is worth the death of a tree. I watch from a quiet distance the steady success of a friend who for all his own troubles and the grind of his job practices his craft with a discipline I cannot conjure. In those moments I want to return to the castle, to rent the spare room off the küche and lose myself in poetry again, distracted only by the fairytale beauty of the low mountains of the Südtirol, the rescued eagles of the Castel Tirolo soaring, the warbling of the turkeys wandering the yard.

That is not going to happen anytime soon. June will be a death march through the work project at hand and I hope that keeps me too busy to dwell upon last June. Still, I must not forget the lessons of the castle: to eat well and walk long, to find time to bury myself in poetry, to stop and watch the hawks hunting in the park.

I write, Castles and mountains and iron-cloistered Virgins are all within my reach. I need only place myself before a metaphorical Via Ezra Pound, and take that first step up the daunting climb. Once started there is no point in turning back.

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