Clairvoyant with Hunger: Essays on James Dickey, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Etc.

By Laurence Lieberman | Go to book overview

“The Gift Of Change”

Of all the creatures, they seem to know best the art of sunning
themselves. Without brooding unhappily, they understand
where the best shades are. It is next to impossible to catch them
and imprison them in the usual human ways, because they live in
perpetual surrender. They love to become whatever it is that gazes
upon them or holds them. They can turn as precisely green as the
faintest hint of moss-shadow thirty seconds after noon, or a little
gray knitted into silver of drying algae buoyed up ashore and
abandoned there to the random wind of children’s feet in flight.

But the lizard lying beside me now has gone too far. Wholly
abandoning himself to his gift for change, he lifts his head above
the edge of a linden blossom freshly fallen and alone. His exquisite
hands have given up clinging to anything. They lie open. The leaf
on the flower is so smooth, a light wind could blow him away. I
wonder if he knows. If he knows, I wonder that my breath doesn’t
blow him away. I am that close to him, and he that close to me.
He has gone too far into the world to turn back now. His tail has
become a spot on the sun, the delicate crease between his shoulder
blades, the fold in a linden leaf, his tongue finer and purer than
a wild hair in my nostril, his hands opener than my hands. It is
too late to turn back into himself. I can’t even faintly begin to
understand what is happening behind his serene face, but to me
he looks like the happiest creature alive in Italy.

Why does James Wright genuinely seem to love the small creatures that inhabit many of his best prose pieces: the spiders, the mouse, the turtle, the tiny piccolini fishes? … And in this prose poem, he is enchanted with a particular little lizard

-82-

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Clairvoyant with Hunger: Essays on James Dickey, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Etc.
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iv
  • Clairvoyant with Hunger vi
  • Part 1 - James Dickey, Poems from the Eagle’S Mile 1
  • “the Eagle’S Mile” 2
  • “weeds” 7
  • “expanses” 10
  • “farmers” 13
  • “form” 16
  • “poem” 20
  • Homage to the Unburied: a Column - “sleepers” 30
  • “snow Thickets” 35
  • “the Three” 38
  • “the Six” 42
  • “circuit” 46
  • “eagles” 49
  • “night Bird” 51
  • “daybreak” 53
  • Warrior, Visionary, Natural Philosopher: James Dickey’S to the White Sea 56
  • Part 2 - James Wright’S Prose Poems 73
  • Of Two Sublimities: Love Poems “a Small Grove” 74
  • “in Gallipoli” 77
  • “the Gift of Change” 82
  • “flowering Olives” 87
  • “camomilla” 90
  • “may Morning” 96
  • “piccolini” 99
  • “regret for a Spider Web” 103
  • “the Snail at Assisi” 108
  • “the Sunlight Falling at Peace in Moret-Sur-Loing” 114
  • Paradigm for Prose Poems 118
  • “the Secret of Light” 119
  • “bari, Old and Young” 129
  • Part 3 - W.S. Merwin: Apotheosis of the Lepers 133
  • W. S. Merwin: Apotheosis of the Lepers 134
  • Part 4 - Igniting Sparks from Tamura’S Smithy 168
  • Igniting Sparks from Tamura’S Smithy 169
  • Part 5 183
  • On the Brink of Secession: Gwendolyn Brooks “the Wall” 184
  • “the Laggard Bird,” by Dunya Mikhail 192
  • David Bottoms’ Grueling Miracle: Faith in Middle Age 219
  • Part 6 - The Pull of the Sentence: on My Influences 250
  • Voice to Voice 251
  • The Most Essential Element of All: an Interview with Laurence Lieberman 269
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