Saturday, April 07, 2018

`More Powerful and Pure for Emptiness'

I’m up weekday mornings at 4:30 and on the road, if sufficiently caffeinated, by 6. I live eleven miles from my office. It’s still dark and I avoid freeways. This week in the CD player: The Complete Atlantic Recordings of Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz & Warne Marsh. I could always use more sleep but in some ways this is my favorite time of day.  Traffic on surface streets is still sparse. I see the occasional opossum. Locked-up businesses glow from inside like tube radios. Newspaper carriers have completed their work. People dressed for sleep are walking their dogs. Gas stations are shockingly illuminated. In the nation's third-largest city, darkness and music lend the drive a comfortable sense of solitude. I think about neither home nor work. I can drive as slowly as I wish. The final poem in Howard Nemerov’s Inside the Onion (1984) is “First Light”:

“Only for wanting to see the world made new
In every weather, growing its colors again
Out of the brown, grey, black, the muted flowers
In Lennahan’s garden beginning to burn orange
And lavender and blue, the steady sequencing
Of green and yellow and red, green arrow,
Green yellow red again above the road,
With ritual precision and gravity
Asserting The City in its formal law
More powerful and pure for emptiness
Than in the later traffic of the day,
I walk out of darkness and into first light,
Patrol and precinct of the speechless ghosts:
An early worker, a late-returning drunk,
Four lonesome joggers fleeing Death,
The Harvester delivering The Globe.”

Nemerov recognizes pre-dawn and dawn as a privileged time. There’s a sense of ceremony. No need for anger or striving. The day has hardly begun and we’ve been granted a reprieve.

No comments: