Nemerov, when you visited, I was too young to be more than your driver, dinner fodder, host out of his league, beyond his ken.
You spoke of Pound only with hate, or something more refined than hate: a gall, a vinegar-soaked rag, offered the crucified too late.
Your poems weren’t so easily got at: your moonfish spread across the mind’s sky too unhappily to be contained in formal gloss;
and sulfurous fires raged in them, wastelands with empty rooms to let; and love recalled, not present love; and family photographs still wet.
The ghost of Eliot holds court, escaped from his Missouri box, a foe more sly than Pound: his nose “took in” gefilte fish and lox.
You were a wanderer, a thirst— barbed wire, the shuffling of the lines, Jani competing with the hiss— your brain a tuning fork whose tines
vibrated to a loneliness you’d only let another see “at cost”: the cost of feeling it, as you withdrew, contemptuously. [End Page 41]
JAMES CUMMINS’s most recent book, Still Some Cake, is available from Carnegie Mellon University Press. He lives in Cincinnati.