- Meditation on Mimesis
Cy Twombly, Poems to the Sea (1959)
The tree outside my windowlooks exactly like a tree.
Out the back window, the ocean resembles a photograph of a cloudy sky minutes after rain. If I close my eyes I can see the ocean better than if they were open. Is it possible never to know exactly what we see?
When the dawn-lean light leansagainst the limbs of the dead boxwood at the end [End Page 87] of the street, it is easy to imagine. How deep can one gointo an idea? The color of nature is green, even though so much is not.
Is any symbol not aspirational? Is anything ever really empty? Once the great desert was a great ocean.Can you see it? Things, says Kant, which we see are not by themselves what we see. How deep can one swim into what one is not?
How long does the wind spend sharpening its knives? [End Page 88] My alien craft has nowhere to land and so it has set down in the unexplained … A fisherman will spend an entirelife gazing at what he cannot see, and yet he is not blind.
The plovers gatheron the sand like a memory, and yet the waves have not once recalled the grass. Science, says Plato, is nothing but perception. What do we know of that which is not inside? [End Page 89]
dean rader is a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry. His most recent books include Suture, poems written with Simone Muench; Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, edited with Brian Clements and Alexandra Teague; and Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry. He is a professor at the University of San Francisco.