Joseph Brodsky (1940-1996), Russian-American genius and lover of poetry, should be part of our anthology. Sentenced to hard labor in northern Russia in 1964 and exiled to the US in 1972, he had suffered from what mother Russia had become in the twentieth century. He wrote this seemingly simple list of observations:
A list of some observation. In a corner, it’s warm.
A glance leaves an imprint on anything it’s dwelt on.
Water is glass’s most public form.
Man is more frightening than its skeleton.
A nowhere winter evening with wine. A black
porch resists an osier’s stiff assaults.
Fixed on an elbow, the body bulks
like a glacier’s debris, a moraine of sorts.
A millennium hence, they’ll no doubt expose
a fossil bivalve propped behind this gauze
cloth, with the print of lips under the print of fringe,
mumbling “Good night” to a window hinge.
Short observations building up to a poetic image of sorts is a poetic skill I could envy. We begin here with an innocent corner and a look that sticks, followed by an enigmatic statement about water that gets the reader’s attention. Public form: Instead of looking through it you are immersed in it. There is no here and there, no distinction between you and what you are afraid of. Perhaps that is why man is more frightening than his skeleton?
I see the winter wine and the black porch with the willow. The heavy ‘moraine’ body (I don’t like the ‘of sorts’). The glacier imagery might be inspired by his exile in Archelansk (also see his poem Polar Explorer).
Brodsky has a vivid imagination about a scene 1000 years later, when the protagonist of this poem is long dead and ‘they’ find some fossil mollusk behind the gauze cloth, so I assume the person was mourning. The print of lips under the print of fringe, mumbling good night to a window hinge, sounds spellbinding and beautiful in a way that defies explanation.
Josephy Brodsky has said that poetry should be part of everyday life, like gas stations or even cars. I think we can start with saying good night to window hinges.