Charles Wright (b. 1935) is of course ‘one of the best poets of his generation’. Raised in rural Tennessee. Influenced by Ezra Pound. Many prizes. I learn that is poetry forms a complex whole, so we are looking at a fragment here:
In the midnight hour
This, too, is an old story, yet
It is not death. Still,
The waters of darkness are in us.
In fact, they are rising,
Are rising toward our eyes.
And will wash against those Windows
Until they have stilled, until,
Utterly calm, they have cleansed.
And then our lives will take substance,
And rise themselves.
And not like water and not like darkness, but
Like smoke, like prayer.
What a wary self-referential mood to begin with! And old story, not – yet – death. The rising waters of darkness won’t stop until they reach the Windows of the Soul (our eyes) and to some cleansing. This poem seems to be awash in the Christian metaphor of purging, catharsis, purification. I find myself yawning at my desk, sorry Charles.
But not so fast. There is also a resurrection, ‘taking substance’ (transsubstantiation) and ‘rise themselves’. Rise themselves? Aha, an unmoved mover, Aquinas’ God. We are godly when we are like prayer, which is like smoke, lighter than the air in which it rises. We go up in smoke, ladies and gentlemen, and Mr. Wright calls that smoke Substance. Good day!