Saturday, July 17, 2010

Poem of the Day: "Cancer"

I love the way this poem traces connections between the smallest and largest of things -- "now to see what wasn't seen before" -- as in the first lines where the speaker imagines the origins of a cancer. Also, somebody forced to find things to talk about in an interminable poetry seminar might focus in on the paired words in this poem: cancer/Cancer, throne/thorn, star/start, ribbon/river, druid/dying, dark/half-dark, coloring/cornflower, and what those pairings suggest. Mostly, though, one should focus especially on all the sublime lines and phrases starting with "Star, therefore, to start," without, of course, neglecting the beautiful lines and phrases leading up to it.

Stanley Plumly, "Cancer"

Mine, I know, started at a distance
five hundred and twenty light-years away
and fell as stardust into my sleeping mouth,
yesterday, at birth, or that time when I was ten
lying on my back looking up at the cluster
called the Beehive or by its other name
in the constellation Cancer,
the Crab, able to move its nebulae projections
backward and forward, side to side,
in the tumor Hippocrates describes as carcinoma,
from karkinos, the analogue, in order to show
what being cancer looks like.
Star, therefore, to start
like walking on the best day of your life
to feel this immortal and living thing inside you.
You were in love, you were a saint,
you were going to walk the sunlight blessing water,
you were almost word for word forever.
The crown, the throne, the thorn--
now to see the smoke shining in the mirror,
the long half-dark of dark down the hallway inside it.
Now to see what wasn't seen before:
the old loved landscape fading from the window,
the druid soul within the dying tree,
the depth of blue coloring the cornflower,
the birthday-ribbon river of a road,
and the young man who resembles you
opening a door in the half-built house
you helped your father build,
saying, in your voice, come forth.

image source

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nicely unpacked. It really opened it up for me. Thanks!