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Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Auster One...

You who remain. And you
who are not there. Northermost word, scattered
in the white.

hours of the imageless world--

like a single word

the wind utters and destroys. -- Paul Auster (1976).

This is probably one of Paul Auster's coldest poems. By coldest I mean that which it attempts to scream from what the poet left purposely unsaid. The reader is the one who remains. The poet is inside and the reader outside; the word is simply a consequence of their separation. I often doubt what could really be said with a simple word, that which might constitute life altering, impressionistic change. One might be tempted to agree with Auster's equation of an imageless world and a single word. It is a great temptation, really, to see the path of this poem. Personally, I think the poem holds its meaning in the concept of the "single word." Since I have been haunted by a single word (irreducible) for more than a week now, this Auster poem had a particular interest to me. Auster reduces the word to something that can be destroyed by the speaker, something that is said and quickly forgotten. Could Auster be speaking of love, really? It is a matter of creating in order to destroy, the path love sometimes follow. In this case, the poet and the reader becomes lovers and one is doomed to be jilted. I cannot make a clear connection critically here, but this reminds me of a poem I read years ago by Roque Dalton. The poem is "Forgetting." It is irrevocably cold: "Last night I dreamed that someone told me: your love is dead. / Your love, the girl you loved when you were young, has died. / In a cold city in the South / where the parks are one huge dewdrop, / at the hour when the fog is still virgin / and the city turns its back / on the gaze of desperate souls. / And she died--they told me--without saying your name." Geographically, the poems aim at opposite ends; Auster speaks of North and Dalton of the South. Both, however, speak of something that has been said and carried away into the vanishing, something utterly transcendental. Dalton toys also with the unsaid--the dying lover not speaking his name. How fragile the idea that prevents the speaker from the vocable!


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