At Midnight

The second life
the secret, unhidden world
of public anonymity
the doorway to the city:
my front stoop.

Deep blue heaven,
and the shared moon,
and people’s paths crossing the space around me
all tell me,

Everything is relative, therefore
we are family.
Everyone’s on top of the world
and everyone’s on the bottom.

Your dignity is in your smallness
your greatness in your line of sight
gazing up and down
like a king
receiving all you see
secretly glad in the being of all men, insects, and clouds
secretly cherishing all
secretly bearing the hopes of all
like a mantle between yourself
and the cool night air.

No one looks your way;
you are lonely and full.

25 thoughts on “At Midnight

  1. In addition to the style (new for you, I think–looking good!) and the experience itself, so ordinary, making the poem approachable, unpoetic in a good way,

    I like the little sound surprises: couplets that sneaked up on me (anonimity/city, heaven/moon); repeated words (me, your, all, everyone, secretly–well, that one might be reconsidered); echoes of familiar small talk made new (“Everything is relative, therefore . . .” and “on top of the world/…on the bottom”).

    And the more times i read, the greater my appreciation of the work you put into this–compressing into simple words and clear images a big event that seems so common, and yet that very impression turns out to be real in a deeper sense: a feeling we all have in common of being both “lonely and full.”

    I would say that I detect a biblical theme in stanza #4 if I hadn’t been chastened by earlier experiences of over-reading. So I won’t say what I think about the dignity/smallness concept, or the king/mantle image, or the welcoming, inclusive, almost prayerful tone (“receiving” “bearing” cherishing” . . . “all”). I’ll just keep on reading, and reading into.

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  2. The first three lines made me think you were writing about the internet, haha. Then I went along blithely with “your front stoop” as this blog, and the space around you cyber space. I had to read it a few times over before I realized that didn’t make sense.

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      • Hold on, Leah. Now I’m questioning my assumptions–

        how could I have skimmed over “second life” and “public anonymity”? And a world that is secret but “unhidden”. Also, the title . . . Who sits on a stoop at midnight? Who even has a stoop, unless they live in an old city neighborhood? And the word itself, “stoop,” is rich in possibilities: as a verb, to bend down, possibly in a moral sense; as a noun, my urban dictionary says, a stoop a person who “exemplifies qualities of a dumbass, or a stupid person.”

        I’m starting to feel that way myself.

        I was puzzled at first by the tone of the second stanza; it seemed sarcastic, and thus didn’t fit my picture of a peaceful night on a front porch in a suburban neighborhood like mine. See, I had changed the setting, and so I needed to adjust to the change in tone. Now i dont know what to make of it unless the whole poem is ironic.

        Maybe I should stop, delete, and go back to reading the paper. But hold on, Albert. This is more fun than the news.

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          • What about the idea that poets don’t always know what they are talking about? They are taken away by the muse.

            On the other hand we readers can get carried away too. Take “stoop,” for example. I’m now picturing you sitting on your computer,

            as I listen to T. S. Eliot intone : “We had the experience but missed the meaning. And [our] approach to the meaning restores the experience in a different form.” Or changes it altogether.

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            • Well the first thing you should realize about me is that if you begin to talk to me about muses and ask me if I believe in them and their power to carry away people and make them do things they aren’t aware of, I’m going to consider the possibility in the most literal sense. Muses as conscious persons. I am incapable of looking on such things as merely figurative representations of psychological arrangements.

              That said, I can state that I am deeply prejudiced against such a possibility. Anything that possesses one and reduces one’s awareness of ones own actions is, to my mind, infernal. The divine powers, in my understanding, bestow clarity, soundness of mind, sanity, awareness, and vigorous perception. The Holy Spirit, for instance, fills but does not possess, which is what the demons do. I would expect lower divinities to act in a similar manner.

              The possibility that it is actually the Holy Spirit himself who inspires poetry makes this conviction even more acute for me.

              If you simply mean, does the subconscious participate in writing poetry to an extent that is unusual compared to other activities, I will cautiously agree provided we mean that action of the brain which produces the sort of meaning we find in dreams. However I would never expect to detect such meaning through exegesis. Probably, what the dream – mind bestows, the dream – mind must detect and therefore such meaning remains insoluble to the analytical operation of the forward awareness. It must be taken in whole: underneath, so to speak, the obvious denotation of the words and their order.

              In particular, I detest criticism which wrests significance out of inadvertencies in the surface data of a poem, as well as poetry which seems to expect such wresting and therefore presents something without intention or sincerity, a jumble of loose clutter.

              What is detestable about all such stuff is that worship of the base, chaotic, and witless which characterizes the most banal philosophies the 19th century bestowed upon the 20th.

              Hope that wasn’t TOO curmudgeonly.

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            • Not at all! “Curmudgeons . . . might be grumpy and suffer fools poorly. But they still care.” http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2014/01/curmudgeon-in-training.html (is there another grump online?) And best of all, they are straightforward.

              I stand by my initial comment about the poem, but think that my others–made from a bad old habit of treating serious things lightly–are out of place, and should be deleted.

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            • Aww… I hate deleting comments. Must I? I do value the process you know, and besides, what if I am wrong? And if I delete yours, what if no one else ever dares ask me a challenging question?

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            • You have a point. In fact, your clear, strong statement about inspiration –it might not have been there for us to read it if I hadn’t carried on like that. And how would it look if you keep it there, having deleted the question/comment that preceded it? So yes, leave things as they are (as long as you’re OK with that).

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            • Thanks for the reference. Just now found it in our local library. Meantime try this essay as background to T. S. Eliot and inspiration -http://www.edwardhirsch.com/prose/how-one-thing-leads-to-another-a-pathway/

              Liked by 1 person

            • Hmm, the Packers losing… can totally see why that guy was feeling like a C-in-T. But can he SUSTAIN that surliness? That’s what I want to know. 😉

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            • Longish story: I went looking for a passage that I had heard discussed in a graduate class years ago. Eliot had written about how Virgil, in his 4th Eclogue, was held up by some as a model of poetic inspiration, but explained his own (Eliot’s) somewhat more precise view of that issue. I couldn’t find the source, but in the process I succumbed to the temptation of various “famous quotations by…” websites. The quotation that I included in my comment was from one of those sites, with no verification of where it came from.

              In the meantime I did find the reference to the passage that I had remembered

              https://books.google.com/books?id=thqU29nSVgUC&pg=PA422&lpg=PA422&dq=t.s+eliot+virgil+inspiration+poetic&source=bl&ots=rSI8IFQsPW&sig=I6CidHU2fS0r37aZX2B31M4QYcs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=kPdkVaDXA8TGsAWssoOYBQ&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=t.s%20eliot%20virgil%20inspiration%20poetic&f=false

              Reading this chapter led me to the source of the original discussion on inspiration, a talk Eliot gave on BBC radio in 1951,which was later reprinted in a book of essays called “On Poetry and Poets” in 1956. Here is the relevant passage: “If the word ‘inspiration’ is to have any meaning, it must mean just this, that the speaker or writer is uttering something which he does not wholly understand . . . [Furthermore] he need not know what his poetry will come to mean to others.”

              I will give the page reference and any further development of that idea once I have finished the collection of essay (which I just found in our local public library).

              Liked by 1 person

        • P.S. the answer is me; I sit on my front stoop at midnight. Usually listening to frivolous music because it’s the end of the day. Songs like “On Top Of The World.” 😉

          Liked by 1 person

      • I had a dream once where I lived a farmhouse next to a massive tree with a basket hanging from its branches. Every morning and evening, a messenger would come from town and fill the basket and take away my messages. I’m pretty sure that one WAS about my blog.

        Liked by 1 person

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