Mudlark Poster No. 96 (2011)

Time by Piotr Gwiazda


For months I’ve been working on 
a poem called “Time.”
Will it stand the test of time?

Nothing’s more overrated
than immortality... Just read
biographies of the Famous:

Shakespeare was an extraterrestrial.
So was Mozart, but not Mahler.
The only light in my studio—

the laptop screen, my “window 
on the world.” Why go on?
Why all this Sturm und Drang?

For pleasure? Out of spite?
To serve god and/or country?
The morning star? “Because it is there”?


I would sing, if I had “technique,”
about an alpine meadow,
the history of quantum physics,

and the death of the senile pope.
I would touch on my moods
and affection for windshield wipers.

Instead, I observe everything, 
record everything like Vertov’s
man with a movie camera:

the street, the amusement park,
the crowded mall (terrorists’ targets),
the empty stadium, the hotel-

casino, the police headquarters,
the clock at the Grand Central Station, 
the partial eclipse of the moon.


Is this what Eliot meant 
by “impersonality”?
I don’t know what I’m feeling

and so reserve comment.
My life devoted to beauty,
vissi d’arte, and so on and so forth...

But I won’t lead you out of confusion;
I won’t comfort you
as you follow your leaders

and their somnambulist leaders.
I’m not the light in your mind.
This poem amounts to, at best,

a conversation with myself.
(Who?) My letter to the world
that never wrote to me.

(The post stamp has the word “LOVE” on it.)
Few things amuse me
besides movies and songs.


One day I was reading a poem 
about a boat made of stones
that had lost their weight,

but I understood none of it.
None of the post-romantic
concomitance of thing and idea—

my mind was not a boat,
nor, I guess, meaning my ballast.
All I knew was the sound

(though not “sheets of sound”)
and the appearance of words.
Thank you, Wallace Stevens,

for making me feel alive.
It was like tossing a cell phone
or being in a car chase.


In literature, as in life,
there’s only imitation.
Richard Howard, at home,

Greenwich Village,
March 30, 2003.
Don’t be fooled

by complexity:
What seems to you complex
may be in fact quite simple.

And: As one’s arteries harden,
one runs the risk
of missing the Next Big Thing...


Respighi recorded a nightingale
to vitrify mortality.
Messiaen listened to bird songs

to make piano pieces, but I—
never a precocious child,
and an adult slow learner—

I can’t write music, I can only la la,
like Chaplin. I can paint, but
I am not a painter, I am a poet.

A creature of feelings
rather than ideas, I prefer cities
to campuses, art to museums.

I prefer dreams to revolutions.
My poems are full of images
that occur to me in dreams.

I also prefer the body 
and the new clothes it’s wearing
to (cough) metaphysics.

I never feel the same way twice.
I struggle to make my mark.
I write for myself or strangers.


My landlord recently repainted
the house green. (It used to be green.)
The Sisyphus across the street

mows his lawn every weekend, 
then watches NASCAR races.                          
Why be a perfectionist

if all my tombstone will say
(cf. Keats): “Here lies one 
whose name was writ on paper”?

Poetry is silence in drag.
Better waste more time  
reading about this Immortal:

Matthias Claudius, the author
of “Death and the Maiden,” 
put to music by Schubert.

Piotr Gwiazda is the author of two books of poetry, Messages (Pond Road Press, 2012) and Gagarin Street (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 2005). He also published a critical study, James Merrill and W.H. Auden: Homosexuality and Poetic Influence (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in many journals, including Barrow Street, Chicago Review, Hotel America, Jacket, PN Review, Postmodern Culture, Rattle, The Southern Review, The Times Literary Supplement, and XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics. Excerpts from Gwiazda’s translation of Polish writer Grzegorz Wroblewski’s volume of prose poems Kopenhaga were recently featured in the Denver Quarterly, AGNI Online, Colorado Review, and Seneca Review. He was Writer-in-Residence at the James Merrill House in Stonington, Connecticut in the fall of 2008, where some portions of Time were composed. He teaches modern and contemporary poetry at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).

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