The Beach of Leftist Intellectuals
by Oliver Rice
This, Gertrude, is a place where,
east by south on the Italian Riviera,
where, reassured by the sand and sun,
palm trees and trattorias, Gertrude,
medieval nuances and Roman ruins
in the vicinity of Bocca di Magra,
with vistas of the Mediterranean,
of yachts and fishing marinas,
of gray cliffs and pine forests,
where, Gertrude, in the convalescent years
after the second orgy in their century
of tyranny and lurid bellicosity,
certain writing persons retreated,
neorealists and anti-fascists,
a Montale or Pavese, a Moravia or Duras,
to assess their outraged psyches,
their suppressed intentions,
and, each according to his emerging self,
to search out what must then be said.
Is this not, Gertrude,
a familiar ordeal of spirit, a trying
of the valor and efficacy of art as polemic?
And, to our abiding lament, must they not
have learned what Tolstoy learned,
Cervantes and Voltaire, Zola and Dreiser? †
* * *
††††††† ††The Constructionist
†††† Minds his Daughterís Infant
††††††††††† in his Workshop
Aha. You wake.
Iím a noisy fellow, I know.
How about a smile?
†††† swinging the crib closer to his work
Well then, look what Iím doing here.
This is a fine piece of mahogany.
Five and a half inches by three by a half.
†††† turning it about
I have made all six planes
as smooth as your belly.
Today it is my treasure.
It seems to me an exactly right thing,
Donít ask why.
We can never quite fathom the psyche.
How it knows what it knows.
How it discovers its delusions.
†††† cradling it in his hands
But even as this artful object was telling me
how it wished to be shaped,
I understood that it had yearnings,
fantasies of membership in an ensemble.
†††† propping it against a chisel
So now is the pondering time.
To what community of symmetries
might we both consent,
my mahogany beauty come alive
and my choosing faculties,
the eyes behind my eyes?
The morning waits
for an electrochemical commotion,
a fragment of soliloquy,
a leaping irony.
Listen to the silence behind my clattering.
Anything can happen there.
†††† sitting on his stool
There are strange things in the world.
Youíll find out.
A little dog dyed pink.
Your professor may someday lecture
on the despair of pure possibility.
But for birds like me that is exhilarating.
You see, itís a branch of metaphysics.
Seems a real place when Iím there.
With a past and a future,
and something like my pulse, my fever.
Aha. I see that is all you can tolerate.
The eyelids droop.
†††† rolling the crib away
Dream of sweets and kind voices.
* * *
††††††††††††††††††††††† OR NOT
††† Every man, said Camus,
††††††††††††††††† is the first man,
†††††††††††††††††††† nobody is.
Here in this backcountry American hamlet
is Buddy, a boy of about seven.
Because of certain kinks in his double helix
and perhaps because he is so much alone,
his nature may be evolving toward reflection,
day by day the order of things
suggesting more of itself.
There is a quality of secret pleasure,
about his uninstructed observations of dew,
of leaves flying on the wind sooner than twigs,
of a damaged finger nail growing back,
a severed finger lost forever.
Of beans growing in the garden
only if his father plants the seeds,
weeds thriving everywhere on their own.
Although such ideas become mundane
among the welter of usable phenomena.
Although he may duly acquire arts and sciences.
Intellection, skepticism, heresies.
Empathies for homo erectus, Lucretius, Proust. †
* * *
†††††††††† Taylor Cosmological
Arriving at home after a hike,
again we find Taylor waiting on the patio,
again dishevelled, agitated.
Yes? Yes, we exclaim.
In the instant just before time and space,
he pronounces, as if reciting,
the Unintelligible, tinkering,
he insists, blinking with conviction,
tinkering with the inchoate glob of matter,
accidentally induces an electroshock
which, with an enormous bang, shatters all
into infinite, eternal, universal order,
he splutters, pausing to swallow,
immolating First Cause in the event.
Yes, yes, we exclaim,
taking him in for a brandy.
* * * * * * *
© Oliver Rice has received the Theodore Roethke Prize and thrice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies in the United States, as well as in Canada, England, Austria, Turkey, and India. His book of poems, On Consenting to Be a Man, has been introduced by Cyberwit, a diversified publishing house in the cultural capital Allahabad, India, and is available on Amazon.