Reading Aloud (#16): from Wallace Stevens's "The Rock" (1952, 1954)
Seventy Years Later
It is an illusion that we were ever alive,
Lived in the houses of mothers, arranged ourselves
By our own motions in a freedom of air.
Regard the freedom of seventy years ago.
It is no longer air. The houses still stand,
Though they are rigid in rigid emptiness.
Even our shadows, their shadows, no longer remain.
The lives these lived in the mind are at an end.
They never were . . . The sounds of the guitar
Were not and are not. Absurd. The words spoken
Were not and are not. It is not to be believed.
The meeting at noon at the edge of the field seems like
An invention, an embrace between one desperate clod
And another in a fantastic consciousness,
In a queer assertion of humanity:
A theorem proposed between the two—
Two figures in a nature of the sun,
In the sun's design of its own happiness,
As if nothingness contained a métier,
A vital assumption, an impermanence
In its permanent cold, an illusion so desired
That the green leaves came and covered the high rock,
That the lilacs came and bloomed, like a blindness cleaned,
Exclaiming bright sight, as it was satisfied,
In a birth of sight. The blooming and the musk
Were being alive, an incessant being alive,
A particular being, that gross universe.
[Credit: Collected Poetry and Prose , pg. 445]