anne carson: excerpt from the beauty of the husband

“xxix. impure as i am (foodstains and shame and all) so too my conclusions which at the door scent you and hesitate

To get them out of her the wife tries making a list of words she never got to say.

How have you been.

Fancy seeing you here.

I had given up hope I grew desperate why did you take so long.

Bloodless monster! Had I never

seen or known your

kindness what

might I

have been.

But words

are a strange docile wheat are they not, they bend

to the ground.

Fact is,

no one was asking. Well Ray would have asked.

so for Ray let’s just finish it.

Not because, like Persephone, I needed to cool my cheek on death,

Not, with Keats, to buy time.

Not, as the tango, out of sheer wantonness.

But oh it seemed so sweet.

To say Beauty is Truth and stop.

Rather than to eat it.

Rather than to want to eat it.  This was my pure early thought.

I overlooked one thing.

That the beautiful when I encountered it would turn out to be

prior–inside my own heart,

already eaten.

Not out there with purposiveness, with temples, with God.

Inside.  He was already me.

Condition of me.

As if Kutuzov had found himself charging across the battlefield at Borodino

toward–

not the emperor Napolean but a certain old king Midas

whose weapons

touched half the Russian army into bitter boys of gold.

Words, wheat, conditions, gold, more than thirty years of it fizzing around in me–there

I lay it to rest.

You smile. I think

you are going to mention again

those illuminated manuscripts from medieval times where the scribe

has made an error in copying

so the illuminator encloses the error

in a circlet of roses and flames

which a saucy little devil is trying to tug off the side of the page.

After all the heart is not a small stone

to be rolled this way and that.

The mind is not a box

to be shut fast.

And yet is is!

It is!

Well life has some risks.  Love is one.  Terrible risks.

Ray would have said

Fate’s my bait and bait’s my fate

On a June evening.

Here’s my advice,

hold.

Hold beauty.

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