To see things as they are is hard,
But leaving them alone is harder;
Snow in patches in the yard,
The vacuum in the sky, and in the soul
The movements of temptation and refusal.
I felt a day break. Nothing happened.
The windows gave upon a street
Where cars drove by as usual to the faint,
Unearthly measures of a music
Whose evasions struggled to conceal a
Disappointment all the deeper that the
Hope was for a thing I knew to be unreal.
I can't do it yet. Perhaps no one can do it yet.
The unconstructed gaze is still a fiction
Of the heart, a hope that hides
The boring truth of life within the limits
Of the real, a life whose only heaven
Is the surface of a slowly turning globe.
Yet still I want to think I woke one day to —
To what? The crystal trees, an earthly silence
And the white, unbroken snow of a first morning?
I love this line: "Snow patches in the yard, / The vacuum in the sky, and in the soul / The movements of temptation and refusal." I love the way the bleakness of the external landscape mirrors the "boring truth of life within the limits of the real, a life whose only heaven is the surface of a slowly turning globe."
The poem then, is about a disappointment at the lack of meaning that the speaker finds in the world, despite his reluctant hopes to find such a meaning. Note the opening: To see things as they are is hard, / But leaving them alone is harder. The speaker is unsure whether it is possible to perceive an objective reality (The unconstructed gaze is still a fiction / Of the heart...) without imprinting human values or narrative. The speaker concludes with a confession of a yearning for that same narrative that taints his or her "unconstructed gaze."
What do you all think about the poem?
Once upon a time, I had an English professor (Intro to Modern British Lit, Professor Baker) who would begin every other paragraph of his lecture with "The poem/novel, then, is about..." I loved that guy. I think when we did Conrad's Heart of Darkness, to my mind one of the greatest works of modernist fiction, I made a list of all the things Professor Baker said the novel was "about." It came to 43.
I leave you now to return to my study, trying to ignore the "movements of temptation and refusal" in my own soul.