Getting From Here to There

By John Hollander

(posted Wednesday, Oct. 8)

To hear the poet read “Getting From Here to There,” click here.

After the issues raised first by the dawn
Had been considered for a while and (darn
It!) lost their appeal, some agent of the dark
Stabbed at the afternoon as if with a dirk
The disappearance of the sun’s red disk
In a sea of golden dust brought us to dusk

An unseen term, after the after-birth,
Emerges: We’re delivered of our dearth,
As when today you rose from bed, warm hearth,
Promising kettle, desire’s best of health:
In the gray distance over a bare heath
You discerned, striding toward you, someone’s death.

One hears such stories with one’s eyes unwet:
She woke up one day and found that the Tet
Offensive had left her widowed with a tot
Who broke her heart as if it were a toy.
Luck having given her one so-so try,
Wrung out her life and left her bones to dry.

How many other questions hide in “how?”
Writers should make a deep, unwitting vow
Never to think about such questions. (Wow!
I wish I could!) Rather than try to woo
Answers into the mind’s arms, dream of Who,
Where, What they were wearing then, and Why.

She took him to her place at half-past one
Her bedroom windows bordered by caca d’oie
Chintz draperies–not nice–but lust says fie
To nice, for which it does not give a fig.
He’d gone there Thursday, just for a quick fix
And didn’t get back home till after six.

Wisdom’s long weary journey from the east
Ceased when it halted once to take its ease
In some oasis with a book, a vase
Of flowers, a cup of wine, love in a vale
Of silken-covered sand, no weathervane
Clattering, ostentatious, giving vent
To windy thoughts, yet knowing where it went
The overgoing of the sad, late west.

He misdirected us, and so we came
By a long route, which took us through a cave
Filled with the lapping of a distant wave.
Our confidence already on the wane
We wandered, wondering, ever more in want
Of knowing where the true way really went.