He still trolled books, films, gossip, his own
past, searching not just for
ideas that dissect the mountain that
in his early old age he is almost convinced
cannot be dissected:
he searched for stories:
stories the pattern of whose
knot dimly traces the pattern of his own:
what is intolerable in
the world, which is to say
intolerable in himself, ingested, digested:
the stories that
haunt each of us, for each of us
rip open the mountain.
the creature smothered in death clothes
dragging into the forest
bodies he killed to make meaning
the woman who found that she
to her bewilderment and horror
had a body
As if certain algae
that keep islands of skeletons
alive, that make living rock from
trash, from carcasses left behind by others,
as if algae
were to produce out of
themselves and what they most fear
the detritus over whose
kingdom they preside: the burning
fountain is the imagination
within us that ingests and by its
what is most antithetical to itself:
it returns the intolerable as
brilliant dream, visible, opaque,
makes from what you find hardest to
swallow, most indigestible, your food.
‘Of His Bones Are Coral Made’ is excerpted from Metaphysical Dog.
Chosen for FSG Poetry Month by Garth Greenwell.
Frank Bidart’s most recent full-length collections of poetry are Watching the Spring Festival (FSG, 2008), Star Dust (FSG, 2005), Desire (FSG, 1997), and In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965–90 (FSG, 1990). He has won many prizes, including the Wallace Stevens Award, the 2007 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Metaphysical Dog. He teaches at Wellesley College.