Imposition on Dr. Lantry II

AUTUMN, by William Lantry, 1995.02
"...we come by love, and not by sail..." -Augustine

Whether the evening stopped what little wind
had driven me, or if a sudden change
in pressure slowed the bow, as, smooth, it made
its way around the cap d'ail, towards
the esterel, with its red peaks suffused
beneath the red dust of siroccos, I

will not attempt to say, but I do know
progress was slowly ended, and the drift
of that small boat became the same as waves'
slow movement toward the shore, where I could see
her skirt, at least, grown luminescent in
final reflections, blue, the slender words

inaudible, I voiced then, seemed to fill
slack canvas, only seemed, since the land breeze
recirculates in autumn, still, the bow
was moving, and I heard before my own
her voice, and knew that song from memory
but changed now, as I drifted to the shore.


Years ago
Saint Cuthbert and I were at the edge of consubstantiation.
She left me teetering there.
But she kept writing me letters and sending her love.
"...we come by love,"
and laude, laude, cum laude, we love to come
"and not by sail..."
as much as by sale.
It's all prostitution, one way or another, said
the Hippo to Anselm the Giraffe.
Yeah, yeah, I'm a ho, you a ho, everyone a ho, ho, ho, Mr. Santa fey indemnity clause.
But was my price too high for Imogen Autumn, or hers too high for me?

Then, as philosopher's apprentice with Willard Quine, I kneaded the status of sentences as,
"The morning star is the evening star."
(The question: just how to characterize the difference between that sentence and "The morning star is the morning star.")
Venus is both, thus dawn and dusk are female.

Last night the latter visited me.
Whether the evening stopped
by for a beer so the two of us could keep each other company
or because she meant to stir
what little wind
of sentiment
had driven me
before to my defective Volkswagen to go in vain search of Imogen
or if a sudden change
of plan just happened to bring her my way, the increase
in pressure
was just enough to send me packing, though I was
the bow
ties, polka-dotted, paisley. Which to take?
Running my hand over a fuchsia and gold striped one,
as, smooth, it made
my hand describe the arc of Imogen's dimly recalled rump.
Such a tie as this could wrap
its way around the cap d'ail, towards
sundown at a cocktail party for elderly Republicans. I discard it.
The esterel, with its red peaks suffused
--despite the best efforts of the good people Playtex.
Beneath the
tires, the red clay dirt roads of Butts County, Georgia.
I drive this Volkswagen toward the coast, trailing behind me that
red dust of Sciroccos, I
will not attempt to say
to what this embarassing passion amounts.
But I do know
progress was slowly ended.
Five years have gone by now since my brother Benjamin died.
A letter last year told me Geoffrey, friend and colleague of Imogen's, was dead.
Are there any but insulated morons whom AIDS has not by now left bereft?
Beautiful Mapplethorpe lies cold, and twisted Helms glows on, incendiary bright.
Too many Gramms of Newt spoiled all affirming witches' brew everywhere.
In the spaces between the funeral parlors and the ballot boxes,
belief in progress ebbed away.
and the drift
of that small boat
the ship of state
became the same as waves
of despair on sands of negation.

Yet I drive on.

Ten hours, and right onto the night beach, where I walk.
A mile or so north. Nothing.
Making my way back, the tide's
slow movement toward the shore, where I could see
her skirt
not far from the parked Scirocco, hidden in the dune shadows.
The skirt lies abandoned next to her blouse,
at least, grown luminescent
as my radio dial was at 2:00 AM midway between Macon and Savannah;
luminescent as my bowtie, which I pull off and drop beside the signs of her.
final reflections,
love is
but so is failure, so is decrepitude.
A little further on, I find Imogen Autumn for the first time in twelve years.
She is not ashamed in moonlight and surf and underwear;
she's just nervous about seeing me again.
the slender words
and the broad inarticulate noises
I voiced then, seemed to fill
slack canvas
pants with newly erected hopes
only seemed, since the land breeze
billows even where flaccidity reigns. An hour we are there. Two.
I get no clue about how much of the emotion washing over me
recirculates in Autumn, still, the bow
tie's smiling garish dotted arms reach out, one toward blouse, one toward skirt,
while mine hang limply, awkwardly, mutely at my side.

Whether the morning stopped by for a cappuccino so the three of us
could keep each other company,
or because she meant to climb into the Scirocco with me and leave Imogen, I
was moving,
driving away
and I heard before my own
her voice
the morning, telling me I'd forgotten to get my bowtie
and knew that song from memory
because the landscape over which I have traversed my life
is fairly littered with bowties announcing
"Meredith committed another fashion violation here."
but changed now, as I drifted
down inland back roads
points far from
the shore
and farther from the sure.

Nashville, 1995.07

* * * * * * *
Lantry's poem was written in February 1995. It was July when I imposed and interposed upon it, and then sent it back to him with this note:
Dear Bill,
'E me,' you said. Oh, very well. Here's my try.
What follows may seem to get a little Dover-Beach-ish at points, but it's also SUPPOSED to be funny -- which I rather fancy puts me one up on Arnold (though not in the sheer craftsmanship department, of course).

What you wrote in February may not be fresh in memory now, so here's your unadulterated work -- followed by my adulteration. Let me know if you like it, OK?
I don't have any record or memory of hearing from him in response. I did, however, get this from his spouse, Virginia Moran:
I found it absolutely, probably overly, hilarious. Your poem is in and of itself very funny but it reaches new heights when interposed with Bill's what even he will refer to as right-wing romanticism. As I readily confess, I find it probably too funny to see my spouse's high-flying versifying brought down to earth with such a clever thud.

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