Friday, October 10, 2014

Happy 10th! Catherine Chandler on Time's Covenant

Eric Ormsby's Time's Covenant, published by Biblioasis in 2007, is a fine example of exquisite, meticulously crafted, musical and meditative poetry. Quite simply put, the volume is a treasure-trove, containing Ormsby's five published books of poetry as well as many of his (at the time) unpublished and uncollected poems for the period 1958 to 2006.

Ormsby is a master of metaphor and imagery. His evocations of people, places, things and ideas are breathtaking in their beauty, luxuriance, precision and scope, witnesses to his love of the “doubleness of things”—as he writes in his poem “Spider Silk”—and to a linguistic brilliance hinted at in his poem “Quark Fog.” And while examples of his gorgeous lines and stanzas are too numerous to list here, by way of illustration I would include one of my favorite Ormsby poems, “Amber”, a meditation on love and mortality where—as in many of his poems—universal truths are to be found in everyday objects and isolated moments of time. The poem, quoted in its entirety below, is dedicated to his wife, Irena.

                For Irena

Prismed by amber, the insect's wing
Curves outward in a resinous nonchalance.
Casual fatality has paused in its dance.
I am tenderest when I touch this glozened thing.

Time's imagination stumbles me,
The way time tastes the roof beam's future ruin
Or calibrates the hovering, faint tune
In the siskin's wingbeat, with its brief veracity.

The stillness of surviving objects pleases
Our reveries. The inarticulate
Obduracy of a tigrine chip of agate
Spilled from a misplaced cuff link seizes

Our attention, so mere things appear
Stationary, resistant, and impervious.
The opera glasses, pearl-lensed, that will outlive us
Accord a terrible pleasure of mortality. We're

Cruelly honoured in our transience,
Evanescent instances of some unique
Reticulation. I hear you speak
Close to my ear. I feel your diffidence

As you slip your clothes and then your jewelry
And press against me till our nakedness
Warms us with momentous gentleness
And we lie hidden in that clarity.

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