Thursday, June 25, 2015

Beauty of the Husband

Jean Mounet-Sully (1841-1916)
in the role of Hernani 
photographed by Nadar
Victoria & Albert Museum

Why did nature give me over to this creature  don't call it my choice,
I was ventured:
by some pure gravity of existence itself,
conspiracy of being!
We were fifteen.
It was Latin class, late spring, late afternoon, the passive periphrastic,
for some reason I turned in my seat
and there he was.
You know how they say a Zen butcher makes one correct cut and the whole ox
falls apart
like a puzzle. Yes a cliché

and I do not apologize because as I say I was not to blame, I was unshielded
in the face of existence
and existence depends on beauty.
In the end.
Existence will not stop
until it gets to beauty and then there follow all the consequences that lead to the end.
Useless to interpose analysis
or make contrafactual suggestions.
Quid enim futurum fuit si. . . . What would have happened if, etc.
The Latin master's voice
went up and down on quiet waves. A passive periphrastic
may take the place of the imperfect or pluperfect subjunctive
in a contrary-to-fact condition.
Adeo parata seditio fuit
ut Othonem rapturi fuerint, ni incerta noctis timuissent.
So advanced was the conspiracy
that they would have seized upon Otho, had they not feared the hazards of the night.
Why do I have
this sentence in mind
as if it happened three hours ago not thirty years!
Unshielded still, night now.
How true they were to fear its hazards.

 Secton XI from Anne Carson's book-length poem, The Beauty of the Husband (2001)