Original poem reprinted online here: "Series" by Geoffrey G. O'Brien
Originally read: August 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Geoffrey G. O'Brien
Prepositional phrases. Usually meant to indicate where something is located, the poem hinges on how "to ____" something. Note this isn't a command necessarily, this is more of advice. In order to do something, something needs to be considered.
For example, "To remember people in the act / Of speaking is to love them" what is considered with this line is to "love them" and in order to love them, "[someone has] to remember people in the act of speaking. However this line is also qualified with, "And not the turquoise substrate / Redon supposed was all there was" I don't know what these lines means. I tried looking them up, but they still don't make sense to me. I do know that there is a definition through negation with the "and not", and probably a separation from a visual understanding from the sonic.
The next two sentences that start with "to" more or less does with memory, "To vases, any container, the vessel / Object are" note, that if the vase is symbol of memory, look at the construction being backwards; furthermore, "To remember / People in the act of speaking / Is to love them." Is then repeated with different line breaks. And with each repetition the meaning gets lost, the construction gets lost, but for how long.
What seals the deal as far as lost meanings is concerned is with these lines:
An open mouth
Unembarrassed in the lower parts
Of the face, vase that when
It's drawn becomes a lamp
note how the images are a bit surreal, but have no meaning in the context of the poem. Yes, the vase could refer back to the remembering people by the act of speaking line, but the contents of both are so disparate that the attempt to combine them never coalesces for me. It's like reading a rorschach painting as a poem.
Can me as the reader find meaning? Not so much. The prepositional phrases, which this poem depends on, sets up mismatches and grammatical paradoxes. These are understood but hold no meaning, like the ending:
Thinking about the lip of the vase
Or a smudge of stray indigo
Above it, and the butterfly about
To test the limits of what's happened
Once and less than once
No meaning within things. Note how the focus is on the lip of the vase "or" (one or the other) the smudge of color. Now, regardless where the focus is on the vase -- it's whats above that morphs and is interpreted. The butterfly is testing limits once (positive) and less than once (negative). How does this relate to the beginning.
It's a test of how thin the thread can be and still be connected. Not to form meaning, but to form the connection.