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Monday, December 1, 2014

["This poem is not addressed to you"] - Donald Justice

This poem is not addressed to you.
You may come into it briefly,
But no one will find you here, no one.
You will have changed before the poem will.

Even while you sit there, unmovable,
You have begun to vanish. And it does not matter.
The poem will go on without you.
It has the spurious glamor or certain voids.

It is not sad, really, only empty.
Once perhaps it was sad, no one knows why.
It prefers to remember nothing.
Nostalgias were peeled from it long ago.

Your type of beauty has no place here.
Night is the sky over this poem.
It is too black for stars.
And do not look for any illumination.

You neither can nor should understand what it means.
Listen, it comes without guitar,
Neither in rags nor any purple fashion.
And there is nothing in it to comfort you.

Close your eyes, yawn. It will be over soon.
You will forget the poem, but not before
It has forgotten you. And it does not matter.
It has been most beautiful in its erasures.

O bleached mirrors! Oceans of the drowned!
Nor is one silence equal to another.
And it does not matter what you think.
This poem is not addressed to you.


This poem is addressed to you, reader, despite what Donald Justice tells us.  It rather explicitly talks to us about how the poem is not meant to speak to us.  The poem is about how regardless of poetic intent, the "you" of a poem doesn't necessarily matter.  The poem is immovable, intransient, it remains long after its subject has gone.  Justice reflects this by removing the subject from the poem in every possible way.  There are no stars, no "illumination" (both literal, in a lack of stars, and figurative in a lack of understanding) or meaning.

The great strength of this poem is that by deliberately removing any sort of address, it becomes universally relevant.  This is almost certainly the point, because as Justice says, "Nor is one silence equal to another."  In removing subjects, we give poems unequal weight in the strength of their absences.  I find the poem touching in ways that are difficult to articulate.  It's almost comforting to know that long after any person about whom a poem could have been written is gone, the poems are still there, and even without the stars in their skies, they retain a beauty captured well by Justice's deliberate removal of the poetic "you."

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