Marvin Bell – your sonorous name,
ringing and rattling my stiff little heart –
I dash myself against your rock-like unknownness,
I might break again on the pocked reef of your smile.
How can I write and feel this towards you,
when you are so exquisitely alien?
But by the force of your pine-tree, your delicate name
you press upon me all the weight of the brain’s
obscure longings, and sighing I press through the cracks
to meet the imagined you,
bearer of sweet names in a year of cold outcomes.
Tomorrow I will read your poetry and your small biography –
the old birth-year, the colleges my friends might have gone to,
the wife and children to whom I have no connection at all –
I will peer through your window and examine your countenance
like one smudged in a yearbook, that we watch for some small opening,
some hint in the blur to tell why we twitched.
No matter what you say to me in your stanzas,
(for I will take every line as a personal address)
in what power or grace, in what coldness or ecstasy,
I will not know you then as we know the imagined;
I will not love you then as we love the unreal.