Sunday, February 4, 2007

Sunday Poem: James Merrill

The Blue Grotto

                 for Mona Van Duyn

The boatman rowed into
That often-sung impasse.
Each visitor foreknew
A floor of lilting glass,
A vault of rock, lit blue.

But here we faced the fact.
As misty expectations
Dispersed, and wavelets thwacked
In something like impatience,
The point was to react.

Alas for characteristics!
Diane fingered the water.
Don tested the acoustics
With a paragraph from Pater.
Jon shut his eyes--these mystics--

Thinking his mantra. Jack
Came out with a one-liner,
While claustrophobiac
Jane fought off a minor
Anxiety attack.

Then from our gnarled (his name?)
Boatman (Gennaro!) burst
Some local, vocal gem
Ten times a day rehearsed.
It put us all to shame:

The astute sob, the kiss
Blown in sheer routine
Before one left the scene...
Years passed, and I wrote this.

James Merrill, Collected Poems (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001)
Copyright © by The Literary Estate of James Merrill at Washington University

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