Poetry: ‘If There Must Be A God In the House’

Less and Less Human, O Savage Spirit
By Wallace Stevens

If there must be a god in the house, must be,
Saying things in the rooms and on the stair,

Let him move as the sunlight moves on the floor,
Or moonlight, silently, as Plato’s ghost

Or Aristotle’s skeleton. Let him hang out
His stars on the wall. He must dwell quietly.

He must be incapable of speaking, closed,
As those are: as light, for all its motion, is;

As color, even the closest to us, is;
As shapes, though they portend us, are.

It is the human that is the alien,
The human that has no cousin in the moon.

It is the human that demands his speech
From beasts or from the incommunicable mass.

If there must be a god in the house, let him be one
That will not hear us when we speak: a coolness,

A vermilioned nothingness, any stick of the mass
Of which we are too distantly a part.

Excerpted from The Voice That is Great Within Us (edited by Hayden Carruth, Bantam, 1983)

“Detail” by Eamon Grennan

grennanorigI went to hear Irish poet Eamon Grennan last night at the Folger Theater at the Library of Congress. His newest book is Matter of Fact.

It was a wonderful rangy reading that included his favorite poems as well as his own work.

He read the section from Macbeth when Macduff learns that his family is all murdered, “Chaucer” by Longfellow, “The Stolen Boat” by Wordsworth, “Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens, and many more.

Grennan concluded with his own poem “Detail.”

by Eamon Grennan

I was watching a robin fly after a finch—the smaller
chirping with excitement, the bigger, its breast blazing, silent
in light-winged earnest chase—when, out of nowhere
over the chimneys and the shivering front gardens,
flashes a sparrowhawk headlong, a light brown burn
scorching the air from which it simply plucks
like a ripe fruit the stopped robin, whose two or three
cheeps of terminal surprise twinkle in the silence
closing over the empty street when the birds have gone
about their business, and I began to understand
how a poem can happen: you have your eye on a small
elusive detail, pursuing its music, when a terrible truth
strikes and your heart cries out, being carried off.