Wallace Stevens is beyond fathoming, he is so strange; it is as if he had a morbid secret he would rather perish than disclose . . . —Marrianne Moore to William Carlos Williams Another day, which is usually how they come: A cat at the foot of the bed, noncommittal In its blankness of mind, with the morning light Slowly filling the room, and fragmentary Memories of last night's video and phone calls. It is a feeling of sufficiency, one menaced By the fear of some vague lack, of a simplicity Of self, a self without a soul, the nagging fear Of being someone to whom nothing ever happens. Thus the fantasy of the narrative behind the story, Of the half-concealed life that lies beneath The ordinary one, made up of ordinary mornings More alike in how they feel than what they say. They seem like luxuries of consciousness, Like second thoughts that complicate the time One simply wastes. And why not? Mere being Is supposed to be enough, without the intricate Evasions of a mystery or offstage tragedy. Evenings follow on the afternoons, lingering in The living room and listening to the stereo While Peggy Lee sings "Is That All There Is?" Amid the morning papers and the usual Ghosts keeping you company, but just for a while. The true soul is the one that flickers in the eyes Of an animal, like a cat that lifts its head and yawns And looks at you, and then goes back to sleep.
From Ninety-fifth Street. Copyright © 2009 by John Koethe. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.