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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 4, December 2014

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Charles D. Tarlton
San Francisco, California, USA



Discourse and Lyric in Wallace Stevens' "Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour"

          1

Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

The same with thought's internal contradictions; the necessity of utterance outweighs our fear of ridicule. There are rags and tatters here, a rug and sofa, the way the light focuses in the cracked window, the splotches left by the drying rain, and the commonness within. Here we sit, avoiding each other's eyes across the room as the lights slowly come on and the darkness moves outside.

whether this or not
seems an unbearable question
to live in a dream
of ethical perfection
covers thrown over all this

so the less we move
and the more we speculate

I have watched headlights race around the room at night and dreamed. I imagined a transparent wall between two worlds, this one and the other side. For the briefest fraction of a second they might reveal themselves.

we can imagine
practically all of these things
raise them up with our singing

just beyond my reach
fantasy nevertheless
compels attention—
why live for merely these things
when I can feast on dreaming

          2

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

When disparity is overcome it cannot be in the arms and legs, the hair and bone of people. The hardness of flesh and the unyielding rocks can't help snickering when we talk this way. When we get together (and I do not mean for tea or at the theater) it will be when we all at once have the same idea, when there's a rush of common recognition, when I can feel as you feel, feeling you feel as I do. I think it, you think it, we all think it, and, at the same time, we imagine something in-between us, connecting us.

wild howling, mating
cats all anger and bristling
fur, still you can't pull them
apart as they fuse to one
gyrating calamity

planets colliding
fire brands a million years old

In lingering kisses, eyes tightly closed, the warmth of your skin warming mine, and we lose all sense of separate selves. I am afraid to open my eyes for fear that I will have disappeared.

swept up together
into craggy splintered peaks
making a moon, one shadow

his hottest passions
cooling into solid forms
contain elements
compounded, unified
twigs knit into thick branches

          3

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Disparate and individual, the poor and hungry roam and are scattered in the dawn, but as the morning warms they gather in the streets, file noisily, with jokes and hails of mutual recognition, into the empty stadium. There they become a crowd, and if called upon to judge anything—a race, a fight, a trial, the law—they are a singularity, the people.

how does the morning
light, the broken dawn above
black raggedy combs
form itself into unbroken
sky-domes of finished blue

is it love that seeks
to violate the barriers
between us, to meld
bodies into lighter souls
to annihilate each one

think every whole thing
made up of particles, the Light

The distance between pluribus and unum blurred there in that E (in English "from"). Here on the one side are "the many," and on the other, "the One," the embracing, the totalizing. Under that shawl we shall entirely know ourselves. Most of our words for many-more-than-one person—people, masses, multitude, crowd, populace, public, mob—are singular in form, presuming already in the language an abstracted transcendence.

itself, the shadows
blurred all along the edges
the one thing from the other

whispered miracles
when the freshly leavened bread
inhabiting blood
comes completely in and goes out
the mixture a living thing

          4

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one . . .
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

It is all thought, isn't it? I mean everything! Whatever "is" is the idea of what is, both what "it" is, and what "is" is. The picture's not just something I see, but what I see is the picture. Take your God into your head, look out through His eyes, and let him dream your dreams. The world will seem much truer.

so you dreamed it up
worlds in their distant reaches
visions beyond sight
you hanging the lamp up high
squinting out from underneath

what if it's a lie
all the talk of God, what if

High on ceilings, artists the world over have painted God and God's work. And it looks like the sky, and they're domed, high up, round, and unlimited—like the sky.

you made up a joke
how the world run by madmen
has been long lost in its dreams

          5

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.

Just the thought of you and me makes easily a "we," as the wind and rain and thunder make a storm. We form the idea of ourselves from what's reflected of the light, from what flickers in your eye when I see myself reflected in your eye, on the surface of your eye. We try to stand back from the laws of light and shadow, let the reverberations of our intention make up for the impossibility of me ever being you.

light and fantastic
running up Chopin's whole notes
like a flight of stairs
when you reach the jumping off
point, when you hear the music

"no snow on the beach"
sea water warms everything
to above freezing

If you hold me I won't be so cold; together we become a glowing coal, an iridescent, an incandescent harmony—look how it's fastened, where it's locked tight.

and with that he stepped into
the darkness, his speech ended.

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end

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