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156: Brilliance

“Brilliance”
Mark Doty
 
Maggie's taking care of a man
who's dying; he's attended to everything,
said goodbye to his parents,
 
paid off his credit card.
She says Why don't you just

run it up to the limit?
 
but he wants everything
squared away, no balance owed,
though he misses the pets
 
he's already found a home for
-- he can't be around dogs or cats,
too much risk. He says,
 

I can't have anything.
She says, A bowl of goldfish?
He says he doesn't want to start
 
with anything and then describes
the kind he'd maybe like,
how their tails would fan
 
to a gold flaring. They talk
about hot jewel tones,
gold lacquer, say maybe
 
they'll go pick some out
though he can't go much of anywhere and then
abruptly he says I can't love
 

anything I can't finish.
He says it like he's had enough
of the whole scintillant world,
 
though what he means is
he'll never be satisfied and therefore
has established this discipline,
 
a kind of severe rehearsal.
That's where they leave it,
him looking out the window,
 
her knitting as she does because
she needs to do something.
Later he leaves a message:
 

Yes to the bowl of goldfish.
Meaning: let me go, if I have to,
in brilliance. In a story I read,
 
a Zen master who'd perfected
his detachment from the things of the world
remembered, at the moment of dying,
 
a deer he used to feed in the park,
and wondered who might care for it,
and at that instant was reborn
 
in the stunned flesh of a fawn.
So, Maggie’s friend—
Is he going out
 
Into the last loved object
Of his attention?
Fanning the veined translucence
 
Of an opulent tail,
Undulant in some uncapturable curve
Is he bronze chrysanthemums,
 
Copper leaf, hurried darting,
Doubloons, icon-colored fins
Troubling the water?

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Comments

( 57 comments — Leave a comment )
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deviatesellen
Mar. 11th, 2008 10:14 pm (UTC)
You pick the most beautiful poems. I'm sitting here next to birthday flowers and with teenager music and wondering how this is so magnificent. Thanks. ♥
exceptindreams
Mar. 11th, 2008 10:21 pm (UTC)
If it's your birthday, I hope you've had an excellent one.
rubiconchild
Mar. 11th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
I've started taking a modern poetry course this semester so this is an excellent way to expand my poetry knowledge beyond the coursework :D

There's some beautiful imagery in this, especially concerning the fish. And the overall message about how just because you're going to die, doesn't mean you have to stop living (which I got, someone else maybe has a different reading?)is pretty good too.

Keep em coming!
zaleszczotek
Mar. 11th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC)
Oh. My. God.

That was AMAZING and left me speechless for a quite long while.
And I can't write anything more because the situation in that poem and the circumstances are way too familiar to me.

But thank you that I could read it.
bananafin
Mar. 11th, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
this is one of my favorites. mark doty is a huge badass.
murasaki_1966
Mar. 11th, 2008 10:23 pm (UTC)
This is a wonderful poem. May I send you a few? Do you know any Australian poets?
exceptindreams
Mar. 11th, 2008 10:25 pm (UTC)
Of course you may send some (exceptindreamsATgmail.com); I'd appreciate it very much. I may have a few Australian poets, but I don't know off the top of my head. If you want to give me some recommendations, that would be helpful.
(no subject) - murasaki_1966 - Mar. 11th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
ulffriend
Mar. 11th, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC)
Absolutely beautiful. Imagery is breathtaking. It resonates in particular because of the large AIDs community in my city.

It's so nice to read poetry in a living breathing forum rather than locked up in scorned books.
behindthesmog
Mar. 11th, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC)
mark doty is amazing and listening to him actually read it is even more so
reginaclarejane
Mar. 11th, 2008 10:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, this was wonderful! What a beautiful poem for today... not only does it stop and make one think about our own mortality, but how in this world, we can be of service to someone else and their mortality. Would we could all offer *goldfishes* to someone in need...
Thank you for posting this!

harbs
Mar. 11th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC)
let me go, if I have to, in brilliance

I like it.
two_eye_jack
Mar. 11th, 2008 11:59 pm (UTC)
That was by far my favorite phrase.
tangled_kisses
Mar. 11th, 2008 11:08 pm (UTC)
i really love this, very beautiful. ♥
sugar_fey
Mar. 11th, 2008 11:12 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful poem. Thank you for posting it for all to enjoy! I'm not so familiar with current poetry (I tend to stick to TS Eliot and his contemporaries), so this journal is very educational.
maiji
Mar. 11th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
Beautiful. Such vivid, heartfelt narrative without sounding aloof or sappy or fancy for the sake of being fancy.

Thank you so much for starting up this community, by the way. I found it two nights ago from the LJ features and am very grateful! ^^
fullmoonminuet
Mar. 11th, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
After he let go what he had
bundled neatly and tied with perfect
perpendicular string,

he thought of how empty it was
to be finished with a thing - like a
flavorful meal leaving him hungry.
eremon_lass
Mar. 12th, 2008 12:37 am (UTC)
Beautiful.
dreamon_dreamer
Mar. 12th, 2008 12:57 am (UTC)
wow.
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( 57 comments — Leave a comment )

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