Saturday, July 2, 2011

James Cervantes and Wordsworth

Today we have the first of several Wordsworth appositions. When I wondered why, someone (I'm fairly sure it was James) responded, "Because he's easy!" I like to think it's more than than, but then I'd also like to win the lottery, hear the rhymed essence in all things, etc. Yet I think James belies himself with this piece which both opposes and continues Wordsworth's "mighty heart." Those suffering the disconnection of self from meaning--typically, the story goes, the middle-class living in suburbs and cities--are vaguely aware of their sense of their own significance (dislocated like tourists), yet Mr. Bondo seems to them (and himself) indigenous to his own occasion (and quietly pleased that he finds his life so). This last belief, shared by all four of the poem's major players--tourists, Bondo, writer, reader--maintains that "mighty heart" might still be beating somewhere in the world, here realized in a common and natural existence, a position Wordsworth more frequently and famously holds. Is this what Wordsworth speaks to us with increasing intensity? Do we seem to need that possibility more urgently now than, say, two dozen years ago?

To me it seems otherwise, or at least it is not so simple. Positing a belief that one can be native in (on) his own land is, of course, there (and it's one I share). But there's more than that and it seems James was right both in poem and in response to my question: Wordsworth is simple, and his brand of simplicity has been difficult to accept with a straight face for well over a century, yet the belief in the continued beating of that heart, blood thick with thought and spirit, resounds as clearly in this morning's air as it likely did two centuries ago.

(I was going to keep my comments to a minimum, but the Wordsworth phenomena seems worthy of note.)


[How special it is to live in a special place]
                              --James Cervantes

How special it is to live in a special place,
one which is photographed by tourists
and included in packaged tours. Mr. Bondo
wishes he lived in such a place. Sitting
on his somewhat run-down porch, he'd be the envy
of those shaking their heads from a distance -
that shake which means "How lucky!  I wish
that was me," and their list of bad choices
as their eyes pan above Mr. Bondo
to staggering heights of granite
rising from his heavily wooded yard.

He would leave his almost-antique chair
and calmly disappear into the forest
to surprise himself with some newly-found den,
hardly hearing the motors anymore
and taking unto himself the tang of pine and juniper,
the soft and musky forest floor,
the afternoon of woods and pleasant footfall.
Mr. Bondo's photos of his special place
would be like those the tourists take,
and in which he provides a human scale.

- from Mr. Bondo's Unshared Life


Composed upon Westminster Bridge
                             --William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

JAMES CERVANTES was the editor of The Salt River Review for thirteen years. His latest book, Temporary Meaning, is available from Hamilton Stone Editions. Other books include The Headlong Future, The Year Is Approaching Snow, and Changing The Subject, a dialogue in poems with Halvard Johnson.  Beginning with its July issue, he will be editing poetry for Sol, an online literary magazine out of San Miguel de Allende.

Recent work can be found at  Hinchas de Popoesia and Sol:

The entire Mr. Bondo's Unshared Life:

No comments:

Post a Comment