Dorothea Tanning

Obsessed by the universe, I have cherished these lines, just one tercet out of Wallace Stevens' "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction".  Lines like these simply pulverize me. All rules aside, every word is perfectly serene, as if it had never been used before, a word to be graven, you might say.As for old or new you can't get any more timeless than this, anyway I can't. Let me quote them:

There was a muddy center before we breathed.
There was a myth before the myth began,
Venerable and articulate and complete.

* * *


by Dorothea Tanning


Waiting in line for the bus that never comes
In winter rain. A long line waits at the bank
For money. A line inches up to the post office
Stamp window (fresh out of new stamps).

At last at the supermarket, I wait like the others
In several lines; and I ask myself: how many
Of the people in them are as patient as they look.
I for one am not in any hurry. I feel righteous

And kindly, almost levitating as I move among
All that bounty. You wouldn't believe my sweet
Self-control as I reach for that last box of straw-
Berries and someone grabs it from behind.

I just smile to myself and push on to my next
Indifference, my next invincibility, my ever calm
But scratchy shift away from things quotidian,
Sidestepping on the fresh-produce aisle floor

A little pile of spilled strawberries being angrily
Trampled by a shopper. He stamps and pivots
In the wet mess with hostile attention, staring
At the berries as if they were bugs or slugs.

Standing in line at checkout I watch the checker
Slip a strawberry from the cash drawer and pop
It in her mouth while making change. Red juice
Is running down her chin and onto her shirt.

The wonder is, no one but me appears to notice
The stains--city people are so inured to anything
And everything but at least they ought to show
Some surprise if not the dizziness that's drawing

This reddish film over my sorely tried indifference
As all these people begin throwing strawberries
At each other or just into the air like children with
Snowballs in a frenzy of foolishness, the disgraceful

Bloodstains all over them certain to be noticed
Once they're out in the street, my steady unconcern
Shattering as I emerge and a woman points in horror
At me dripping in a red puddle of  equanimity.

* * *
"Strawberries" from A Table of Content by Dorothea Tanning. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with the permission of the author. 




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