When you return from the asylum
be sure to gaze at the trees
covered in snow. When the train
enters the forest ask the waiter
for tea with milk. When in darkness
take seriously the lesson
of fluttering hands. If it is offered
take the class they call Ornithography
for it will teach you something
about love. On the subject of love
I have only a single observation--
if you love a grapefruit, you cut it open
and eat its flesh. Take my advice.
Take it home to your husband or wife.
Slip into bed. Turn off the lights.
The "Myriad Leaves of Words" chapter of Nine Gates is, to me, principally concerned with two ideas: first, the idea that poetry is given weight by a sort of embodied particularity, a universality given shape by specificity -- or a specificity given universality -- and the power of what is not said, but merely suggested. I find this poem rich in familiar images: tea, travels, returns, snow-topped trees, slipping into a partner's bed. And much of the poem's power resides in its mystery, the heavy space of reflection and interpretation it leaves in phrases like "the lessons of fluttering hands" or "if you love a grapefruit, you cut it open and eat its flesh." I find it simple, short, and deeply affecting.