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  • Writer's pictureRyan Nowlin

A Darkening of Difficult Achievements

A Darkening of Difficult Achievements***

Edwin Denby nearly revised

himself out of existence; His notes reveal

a mind redacting the lesser lines,

yet his capacity for stillness may be ironic

in that what he once said seemed historic---

I’ve heard one strange theory regarding

Denby’s death, sweating the big stuff,

the very big stuff: depression, electro shock

therapy, loneliness, celibacy, a darkening

of difficult achievements.

Yes, often I am alone as I travel or am involved

with chance meetings with people.

I share this interest with my late father,

who would speak often of “people watching”

or of “being an observer”-- a single person

in a crowd who pulling tight his overcoat

will twist down toward his leg as if to

locate and wipe off a mustard stain.

But I am not alone today at Cape May

Robin and Suzy and I stroll on the board-

walk at Wildwood and then hike along

a stretch of clean beach, our day trip

from Piscataway. I pick up four stones

and shells, and remember how I once gathered

mysterious, smooth stones on yet a third beach

along the shore of Capri, late June 2002.

Robin himself, also something of a mystery.

Does he have a family? I know he works

part time as a...in Plainsboro, but we have not yet

broached many subjects nor have I shared

that much about myself

outside of....X’s smile and eyes reveal

a deep icy pool of genuine energy.


*** This title came about from the results of a John Cage Mesostic Generator online. Mesostics are Cage type of procedural poem in which the spine words are collated through the middle of the poem thus creating interesting word arrangements. While I don't use the mesostic generated I do find that some of the word arrangements to be very interesting and true to the Cagian spirit of chance operations.

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