Writing By Howard Nemerov

The cursive crawl, the squared-off characters   
these by themselves delight, even without   
a meaning, in a foreign language, in
Chinese, for instance, or when skaters curve   
all day across the lake, scoring their white   
records in ice. Being intelligible,
these winding ways with their audacities   
and delicate hesitations, they become   
miraculous, so intimately, out there
at the pen’s point or brush’s tip, do world   
and spirit wed. The small bones of the wrist   
balance against great skeletons of stars   
exactly; the blind bat surveys his way   
by echo alone. Still, the point of style   
is character. The universe induces
a different tremor in every hand, from the   
check-forger’s to that of the Emperor
Hui Tsung, who called his own calligraphy   
the ‘Slender Gold.’ A nervous man
writes nervously of a nervous world, and so on.

Miraculous. It is as though the world
were a great writing. Having said so much,   
let us allow there is more to the world   
than writing: continental faults are not   
bare convoluted fissures in the brain.   
Not only must the skaters soon go home;   
also the hard inscription of their skates
is scored across the open water, which long   
remembers nothing, neither wind nor wake.
Howard Nemerov, “Writing” from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov. Copyright © 1977 by Howard Nemerov. Reprinted with the permission of Margaret Nemerov.

Source: The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (The University of Chicago Press, 1977)

Poet Bio