SAILING AFTER LUNCH
by Wallace Stevens
It is the word pejorative that hurts.
My old boat goes round on a crutch
and doesn’t get underway.
It’s the time of the year
And the time of the day.
Perhaps it’s the lunch that we had
Or the lunch that we should have had.
But I am, in any case,
A most inappropriate man
In a most unpropitious place.
Mon Dieu, hear the poet’s prayer.
The romantic should be here.
The romantic should be there.
It ought to be everywhere.
But the romantic must never remain,
Mon Dieu, must never again return.
The heavy historical sail
Through the mustiest blue of the lake
In a really vertiginous boat
Is wholly the vapidest fake. . . .
It is least what one ever sees.
It is only the way one feels, to say
Where my spirit is I am,
To say the light wind worries the sail,
To say the water is swift today,
To expunge all people and be a pupil
Of the gorgeous wheel and so to give
That slight transcendence to the dirty sail,
By light, the way one feels, sharp white,
And then rush brightly through the summer air.
Wallace Stevens. The Palm at the End of the Mind: Selected Poems and a Play. Vintage Books, New York, New York. 1990. Page 112.