“The Four Seasons of Life,” a meditation on a series of old lithographs, has these marvelous lines: “I was eighteen. I did not know what -- or even that -- / I could become.” But it's the Middle Age section I come back to, again and again. It worries me. “I am trying to learn how to leave my body,” she says, and I don't know why. And, you know, my life work is to bring people back to their bodies.
She goes on, immediately, “Much more difficult, to manage each / return.” Well, yeah. That I could have told her. We climb in a little more painfully, each time. A little more disquietude, a little stronger sense of loss.
Then suddenly -- you never know, with Luisa, when she's suddenly going to stomp on the accelerator like this:
. . . I don't wish to desert the world,
not yet. Fear and desire, because I want to see
what face, what image, etched in reverse
on a metal plate and lowered into the acid bath,
rises to proof on paper.
That's simply gorgeous poetry, no matter how you take it. There isn't poetry better than that. I don't even notice at first that my Buddhist sensibilities ought to be outraged. All about seeing the self? -- worse, a representation of the self?
I can get around it, of course, I'm a clever boy, I can get around anything. I could say, it's not necessarily her face, it's just a face, it's intelligibility itself she's talking about. But I know better. It's Luisa's face we're talking about here, it's her becoming, the becoming she didn't even know could happen. And here again the word humane is the first word that comes to my mind. A kind of humanity and tenderness toward herself, as both vessel and burden. It's beguiling, of course, but it's also right, and whatever I think that pulls me away from understanding its rightness is, necessarily, wrong.
The poem ends by suggesting, wishing, mulling over the possibility that “there might be more than this world, / stenciled by the window-frame.” And of course there is, because she's describing a picture, but the description itself is a picture and the Luisa picturing it is a picture (rising to proof) and that's the world that there might be more than. But not yet. “Lord, take away my sins, but not yet.”