An alert to today's poem came from Greg Coxson, a University of Wisconsin-educated, Silver Spring-based, radar engineer who loves mathematics and poetry. The poem is by Howard Nemerov (1920-1991) and it builds to a presentation of its perfect mathematical image near its end.
Lion and Honeycomb by Howard Nemerov
He didn't want to do it with skill,
He'd had enough of skill. If he never saw
Another villanelle, it would be too soon;
And the same went for sonnets. If it had been
Hard work learning to rime, it would be much
Harder learning not to. The time came
He had to ask himself, what did he want?
What did he want when he began
That idiot fiddling with the sounds of things?
He asked himself, poor moron, because he had
Nobody else to ask. The others went right on
Talking about form, talking about myth
And the (so help us) need for a modern idiom;
The verseballs among them kept counting syllables.
So there he was, this forty-year-old teen-ager
Dreaming preposterous mergers and divisions
Of vowels like water, consonants like rock
(While everybody kept discussing values
And the need for values), for words that would
Enter the silence and be there as a light.
So much coffee and so many cigarettes
Gone down the drain, gone up in smoke,
Just for the sake of getting something right
Once in a while, something that could stand
On its own flat feet to keep out windy time
And the worm, something that might simply be,
Not as the monument in the smoky rain
Grimly endures, but that would be
The moment before disaster, before the storm,
In its peculiar silence, an integer
Fixed in the middle of the fall of things,
Perfected and casual as to a child's eye
Soap bubbles are, and skipping stones.
I found "Lion and Honeycomb" in A Howard Nemerov Reader (University of Missouri Press, 1991). Nemerov (1920– 1991) was a US Air Force combat pilot during World War II and had a continuing interest in the stars and navigation. He served twice as US Poet Laureate. Novelist as well as poet, Nemerov was a Distinguished Professor of English at Washington University. Nemerov's wife permits her late husband's poems to be reprinted without royalty fee, but asks that his World War II Air Force service be identified. Previous postings of poems by Howard Nemerov may be found on 24 March 2010, 16 August 2010, and 26 August 2010.