A Hole in the Floor

for Rene Magritte

The carpenter’s made a hole
In the parlor floor, and I’m standing
Staring down into it now
At four o’clock in the evening,
As Schliemann stood when his shovel
Knocked on the crowns of Troy.

A clean-cut sawdust sparkles
On the grey, shaggy laths,
And here is a cluster of shavings
From the time when the floor was laid.
They are silvery-gold, the color
Of Hesperian apple-parings.

Kneeling, I look in under
Where the joists go into hiding.
A pure street, faintly littered
With bits and strokes of light,
Enters the long darkness
Where its parallels will meet.

The radiator-pipe
Rises in middle distance
Like a shuttered kiosk, standing
Where the only news is night.
Here’s it’s not painted green,
As it is in the visible world.

For God’s sake, what am I after?
Some treasure, or tiny garden?
Or that untrodden place,
The house’s very soul,
Where time has stored our footbeats
And the long skein of our voices?

Not these, but the buried strangeness
Which nourishes the known:
That spring from which the floor-lamp
Drinks now a wilder bloom,
Inflaming the damask love-seat
And the whole dangerous room.

– Richard Wilbur
photo by Jon Feinstein (site)


Generally the poems I pick for the occasional Monday appearance are connected to something very literal in my life.  It’s a way for me to process happenings (from the silly to the significant) and recontextualize them however I feel the need.  Sometimes I know exactly the poem I need to post; just as often I simply type “[topic] poem” into the search field and keep sifting until the right thing presents itself, which it invariably does.  The oracle of Delphi had nothing on Googlemancy.

But, the literal-ness:  this past weekend I ripped up, often with considerable violence, a lot of old carpeting and linoleum in the home I’ll be officially moving into this month, to prepare it for brand new floors.  I am not designed to take such things unmetaphorically, and the bare board that the work exposed feels parallel to all the getting-started going on in my life at the moment, and to the “buried strangeness” that is the mysterious continuity of self in the face of flux.