Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Unities of Drama - Gordon Gilsdorf

The time of the representation and that of the action represented must be exactly coincident... and the scene of the action must be constant.
-Ludovico Castelvetro, Poetica (1576)

If her great-grandfather,
like seed wanting to die
in soil along the landtrails
beyond the waterways of immigration,
had refused his roots to Ohio
and had guessed his last coins
could buy him Wisconsin loam,
she might have come to me
through the stubble fields
of summer's golden barley
in a long-past harvest
swinging her sweating pail,
giving it with a brushing touch
as fresh as the water itself
or her blush in cool calico.
She might have lengthened
the already-long day's work
with a word or a smile, leaving,
as she turned toward sunset,
for my heart, I recall,
was at a crossroads then.
Instead, when she came,
three generations late,
she had two frosted cokes
from a noisy hallway automat
and we negotiated the July heat
in a terrazzo classroom,
cooled in the garb of our vows,
far from the crossroads then.
Her blush rankled like barley stubble,
a flush of care not to touch,
and we wondered under our words
if Castelvetro believed his "unities,"
if somehow we had cheated
his time and place and action
to shape the little drama
that is both the planting
and the harvest of our love.


  1. here's one from me to you, my current favorite.

    Jay Hopler, “Meditation on Ruin”

    It's not the lost lover that brings us to ruin, or the barroom brawl,
    or the con game gone bad, or the beating
    Taken in the alleyway. But the lost car keys,
    The broken shoelace,
    The overcharge at the gas pump
    Which we broach without comment — these are the things that
    eat away at life, these constant vibrations
    In the web of the unremarkable.

    The death of a father — the death of the mother —
    The sudden loss shocks the living flesh alive! But the broken
    pair of glasses,
    The tear in the trousers,
    These begin an ache behind the eyes.
    And it's this ache to which we will ourselves
    Oblivious. We are oblivious. Then, one morning—there's a
    crack in the water glass —we wake to find ourselves undone.