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MAY 2017

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September Is


Giorgio de Chirico, L’énigme de l’heure [The Enigma of the Hour], 1910/11. Oil on canvas. 21.7 × 28 inches. Private Collection. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome.



September is work to the center
Of arguments and controversies.
Prejudgments and incomprehensions.
What will I love if not that
That was enigma?
The years of infancy, Memory says,
And there we are, with the demon
Of the art of living
Traced on the glass of some window.

In the beauty of the night of May,
Clear of moon, to the lume of a candle
There was a design like the profile
Of a landscape almost abandoned. Gone
But not gone yet. It’s fascinating,
These mysterious uncovered feelings.
Enigma of an afternoon of autumn, the picture
Of which is a composition
Of the eye of my mind. Every hour

That I watch this picture
I see again still that moment.
Nevertheless the moment is an enigma
For me, in how much is inexplicable.
The physical things hide in the architecture
Of the event. The enigma of a mock-up,
Of a shadow, the spectral and eternal aspect
Of the moment. Praises to you for being
One great box of surprise,

Your head the scene of a wonderful theater
Of the most tender gray of the fog
That joins the sky to the earth.
A tangling of truth and memory,
Mythology and iconography,
I watch with the eye
Of the mind the city that accommodates
That one beautiful day that is now infinite.
It deepens. It begins. The cyclical method.

Memory is deeply not alive; it’s a mock-up
And this renders it hateful. Yet, it is not a fiction,
Is a truth, indeed a sad and monstrous truth.
I was assigned to you, together we were
A beautiful and melancholic picture.
This last picture is the realization
Of the overwhelming moment
In which the acute eye perceives you as a now
That is over. A now that is now fixed
In the swept past.


Note: “Nevertheless the moment is an enigma for me, in how much is inexplicable” is taken from Giorgio de Chirico’s Meditations of a Painter (1912). The entire poem is an erasure of that essay.

“September Is” is reprinted from Elegy by Mary Jo Bang with the permission of the author and Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.


Mary Jo Bang

Mary Jo Bang is the author of seven collections of poems. She teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2017

All Issues