The Complete Poems of Louis Daniel Brodsky: Volume Three, 1976-1980
edited by Sheri L. Vandermolen
Taking Leave of Myself
Once again, I’ve voluntarily taken leave Of my earthly senses. Something about the skies, My being unlatched from landed attachments, To climb the ladder whose rungs are altitudes Thinning gradually as oblivion’s campanile Narrows to its inevitable pinnacle, Reinforces the monasticism I always seek.
Up here, I’m able to lean out Over the edge of myself and shout Without being heard below. My words are winds Returning me, unremarked, to the kingdom of eternity. They say my name in shapes of clouds I’ve never rhymed, in scraps of landscape No dreams of mine have ever festooned with metaphor.
Time invites me to guess its age. Hours are civilizations waxing, waning, Regaining their stature through strange incarnations. My heart is a burning rose, whose wet petals Open and close as endless day metamorphoses Into perpetual night each second I breathe. Light-years are the ichor that makes it grow.
Too soon, I’ll be asked to unthink myself back To the destination I made before boarding the plane. Maybe memory will refuse to surrender me to my fates. And since it alone dictates who I was, When and where, it’s just possible No one will come to claim my baggage Or page my soul when I fail to appear at the gate.
Use the player below to listen to Louis Daniel Brodsky read this poem.
The third volume of The Complete Poems of Louis Daniel Brodsky presents over seven hundred poems, written from July 1976 through December 1980. By this period in his life, Brodsky had a wife and two children, a thriving business that kept him traveling, and a passion for acquiring Faulkneriana, sparked by his deep appreciation of the author’s literature, that had led him on increasingly frequent journeys to Oxford, Mississippi, and elsewhere, to meet those who knew Faulkner and those who might supplement Brodsky’s expanding collection.
Spending considerably more time away from home than ever before, he began to compose most of his poems while driving, eating in small-town cafés, staying in motels, and retreating to bars after twelve-hour workdays, always filling his omnipresent notebook with new images and metaphors. It was during these trips that Brodsky conceived many of his poetic personae: Willy Sypher, the ragman road peddler; the pensive Jew, who, although he lost no family in it, still feels he’s a victim of the Holocaust; the Northern outlander, who appears in many of his "Southern" poems; the nature poet, who captures the beauty of rural America, and cynical city poet, who observes its bigotry and vulgarity; and the unhappy family man, who feels he must escape home, for the freedom of the open road, but nevertheless suffers guilt and remorse.
The poems from this segment of Brodsky’s literary career reflect a man, in his mid and late thirties, facing growing desperation as he attempts to fulfill the complex responsibilities of his day-to-day commitments and yet address an unrelenting compulsion to record his frenetic life, in verse.