Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Inauguration of Favorite Passages: Mark Doty's "Tiara"

Hello everyone! Because it is difficult to constantly write about books I'm reading when I only have so many hours per week to read anyway, I am instituting a new feature here to be called "Favorite Passages." Every couple days or so, I will be posting my favorite passages from literature - poems, snippets of dialogue, an amazing paragraph, etc. I might also include a backstory about said passages, and I also encourage you to post some of your favorite literary passages in the comments section. I will still be updating about all my reading experiences, but this will hopefully make the days between entries seem easier to take.

I have chosen Mark Doty's poem "Tiara" as my inaugural selection because I am currently reading a book of selected poems by Doty, and I honestly believe there is no better writer of poem-endings out there than him. A professor read me this poem during a meeting a few months ago, and it has stuck with me ever since. When he finished the poem, I actually gasped from being so moved by the beautiful and surprising end. I hope you enjoy it - and trust me, it's better when read aloud:

Tiara, by Mark Doty

Peter died in a paper tiara
cut from a book of princess paper dolls;
he loved royalty, sashes

and jewels. I don't know,
he said, when he woke in the hospice,
I was watching the Bette Davis film festival

on Channel 57 and then -
At the wake, the tension broke
when someone guessed

the casket closed because
he was in there in a big wig
and heels, and someone said,

You know he's always late,
he probably isn't here yet -
he's still fixing his makeup.

And someone said he asked for it.
Asked for it -
when all he did was go down

into the salt tide
of wanting as much as he wanted,
giving himself over so drunk

or stoned it almost didn't matter who,
though they were beautiful,
stampeding into him in the simple,

tavishing music of their hurry.
I think heaven is perfect stasis
poised over the realms of desire,

where dreaming and waking men lie
on the grass while wet horses
roam among them, huge fragments

of the music we die into
in the body's paradise.
Sometimes we wake not knowing

how we came to lie here,
or who has crowned us with these temporary,
precious stones. And given

the world's perfectly turned shoulders,
the deep hollows blued by longing,
given the irreplaceable silk

of horses rippling in orchards,
fruit thundering and chiming down,
given the ordinary marvels of form

and gravity, what could he do,
what can any of us ever do,
but ask for it?

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