Variations on a Theme of Stevens
by Nick Piombino

The poem and the occasion of the poem are one.
If this is merely an algebra of experience
Than let it encompass no more than this very moment.
If this is simply an equivocation of definitions
Then let it embrace, in its particulars of language and gesture,
Ambiguities of texture, ambivalences, repetitions,
Imbalances, the inner forms of gravitational force
Which are the core of what has actually occurred
Within its withering, dark and palpable shapes
Now appearing to turn into twisted branches
As we brush past the anticipated moment of exultation
In a constant effort to smile that quick greeting,
Though it already seems to have been acknowledged
And taken for granted, melded into another distraction,
The sum totality of what can be.

Thought, which has heretofore been more like a guide,
Emerges as a physical milestone, solid as ice,
As slippery and changing and prone to sudden cave-ins,
Voluptuous as desire itself and just as dangerous.
Broken rules, broken promises, broken hearts,
Broken syntax, broken expectations, broken speech,
And broken dreams, that stabbing icicle of a cliché
So cold that no one completely knows how to be sad anymore,
Only a sprinkling of notes from operatic arias,
Teardrops and muffled clearing of throats,
Deep breaths and sighs from the sheer momentum,
Prepositions and propositions joining momentarily
The chatter and questions
Crisscrossing a world of mental airwaves.

(published in Avec: A Journal of Writing, edited by Cydney Chadwick, Eighth Issue, 1994)