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Frederick Eckman:
The Epistemology of Loss

The Epistemology of Loss , by Frederick Eckman. West Lafayette, Ind.: The Sparrow Magazine, 1963.

The title of this book gives an accurate sense of its content, and, as well, the manner of its feeling. It is an "epistemology" wryly considered, for the most part, and also one which moves from the feeling of knowing something to the ironic situation here of what is known, and how it is known—and finally, to that sense of 'what for,' which provokes the rhetoric of:

                                                . . . Mother of silences,
Invoke the blind rosebush below, whose round
And scarlet sounds ring fence-notes heaven-high,
That is the singing echo of swift wings
We choke not, chance not, fling not away
Our leaf and passport through this atmosphere;
But glide in cloudy echelon of rose,
Beyond the heat-streaked doppelgänger Now . . .
("July: A Devotional")

It is an actual nightmare which is felt, unrelieved, or if at all so, then simply as that 'relief' the intelligence may suppose when it has reduced the person it inhabits to something "Cold with terror, rigid as a beast/held in some pit or trap . . ." There is a persistent sense of an animal rage, and bafflement—a frustrated physical anger that wants to strike out against that which has hurt it. But

Elizabeth , March 1965.


there is also the continuingly ironic emphasis on the uselessness of such acts—as here, in a poem called "Hurry, Hurry":

Say: "Heart is a black stallion,
evil as midnight. His eyes
glint fire, his hooves can murder.
He thunders across the world."
Say & say. Meanwhile the heart
spurts out its fury, embers
to cold ash, calmly nibbles
gray grass in a gray meadow.

The book has, however, another way of speaking to my own mind even more moving—in which a quiet is left to "say" more than does the violence of what I have quoted. It is not simply that this tone is more malleable, or that it lets the reader develop his own assumptions—but that it comes so directly from what it involves, a literal pain which can only say what it literally feels. "Omega":

What is there
to be said
when everything
has been said?
Words? Words
are nothing!
This from you
in another spring,
& once more the
flowering Judas
betrays us, o the
sprawling wisteria
purples across our
crumbling wall.
The flowers, they
too will decay.
No, you are not
right, but neither
(o my lost love!)
are you wrong.

If—as Pound once wrote—"Nothing counts but the quality of the emotion . . . ," one has in this poem a measure of that possibility.


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