'Dutch Girls Dancing' by Felix Henri Emmanuel Philipoteaux‘For Patricia Smith’ by Joseph S. Salemi The Society December 3, 2017 Beauty, Poetry 11 Comments Joseph Pulitzer Junior High September 1959 – June 1961 I think we spoke but fifty words, all told. No more than that, and most were just polite— A brief exchange of greetings or a comment On some observed absurdity or joke… The school did not encourage us to talk. Perhaps we would have said more, had I not Been awkward, skinny, tongue-tied, overawed By what I sensed when drawing close to you: Quiet perfection and gentility; Maturity beyond your thirteen years; A loveliness conjoined with silent grace; A knowledge and a sympathy that come Most commonly from long experience. You stood out from that raw, pubescent crowd Like one of the Three Graces. When we danced At the school’s social, I let my hand rest As lightly as I could against your waist, And held your hand as if it were a flower The slightest pressure might have crushed. You smiled At my restrained politeness, but said nothing. Perception, awareness, tolerance, discretion— You saw my need, but held back all response Because you divined my child-like helplessness. Since that time a day has not gone by That I have not thought back upon your face, Your slender form, your modulated voice, Your graciousness, as chaste as fresh-cut lilies, And held these as my precious talismans— The only remnants of a long-gone world Where I touched Incorruption, knowing you. Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related 11 Responses Evan December 3, 2017 So beautiful! Thank you, Mr. Salemi for sharing this. Would it be imprudent to suggest a revision to such a seasoned poet? If so, please forgive me: The only remnants of a long-gone world Where I touched Incorruption, in your hold. Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie December 3, 2017 If I may please interject. Dr. Salemi’s “knowing you” in the last verse is absolutely critical to the entire structure of the poem. For, knowledge of the beloved is the foundation of the beholder’s love for his object, which raises the poem from a simple amatory reminiscence to a transcendent contemplation, placing it in the realm of Dante and Beatrice, Petrarch and Laura. But I am grateful that Mr. Mantyk has drawn our attention to this verse. Reply James Sale December 15, 2017 A remarkably fine poem; and I do agree with Joseph Mackenzie on this, and for an additional reason. Whereas ‘in our hold’ is a powerful ending, and the world ‘hold’ itself is evocative, both with its several senses, and also too as it approaches being a pararhyme to ‘world’, yet I would still reject it in favour of the original ‘knowing you’. The reason for my preference here is twofold: first, and foremost, it was ‘knowing’ that directly led to Adam and Eve’s corruption, so that the word effortlessly conveys that sense of paradise regained in its allusive and paradoxical power. But further, ‘hold’ is a noun and so has a static quality, whereas ‘knowing’ is verbal and so active: we reflect on the former, but we feel the latter. David Hollywood December 3, 2017 Poignantly beautiful and introspective Reply Joe December 3, 2017 Very beautiful! You captured a moment I remember well. I ‘m hoping to hear how it registered with women. Reply Sally Cook December 3, 2017 I’ll try again. Your poem is significant, reminiscent and sweet. Don’t change anything Reply Joseph Charles MacKenzie December 3, 2017 Whether Joseph Salemi takes the grand themes of history for his subject, or the most personal reminiscences, the guaranteed result will always be compelling. I wish I could say more about this particular piece, because it is not a simple reminiscence, but rather a contemplation of innocence which moves quite easily from the “souvenir d’enfance” into the much larger world of sin and redemption—remarkably in a single line giving the poem’s relentless lyricism all its depth and final meaning. Reply Leo Yankevich December 3, 2017 This is exemplary blank verse. Form and content are matched perfectly. Reply Joseph S. Salemi December 3, 2017 Thank you all for your kind words. I deeply appreciate them. I must confess that the phrase “to touch Incorruption” is not my own, but borrowed from a passage in Whittaker Chambers’ autobiography “Witness,” where he uses the expression to describe a childhood experience in school. Reply David Watt December 4, 2017 A lovely piece which speaks with eloquence the often clumsy language of youth. Reply Reid McGrath December 6, 2017 Who can’t relate to this? O, Middle School! Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.