Julia Caroline Knowlton – Six Poems
To the Next Man I will Love
Why would I even think of you;
you with no name,
you with your hair of stone.
And yet I keep preparing myself;
eating my golden apples,
washing my faraway feet.
Time is all of the steel towers
all over again the everlasting rain.
Time is letting someone into your lane
and bright, dancing ladies
at the holidays. It is always paper and pen.
The if they only knew of intimacy.
The entire way down. The one lesser born.
Tell me how to arrange
the stones of your sorrow
and I will give you lilies—
my basket of doves.
Three Myths and Three Secrets
With dawn’s roses and great care
I affix my wings of wax, knowing
sun fire will be my urn.
In the desert, I built a door made
out of broken vows. Good men cried.
I remain a nude painted in oils of sin.
Hades had his way with me. I brood.
Covet pomegranate in darkest shade.
My paler hands with garnet stained.
Witness to a procession of choirs,
I taste a sweetness late evenings
alone, in the orange grove.
He turned to look back at me fatally.
Eternally, I fall silent in night curtains.
Gone is his song, gone his sweetest lyre.
For many years, I spent a long time dying.
Now a vanished form wanders in circles,
exhorting me sternly to behold my god.
We spoke together softly, of stone and gold rings.
I became both the tower & the lady in the tower.
You kept wandering below, naming your lament.
It was the last hour of night. The last lily had bloomed.
In the American Cathedral
(Avenue Georges V, Paris)
You genuflected and then
sat down beside me; long
had I been waiting for you.
Your firm hand traced lines
of verse on a page, speaking
of purpose and a broken king.
Then I cried a necklace of tears,
recognition in not knowing you;
and something new came there
that was startling and unnamed.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
Defining beauty is an impossible task, doomed from the start. This is because the very moment of its apprehension defies comprehension. In the same instant when I perceive, with my senses, the rustle of a red leaf, notes from a cello, or a body’s cello-like perfection, the possibility of any complete understanding disappears.
One can only follow a few glimmers left by poets who have traveled before.
The French baroque poet Théophile de Viau (1590-1626) restates Keats by proclaiming rien n’est beau que le vrai: “only the true is beautiful.” He then, famously, admits that he writes in a state of confusion: j’écris confusément. Indeed, the confusion of writing reflects the confusion of perceiving what is beautiful while at the same time knowing that that perception is both unreliable and fleeting.
Baudelaire, a poet whom I have studied extensively, wrote many truly astonishing poems, among them a sonnet entitled “La Beauté.” In that poem, Beauty is a stone figure with mirrored eyes of “eternal clarity”–a statue, a non-living Form contemplated by poets who waste their precious time trying to study it.
I have mentioned three glimmers by three male poets of arguably varied access to privilege. The next great horizon of exploration may belong to female poets, poets of color, the truly oppressed, the damned, the forsaken. Certainly it is time.
I only know that beauty is bound up with loss, with the ephemeral, with every breath, and with mortal inscription.
Julia Caroline Knowlton is an MFA candidate in poetry at Antioch University in Los Angeles. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets College Prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Icarus Anthology, These Fragile Lilacs, and other journals. She is Professor of French at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta and holds MA and PhD degrees in French Literature. More at: juliacarolineknowlton.com.