Dear Helen,

I haven’t finished a poem since my daughter was born. It’s as if one act of creation precludes the other.

I tried to write a poem about something I saw the other week. I was driving home on a highway at night somewhere in Maryland. An ambulance passed by on the other side. Its lights were on but not its sirens. Then a few minutes later, another ambulance went by. Then another. And another. All with their lights on but without sirens. Their flashing lights played against the trees that crowded against the shoulders of the highway. The trees were black. I couldn’t see any stars.

My attempts at this poem never get past the first stanza. I call the ambulances “chalices for the newly infirm” and get caught at the poem’s turn from the image of an ambulance to the idea of prayer and help and private disaster. I should steal your “shallow apotheosis” line. (No, I should finish the long poem about my grandfather.)

You asked what worries me. I’m trying to reconcile my ultrafinitism with God. Does God demand the actual infinite, the real Gigantic, the being of the incalculable? I don’t think God is a number of any sort, but that doesn’t resolve the problem.

I’ve started reading Pound again:

“Master thyself, then others shall thee beare”
       Pull down thy vanity
Thou art a beaten dog beneath the hail,
A swollen magpie in a fitful sun,
Half black half white
Nor knowst’ou wing from tail
Pull down thy vanity
                        How mean thy hates
Fostered in falsity,
                        Pull down thy vanity,
Rathe to destroy, niggard in charity,
Pull down thy vanity,
                       I say pull down.
But to have done instead of not doing
                     this is not vanity
To have, with decency, knocked
That a Blunt should open
               To have gathered from the air a live tradition
or from a fine old eye the unconquered flame
This is not vanity.
         Here error is all in the not done,
all in the diffidence that faltered  .  .  .

To do instead of not doing! Fine advice!

vale bene,