A symbol of the power of heaven

Looked up Marianne Moore — there was something about her poems’ endnotes that suggested to me a certain way of thinking and I wanted to know where it came from but I felt like I had already read the wikipedia biography of her multiple times and what I meant by “a certain way of thinking” was becoming increasingly vague. Maybe it had to do with that physicist’s remark I had read about earlier that he had made to a fellow physicist who wrote poetry how he couldn’t understand why he would write poetry since the work of the physicist was to make complicated things simple while the work of the poet was to make simple things complicated because often Moore’s endnotes didn’t elucidate an element of the text so much as lend to it another layer of texture. The poem I had read that morning, for example, a very short one yet by no means transparent in its meaning, was given a new dimension once you read the endnotes about it. I had been moved to look up I Kings 3:9 which one of the endnotes said was what the line about Solomon’s Wish had been about. (“Solomon’s wish” had been to have an understanding heart that could judge between good and bad, according to the passage in Kings.) The poem then jumps from that wish to the apparently different but really I suppose the same wish to be a dragon which is “a symbol of the power of heaven” and she is thinking, one learns in the endnote, not of the creatures of medieval European fantasy, which was what immediately came to my own mind, an anti-Christ in opposition to the Christian knight, but of the dragons of the orient, which have an entirely different character, not at all suggesting a malevolent serpent of the world but a mighty spirit of the air and sky, so in reading the endnotes an unexpected complexity emerges; one finds these dramatically different faith traditions — of the ancient Hebrews and ancient Chinese — have been juxtaposed, and one gives body and answer to the question and soul of the other, so to speak. The understanding heart, we’re told, is a dragon — and not necessarily a very threatening one — it could be as small as a silk worm or invisible. Its power consisted of being a symbol — a symbol of the power of heaven.

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