This comes from "Cry Me a River," a poem that stuns us with images of a poet in performance -- "brooches and rings / glitter like shoals of fish / she has no choice but to sing / in the cage of a voice / while the tongue / is whipping her gibbous mouth."
when our eyes were poked out we talked with our hands
when our hands were cut off we conversed with our toes
when we were shot in the legs we nodded our heads for yes
and shook our heads for no and when they ate our heads alive
we crawled back into the bellies of our sleeping mothers
as if into bomb shelters
to be born again
and there on the horizon the gymnast of our future
was leaping through the fiery hoop
of the sun.
Poets are reporters and secretaries of the invisible, as Milosz himself said. They tell us what we didn't know we knew and thus reinvent and refresh life. That's the big and necessary goal. Matthew Dickman puts it more modestly in his poem "Slow Dance": "More than putting another man on the moon, / more than a New Year's resolution of yogurt and yoga, / we need the opportunity to dance / with really exquisite strangers."
Dickman & Mort: They sound like a law firm out of Charles Dickens; in fact, they're exquisite strangers it's a thrill and an enlightenment to dance with.
Rayner's "Paperback Writers" column appears monthly at latimes.com/books.