A Passage Solution: Coolidge's "The Lid"
I remember being able (late 1990s) to return to Solution Passage more productively after reading Barrett Watten’s essay in Total Syntax and seeing more representative samples of Coolidge’s early writing there, in In The American Tree and in the xeroxes of complete early books and chapbooks I made at the University of Louisville poetry collection.
I particularly remember grooving on the poems found towards the end of Part Four and the beginning of Part Five. I wish I could remember a specific poem, but in hindsight I imagine a poem like “The Lid” being such a one:
The lid is the bed. The heights of notions stint in twine
above the brand sack. You could slight here forever
over bell doom zenith and raise a new sundering
crop of cries. Match last an avenue, phone
not to listen. Nations predacious on a bottle of gel.
Bed as helictite, and bed as a smell
to a snail. When question of slumber is raised
who will be eager to bow at its beams?
The sparrow is an awning to the village roof.
I have no doubt but what my doubts will provide.
The cough race is over, it was won by a clam.
As the Law wil be finished by a single clattering claim.
So fold your limbs and bell out over the dripping pendule.
Beneath are the seething plumbings our dailiness harbors. (220)
A structure of sleep: "lid" as part of the eye and divider of seen from unseen. Abstraction enspaced, "heights of notions," putting in short time ("stint" as a verb) with wonderful short-and-long "i" sounds modulating through the nasal consonant "n" to the hard and flat short "a"s and terminal plosive consonants of "brand sack."
Like "stint," "slight" performing verbal labor with three common letters. The classic Beat-inflected noun stack of "bell doom zenith." See also CC's celebrated "constellation" poem "ounce code orange" (from Space) and the subsequent Naropa lecture likening a phrase-structure like that to "Ice Station Zebra." The dual elevating and leveling of "raise" with "sundering" reinforcing the latter, in an agriculture of emotion ("crop of cries"). The flattening continues with short "a"s in "Match last an avenue," lengthening out as "nations predacious." CC the speleologist brings in "helictite," a mineral formation in limestone caves. Smell--snail--slumber, all working sibilant-liquid-nasal terrain. Sleep returns as a more defined structure, a dwelling even, with raised beams warranting a reverent "bow." Then extended from individual to the social/animal level, with "sparrow" serving as community shelter.
The "volta" in this sonnet turns late (line 10) as the speaker emerges in simultaneous refusal and embrace of doubt. Competition ("cough race") and the juridical have run their course or been rendered terminal by a mere "clam" and "clattering claim" respectively; life goes on. Limbs folded in satisfied judgment, a trajectory is plotted: "bell out over the dripping pendule," i.e. mere hanging ornament, timepiece, or mountaineering maneuver. There is much to explore in "the seething plumbings our dailiness harbors."