Joseph Cornell: Toward the “Blue Peninsula”

by Robert Atwan

You think: “Nothing is missing from this box.
The empty perch, the open wire-mesh cage,
the window that itself might be a work of art,

those planted clues of a former occupant—
all these are clearly an assemblage of absence
that–like the rich scotomatous imagery of dreams–

teases us with an acute sense of something missing,
the illusion—maybe necessary for survival—that what
is not present provides a caption for what is.

That, we imagine, now flutters outside the box,
leaving what’s left inside interwoven with loss.
Yet where is the poetry? Out there or in here?”


Author Bio
Robert Atwan is the Series Editor of The Best American Essays, which he founded in 1985. More >

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