Robert Lowell, ‘Ear of Corn’ (1977)

At the head of his table
the wine baron
looks like an old Stravinsky.

There’s green on the bread;
all the beautiful girls he knew
are old maids or dead.

One must admire him,
so assured of his triumphant return,
of making it abundantly,
yet spoiling his hopeless odds by talking.

He is drunk on his own wine,
his hundreds of servants filling 14 glasses
in chronological vintage at each place
with incantations of the price.
“It’s a sacrilege for me to say it. . .
they mustn’t heart me. . .
the best drink is a rum-banana daiquiri!”

He is not lacking love,
someone’s young wife is on his right—
“Have you ever returned to a childhood house,
and found it unchanged?
It makes on so angry . . . it’s so shrunk,
one wishes it wiped out—if it is wiped out,
that, of course, is another kind of catastrophe.”

The girl hears and feels maternal.
His eyes never leave her lips.
She cannot cure his hallucination
he can bribe or stare
any woman he wants into orgasm. . .

He fills her ear
with his old sexual gramophone.

Like belief,
he makes nothing happen.

He, she, or she or she—
she is a stream,
one of the bubbles. . . one of the sparks
that flashed from the miscellaneous dish he gobbled.

Her face is delicate and disgusted,
as if she had been robbed, raped,
or repudiated by her mother—
a discarded ear of corn
lying in a sink,
leaf and cornsilk flipped to show
the golden kernels are browned. . .
his first image of a girl who refused.

His great lethargy calms him;
hypnos kai hydor,
Scotch and water—
he no longer asks for love.

Is this the substance he hoped for,
after a grasshopper life of profit—
to stand shaking on fine green legs,
to meet the second overflowing of Eros,
himself younger in each young face;
and see in that mirror
a water without the life of water,
a face aging
to less generosity than it had?

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~ by ohkrapp on January 6, 2008.

5 Responses to “Robert Lowell, ‘Ear of Corn’ (1977)”

  1. please chime in if you’re sure what ‘hypnos kai hydor’ means.

    ‘hypnos’ = sleep
    ‘kai’ = and also
    ‘hydor’ = water?

  2. I don’t know that I get it. What do you like about the poem, Krapp? For some reason, I got very excited when the title of the poem was used in a verse, though. That was a beautiful image. Also, the picture “rocks.”

  3. no, please don’t misunderstand: I really do like the picture, I was just making fun of myself for using the expression, hence the quotation marks . . .

  4. THESE ARE THE PARTS OF THE POEM I LIKE. . .

    like an old Stravinsky. [!]

    There’s green on the bread;
    all the beautiful girls he knew
    are old maids or dead. [!!!]

    He fills her ear
    with his old sexual gramophone. [!]

    Is this the substance he hoped for,
    after a grasshopper life of profit—
    to stand shaking on fine green legs, [!!]
    to meet the second overflowing of Eros, [!!]
    himself younger in each young face;
    and see in that mirror
    a water without the life of water,
    a face aging
    to less generosity than it had?

  5. […] for. Acceptable wines can be bottled by the owner of the vineyard (par propriétaire), meaning a wine baron might send his various yields to be bottled at the same bottling plant. Inferior wines are bottled […]

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