December 18, 1943

is an enchanted thing
    like the glaze on a
katydid-wing
        subdivided by sun
        till the nettings are legion.
Like Gieseking playing Scarlatti;

like the apteryx-awl
    as a beak, or the
kiwi’s rain-shawl
        of haired feathers, the mind
        feeling its way as though blind,
walks along with its eyes on the ground.

It has memory’s ear
    that can hear without
having to hear.
        Like the gyroscope’s fall,
        truly unequivocal
because trued by regnant certainty,

it is a power of
    strong enchantment. It
is like the dove-
        neck animated by
        sun; it is memory’s eye;
it’s conscientious inconsistency.

It tears off the veil, tears
    the temptation, the
mist the heart wears,
        from its eyes—if the heart
        has a face; it takes apart
dejection. It’s fire in the dove-neck’s

iridescence; in the
    inconsistencies
of Scarlatti.
        Unconfusion submits
        its confusion to proof; it’s
not a Herod’s oath that cannot change.

 

This article is part of The Nation’s 150th Anniversary Special Issue. Download a free PDF of the issue, with articles by James Baldwin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Toni Morrison, Howard Zinn and many more, here.

Marianne Moore (1887–1972) wrote eleven essays and seven poems for The Nation between 1936 and 1952. Moore’s biographer, Linda Leavell, indicates that she stopped contributing out of solidarity with her friend, ousted literary editor Margaret Marshall, but also because she disliked The Nation’s criticism of Eisenhower’s “honest, auspicious, genuinely devoted speeches.”