The Crux

Martin Heidegger 
and Ezra Pound
(An Enigma Lies a Priori in Every Relation)

Pale green buffalo grass,
soft, moves off
to the lawn’s lean jetty that edges
the parking lot —

far nub lit up with lupin,
standing purple for three feet —
color, before the searing heat
takes it down in late June.

And now it is late July. Heidegger,
the question of being has been cut
with the being of the question
for nearly a century. The question

jetties from its continental
body, out to the isolate
dot of leftover dried purple.
Who thinks, who cares

who thinks, who dares
— from the stereo: cyclic
lyric spun to one self-
searcher: dasein. The front man

in the heavy band
runs along the jetty from the stage
out into the audience. On his earphone
he can hear guitar, bass, and drums

balanced with his voice. He sings
at the center of incredible volume
of which he is a part: one with an audience
to his own voice. He is wireless,

without connection, out in the middle
of five thousand darkened faces — the pure roar
of relentless ocean. Enigma
and light trade places — the beam

over surging waves. What gleams
in the metal posture? How fast
it all
becomes reflex.

We have done our best;
we have come
close as we can
to severing being

from meaning, seemingly
unaware that once
the tendon is cut, both
are lost to us.

The pierced word rises through the roar —
the piercing question — the undistorted
presencing of the thing

in wind of an unknown source. Sound

goes past the probing edge, the specially
constructed stage
whose meaning is exhausted
in constructed charisma.

What is this goes past the voice.
What juts through —
an irruption as from
the audible ground

as if the apex of volume
gave birth to its other side. The far off
front man’s purple shirt
waves in and out of hot light. His voice lost

in a stillness that reclaims us
even while the solo sears us.
Alethia: revealingness.
From the mass

of sound, some missa. Alethia:
a flower’s name
when opening.
As if from the surge

of the irrational
we might reach
A Station of the Metro. These faces,
these faces, and the beauty

of the ringing night. The afterlight
of the question: why do we see
past dried up sight?
A moon in the sum of it,

or past that too,
a beginningless beginning (we can still
make it new). A far nub of thought
where late headlights turn over lupin.

-David Mutschlecner 

David Mutschlecner, author most recently of Enigma and Light, lives in Los Alamos. He is a devoted reader of poetry and philosophy and a careful viewer of art. In “Martin Heidegger and Ezra Pound,” he links an existentialist philosopher and an American poet in a meditation on being, meaning and art.

Among the many questions lurking in the poem’s background is this question from Heidegger’s “The Origin of the Work of Art”: “Is art still an essential and necessary way in which that truth happens which is decisive for our historical existence?”  

The prospects seem bleak at first when Heidegger’s central question about being—“what is the Being of [human] beings?”—is “taken down,” cut off, presumably, by this “age of epistemology,” in which we do not ask about being but instead interrogate the questions themselves and ask where knowledge comes from and how it is authorized. 

The “isolation” of the lupin is mirrored in Heidegger’s isolation and the rock singer’s, who walks out on his own jetty. The singer seems to enact, in his public isolation, the existential dilemma. According to Heidegger, we find ourselves “thrown” into the world, already in a context in which we must try to construct a self. On the other hand, we must become “authentic” in private, since, for Heidegger, to accept the mass’s values is to fail. The singer is a “self-searcher: dasein,” which is Heidegger’s term for “the Being of human beings” or “the being for whom Being is a question.” The singer is “wireless, / without connection.” He is at the center of everything, but he is isolated, alone.

In stanza 10, Mutschlecner takes an ironic turn. “We have done our best,” he writes, to “severing being from meaning,” as if that were our task. By stanza 16, though, something survives. Alethia is a term adapted by Heidegger to mean revealingness (or unconcealedness). The poet’s job, according to Heidegger, is to use language to call things into revealingness, into a relationship with human beings, to enact “the undistorted /presencing of the thing.”

The flower that opens into unconcealedness leads us by association to the second figure behind the poem, the poet Ezra Pound, who wrote “In a Station of the Metro,” a two-line poem featuring its own flowers: “The apparition of these faces in the crowd; / Petals on a wet, black bough.” 

By stanza 19, it’s dark. Presumably the speaker is returning from the concert. Mutschlecner asks us to imagine a “beginningless beginning.” Heidegger himself was fascinated by origins, whether “art can be an origin” or only “a cultural phenomenon that has become routine” (as in “the metal posture” that becomes “reflex”). This is where Heidegger joins hands with Pound’s “make it new.” The poem ends with “a far nub of thought / where late headlights turn over lupin.” The ending suggests that art can be “a nub of thought,” an origin. A “nub”—both a small protuberance suggesting growth and the crux of the matter. 

Jon Davis is poet laureate for the city of Santa Fe and a teacher at the Institute for American Indian Arts. “Martin Heidegger and Ezra Pound” is reprinted from Enigma and Light (Ahsahta Press, 2012).

Mutschlecner will read with Martha Rhodes

4 pm, Sunday, March 30

Collected Works

202 Galisteo Street

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