Tuesday poem: The mad scene

James Merrill, and his partner David Jackson, were familiar figures in Key West when I first started to come here about 25 years ago. David had a house here, and they used to come down – like other northern ‘snow birds’ – to avoid the worst of the winter up north, although I think they also spent time in Greece.

I knew David a bit and liked him a lot, although to my regret I never met Jimmy, but I want to feature one of his poems today, in honour and in memory of his time here.

THE MAD SCENE, by James Merrill

Again last night I dreamed the dream called Laundry.

In it, the sheets and towels of a life we were going to share,

The milk-stiff bibs, the shroud, each rag to be ever

Trampled or soiled, bled on or groped for blindly,

Came swooning out of an enormous willow hamper

Onto moon-marbly boards. We had just met. I watched

From outer darkness. I had dressed myself in clothes

Of a new fiber that never stains or wrinkles, never

Wears thin. The opera house sparkled with tiers

And tiers of eyes, like mine enlarged by belladonna,

Trained inward. There I saw the cloud-clot, gust by gust,

Form, and the lightning bite, and the roan mane unloosen.

Fingers were running in panic over the flute’s nine gates.

Why did I flinch? I loved you. And in the downpour laughed

To have us wrung white, gnarled together, one

Topmost mordent of wisteria,

As the lean tree burst into grief.

2 Responses to “Tuesday poem: The mad scene”

  1. mary mccallum Says:


  2. admin Says:

    Yes, he is a bit of a “wow!” poet, isn’t he?

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