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Design

      Frost's feeling [is] that while design is inherent in the universe, it has
      no significant meaning.

      —C. Lehmann-Haupt


It rankles to think my thinking
may senselessly inhere, be merely
in here, mere Rorschach inking
of a brain whose merely capillary
purposes can be reduced to mean—
but maybe meaning is the term
I just don't get—some petty, spleen-
driven impulse, whose infirm
desire to order, maintain a stay,
is one more sneaky nature's-way
trick to keep suicide at bay.
Frost acquainted himself, they say,
with worse than lonely nightly walks
under pointlessly unearthly clocks
(Why do I wince at Frost's moonshine
again and again if I don't need it
to signify? Why do I make rhyme
when I hate rhyme when I read it?
And do I hate it for revealing
the poet's fears that her design,
without these ornaments of feeling,
will not hold, not signify, not shine?),
afraid to sleep for fear the notion
of intent contained in meaning's
meaningless; that all the motions
of his pen, or Keats's gleanings,
only aim like chromosomes
to align each wanton neuron
for better looks and jobs and homes
and kids. How boringly postmodern.

Doesn't our rage for order pave
the streets we drive on? What can
it mean, significance minus
meaning? Must every damn
exit ramp from the world find us
in the final frame beneath it,
at last gasp kissing mystics
for our soul, lest we bequeath it
to that darkness visible, Physics?
Design denotes intention. Sure.
So meaning may reside in neat
dictionary columns, before
one has thought twice, before art-
iculation. My arctic elation
at finding in one word a part
of everything I mean occasions
art. To know that from the start
they were here, the things we mean:
words made with us in mind.
We are the fruit, language the rind.
Frost clung to what we're hearing
when we read him, seeing through
the merely me and merely you
designified: some grand design inhering.


J. Allyn Rosser

The Gettysburg Review

Autumn 2017


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