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Quotes

Quote #4

After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you, and I. (lines 14-16)

At the beginning of the poem, the speaker seems deeply concerned about the possibility that words might not refer to real things. But, now he sees that this viewpoint denies the reality of even the most basic things. If we think that words refer to "lost" things, then we can’t talk about "justice," "hair," or even ourselves as they exist in the world. That’s a pretty ridiculous outcome, so it can’t be correct. Or, at least, it’s not very useful.

Quote #5

There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

He treats words like ideas throughout much of the poem, because that is what the Platonists think. For them, words are "numinous," or divine and spiritual. (SAT word alert!) Words don’t belong to our messy world. The speaker comes to realize that even things that do obviously belong to the messy world, like bodies, can be numinous. On the other hand, words don’t have to be ideas. They can be particular things that are "tender" like bodies. That is, they can have a real, physical presence in the world, like the sound of the word blackberry.

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