I hear my being dance from ear to ear. (5)
Here we’re served up a kind of hearing that is like feeling or seeing, and a kind of being that dances like a smile in the place of thoughts, “ear to ear.” This is a moment of true ecstasy in the poem. The speaker is beside himself, apart from his being enough to hear it, as it dances.
What falls away is always. And is near. (17)
If this line were a sentence in an essay, your teacher would certainly deduct points for vagueness. She might write in the margin, “what falls away?” She would circle “always” and write “are you missing a word here?” She would tell you not to start a sentence with “And.” We can imagine that Roethke knew better, but committed these crimes against language conventions anyway. What a renegade!
But why did he do it? With these fractures and ambiguities and gaps, maybe he’s trying to get at what might be the deepest moment in the progression of his reverie on consciousness. Maybe what he wanted to say was “always falls away and is near,” but that didn’t work with the metrical scheme. Maybe he liked the way always and away seemed to be versions of one another (after letters have fallen away). It seems that the speaker is trying to say something about the nature of eternity, that at the moment it seems to leave you it is at its closest. Or maybe Roethke procrastinated and didn’t leave himself enough time to correct these “errors.”