What Matters in the End

Slowly reading Andrei Codrescu‘s curious The Poetry Lesson, with that hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck sensation that promises a major engagement. The narrator and Laura make a visit, in wet weather, to Ezra Pound’s grave:

We crouched on the ground and passed a notebook back and forth, writing old Ez a poem in a hurry, afraid that the rain might start up again. We filled a memorial page with panegyric and nostalgia, forgotten now, though I remember Laura writing at least two lines to Olga [Ezra’s mistress] that ignored old Ez entirely. When I stuck our rolled-up hommage under the driest part of the bush, I noticed a not-so-soggy roll there, the work of another recent visitor. I unrolled it and read: “Nothing matters but the quality of affection in the end.” That was from one of Pound’s later Cantos, after the war, when he entered into the deep silence that few outsiders breached before his death. There it was, the strange diction that prevented one from feeling wholehearted affection, despite the message. My generous memory quoted that line later as “What matters in the end is the quality of affection,” a gift to a man whose even most conciliatory and “human” line begins with “nothing” and ends with “the end.”

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