As Long as You Are

It isnt for want
of something to say–
something to tell you–

something you should know–
but to detain you–
keep you from going–

feeling myself here
as long as you are–
as long as you are.
–Cid Corman

It would seem, at first glance, that it’s impossible to write something without saying anything, without having some sort of content–after all, isn’t even the most prolific, garrulous speaker of inane pab saying something, at the basest level? One could argue yes, but in this case, as we look at Cid Corman’s brief poem “It isnt for want,” it would seem that it is a short piece devoid of all content, existing only for one purpose: for the reader–the Other–to coexist with the author for however short a period of time it might be.

Corman begins the poem, essentially stammering, as he says, “It isnt for want/of something to say–/something to tell you–” as if he’s not sure how to begin, where to go. He tells the reader that it–the “it” of the poem being as abstract and multifaceted as Emily Dickinson’s “this” is “I Dwell in Possibility”–does not exist because it has something specific to say. The poem–if that is what the “it” is–isn’t “for want,” for necessity, for anything. It’s not something we should even know at all: so then, what is the point? What does the poem mean? Why does it exist?

Switching tones, Corman says, “but to detain you–to keep you from going–” because he wants nothing more than for the reader to not go, not just yet, not quite yet, just stay. For as the reader stays, he is “feeling myself here.” And how is that possible?

As long as you are.

As long as you are.

And this is where we see the utter brilliance of Corman revealed. This poem posits that it’s not a subject-object relationship, ergo, a reader-poem relationship, but more of a subject-subject relationship. In other words, Corman exists if you exist. He is if you are. He begins by placing emphasis on the subject: you. As long as you. As long as me. As long as us. As long as we what?

As long as we are.

As long as he can detain us in the poem, as long as we stay–Corman lives on. As long as I am, Corman is. As long as you are, Corman is. His existence is entirely dependent on the Other. That’s both the sadness and beauty of it.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make any sound? Corman, it would seem, argues that it does not.

Does it?

Less than three,

A poem should not mean
But be.
–Archibald McLeish

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