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We continue our meditations on seeing, with a reading from poet and writer, Mark Doty. This is an excerpt from Doty's 1996 memoir Heaven's Coast.


UPDATE FROM ROBERT:  Mark Doty just published a new collection of his poetry. He calls it "Deep Lane", and as usual, he celebrates elemental things, his bounding dog Ned, his flower garden, getting a good haircut, working a vegetable patch. When  he pulls an ordinary radish out of the ground, in his careful handling that simple root becomes quietly regal. Doty finds nobility everywhere, which is why, on hard days, I go back to him and back to him and back to him -- because, for all he's been through, he won't stop loving the world.  This is him, yanking the radish up....
 the whole plant lifts

      in a sweet-scented loose clump,


      good mineral dirt falling from the white roots

      and the accomplishment at their center: jewel-toned,


      Russian somehow, artful, varied, contradicting Leonardo,

      who wrote that nature does nothing unnecessary;

      how would he account for this two-toned cylinder,


      voguish red giving way, near the tip,

      to a ghost-swath of muslin....


Mark finds more to admire in a raw vegetable than I ever will. He has the eye of a jeweler. Everywhere he looks, he sees gems. 


Mark Doty

Comments [2]

Sheila from New York City

The prose was indeed beautiful. I was brought back to my father's bed side when he took his last breath. I felt honored to be with him at the end - it wasn't awful, it wasn't depressing - it just was.
Thank you Mark Doty for your heart, words and willingness to share.

Feb. 20 2016 01:11 PM
Stefanos from Greece

I don't know how I should feel about the end of this segment. On one hand the poetry is just beautiful, on another I find that very beauty a downside.

Of course it's all down to what one believes about the moment of death and/or of the thereafter.

But if subjectivity is all we have and all we'll ever have, if the world only takes life after the active act of observation, it can be rightfully said that without an observer there is no world, and each and every person's death is -literally- the end of world (no observer = no world).

And if that's the reality that's coming to all of us (one that I find few reasons to disbelieve), then death or the moment of it is not, cannot and ought not to be embellished. It's the prime evil, it's the only true evil (and anything that causes it).

So as I was taken away from the beauty of the poetry I was equally aghast as I was thinking of the event that most possibly actually took place. And the more I was falling in love with the language used, the more I felt ashamed of that feeling...

What one wants to believe or feel so that to come in terms with death is different than what's happening. I have few reasons to believe that the actual thing that happens does not even compare with the worse thing we can imagine. The worst kind of torture is probably preferable to death, because a torture ends, death isn't.

It's sad, depressingly so, but I think people's conscience should be raised on this subject so that we may actually have a chance against it: starvation, war, ageing; the three main killers. As long as we lose to those we're doomed...

Sep. 13 2015 05:58 AM

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