Slow Theme with Nine Variations

Cut it down
to the stem,
or let it dwindle
to the pinch
that holds its waist.
Hourglass with trace
of sand along its measure,
in the just proportion
as it moves away—.
Deflects the cut.
Restores—it deepens
sound or color deepens
as it moves 
between and deepens.


Variation One

          hold in
and wasp
to breathe
is to
as steel
          to stellar
that deepens.


Variation Two

Down to the cut
of the stem
the trace—
along which many
move to take
a measure
out along
recast its sinew
thin enough
for all proportion
measure and more
to raise in color
drop in flare
stem moves
(hour not its substance)


Variation Three

Of glass to count
by just proportion
what deflects restores
of infinite persuasion
deep and deeper
cut as sharp
abrasive in its passage
                 to reform
or blow away
no trace remains.


Variation Four

This thinking’s labyrinth,
fly-blown and with vinegar,
this passage where the thread is lost,
and no hand reaches to restrain
along its turns:
This moonlight hazzard
star shine and echo frost,
on this, once more cut
to the dwindled stem.


Variation Five

Let it, or loose it,
inner, outer,
deepness between and
color, sound of color,
this narrow waist,
traced cut—blood to staunch
in sand the wound:
Or glass to see by.


Variation Six

Nothing restored,
cut down
it lies diminished
as the stem
that narrows
to its gauge remains
and returned
it cups and holds
a trace—our motion
in deep sand.


Variation Seven
Diminished pinch
dwindling waist
a young girl in a forest
clothed in leaves
Ah! Daphne echoes
holds to purpose
still pool
narrows deep


Variation Eight

“And turned away”
quote in other words,
between the deeps
the catch of the stem.
On such a place,
and such beginning,
anguish as august—
the first of it,
and flow of sand
for counting out.
Sometimes it goes within—


Variation Nine

Or to reverse
is to rise.
A stem is likely,
juice and sap,
its root in sand—
its waist the air
complete belongs
in hours traced
and seen, the glass
a moving air
of such proportions
come to measure—
gift of fruit



Cut it down
to the stem,
or let it dwindle
to the pinch
that holds its waist
Hour glass with trace
of sand along its measure
is the just proportion
as it moves away—
deflects the cut.
Restores—it deepens
sound or color deepens,
as it moves
between and deepens.

                                         March 27–April 3, 1983

Theodore Enslin (1925–2011) was an American poet associated with Cid Corman’s Origin magazine and press, widely regarded as one of the most musical of American avant-garde poets. He is the author of the Benjamin Stories, including One Summer’s Day Dream (Granite Press) and a collection of sequences, NINE (National Poetry Foundation).