The kiss is still fully itself though no words were spoken.
And one word transforms it into something less or other—
illicit, chaste, perfunctory, conjugal, covert.
Even calling it a kiss betrays the fluster of hands
glancing the skin or gripping a shoulder, the slow
arching of neck or knee, the silent touching of tongues.
I was reading the collection of essays Expansive Poetry ("Essays on the New Narrative and the New Formalism"), and Gioia's entry essay "The Dilemma of the Long Poem" reminded me for the umpteenth time that I have to check out the man's work in concentrated form (I've read plenty off his poems, but all as individual poems in journals and anthologies). I wandered over to his Web site and checked out the sample poems from his most recent volume Interrogations at Noon, from which the above piece. It's very good stuff, even as understated as Gioia clearly intends. I think few contemporary poets demonstrate better than Gioia the fallacy of the Beat era dogma that one cannot write personal and empathetic verse within the structures of traditional craft (or at least that Americans cannot).
Earlier on in "Words" he writes "The stones on the path are no less real for lying uncatalogued and uncounted." This seems to be a common theme in Interrogations at Noon, based on the four samples on Gioia's site (I'll be ordering a copy today). He transmutes the notion from the naturalistic to the pathetic in the very fetching epigram "Unsaid", which you simply must go and read in its (brief) entirety. "Unsaid"is clearly not an elegaic distich in form, but it feels a lot like one in matter, passing from somber observation to sharp evocation in three sentences. The poem is twice as long as a proper elegaic, yet it maintains an impressive amount of bite.
I did notice one thing: the capitalization of each line in "Words" and "The Summer Storm" contrasts with prosaic capitalization in "Unsaid" and "The Litany". I couldn't really sense a pattern to this usage. Personally I prefer poetic capitalization, because I still think that the line is the most important unit in poetry, and the unit upon which it succeeds or fails. Capitalizing each line emphasizes this importance, even where poets have largely shunned alignment of meter with grammar.