An Iris Murdoch Reader

By John Drexel

Featured Image: Sun and Clouds by Winslow Homer 1882

Everyone knows something. No one knows everything.

Most know less than they think.

As in life, there is much confusion,

especially about love. The girl in the basement kitchen,

grown disenchanted with the scholar

who is confused about the shape of his career,

considers entering a nunnery in Argentina.

Her mother has encountered a man

she has not seen in twenty years.

Someone is writing a book; someone

is hiding a crime; someone is about to suffer

near-death by almost-drowning. The narrator’s

cousin doesn’t know how to answer

her mentor’s letter, isn’t aware

she might be the heroine of this particular tale.

Everyone has forgotten something—

is this the moral?—with marvelous

consequences. There are self-delusions

and glimpses of God in surprising guises.

Children are always arriving home

or going away to school. In twos or threes

lovers or ex-lovers

or would-be lovers take cliff-top walks, receive invitations

to dinner parties given by former friends

or present rivals, send and perceive mixed signals.

A dog follows someone home.

People live in a succession of weathers,

patterns of drizzle or downpour or blazing sunshine.

It is difficult to see clearly. Some

thing is lost; something is foreign.

Somewhere a swimmer is diving

into the sea, the sea.


John Drexel’s poetry has appeared in numerous magazines in the United States and Britain, including First Things, The Hudson Review, Notre Dame Review, Paris Review, Salmagundi, and Verse, as well as in a limited-edition chapbook, The Necessary Pilgrim. He has been the recipient of an Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship and a Hawthornden Fellowship.

Originally published in NOR Spring 2010.

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