‘[. . .] in whose crook’—that is, stolen moment—’I once discovered the most complete of all moments’—that italicized phrase, like the title of a book. And what would that book be? The most complete poems of Sappho?
‘I’ is all the elements of the poem in Pruyn’s “Traveler’s Monologue” except ‘the most complete of all moments.’ I is where and with whom the moment happens—Maine, farmhouse, armchair, woodstove room, grave, wall; and a ghost (‘who once lived’), a sheep and a horse. Is this assembly the alchemical combination for ‘the most complete of all moments’?
If the poem doesn’t supply a detailed description of ‘the most complete of all moments,’ we will: that moment among moments is a sensation, and the only epiphany attendant is this ‘the most complete of all moments.’ Such moments come to us when we are in the various cathedrals of the world: woods, open fields of tall grasses, at the shore, wherever we doze with our daughters, wherever our body is placed in a mound with our treasures and with gifts.
The traveler’s ‘most complete of all moments’ is had while ‘tilting my head against the wing-backs’— what traveler travels in a wing-chair? The poem begins, ‘I am a Maine farmhouse. A hunkering cape.’ It’s the hunkered cape that fascinates—no cape hunkers, but who’s beneath the cape; the cape is the long, low roof of the farmhouse—and though I picture the farmhouse snow-covered (‘I am the wall of snow’), what color is a cape worn by a traveler ‘hunkering’ but black? To hunker is to bend down or crouch, and to hunker is to take shelter. And that’s our traveler: not physically traveling, but sheltered, and moving through her thoughts—what she is, and what haunts where she is. She’s ‘A horse with a gash in its mouth’—i.e., a sick horse, a horse that cannot travel (a horse that may never travel again).
And a horse with a second mouth. Mouth and mouth inside its mouth. Duplicitous.
There are other doubles. The farmhouse is both ‘haunted and haunting’; there is a door and snow so packed into the door-frame it is door-shaped; there is the grave of the farmhouses former occupant, and the traveler is that same grave. There is traveling and traveling while sitting still.
Pruyn’s farmhouse is the non-shelter found in Robert Frost’s poem about the traveler who stops ‘[T]o watch his woods fill with snow’; the non-shelter ‘[B]etween the woods and frozen lake / [T]he darkest evening of the year.’ Like Frost’s traveler in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Pruyn’s traveler ‘once discovered the most complete of all moments’—emphasis on ‘once.’