limpid

Eyes. Blue eyes. Eyes like pools. Eyes like pools you can dive into. No. Eyes like pools that dive into you. Eyes, blue eyes, deep, hypnotic. You can see to the bottom. No. You can see that there is no bottom. Look in these eyes and you are seven leagues deep and in the gathering darkness as the surface slips behind. So much. To see. You are impelled.

Is it clear? We know what things are limpid. Pools are limpid. And eyes are like limpid pools. Wide eyes are like limpid Olympic pools. But what does that mean?

Do they limp? Are they limp? Are they lambent? Impish? Implied? Dimpled? Simply liquid? A Spanish speaker will know that limpiar means to clean. But limpido means limpid. Or, as in Italian, clear. Right from Latin limpidus. Pellucid, free from turbidity.

But limpid is a word of turbulence: the emotions of poetry. It is a word that says “I want to look into your eyes, I want you to feel that I want to look into your eyes, and I am a poet.” It says this even when it is being used to describe something other than eyes.

Limpid is the feel of a blink held just a moment longer, springing then back open to reveal orbs with a hint of outward ripples as of a pool with a simple drop in the middle. It is a word that makes you the more turbid within as you use it and read it. Here, here are quotations from poems; see if after them you can even come to the surface.

He has no need to steal a sip
From Hafiz’ bowl, or bathe his lip
In honey pressed from Pindar’s comb,
Or taste of Bacchus’ philtered foam,
Or filch from Chaucer’s bounteous grace
Some liquid, limpid, purling phrase.
—“The Brook,” William Bull Wright

Ray’d in the limpid yellow slanting sundown,
Music, Italian music in Dakota.
Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

He tore out a reed, the great god Pan,
From the deep cool bed of the river;
The limpid water turbidly ran,
And the broken lilies a-dying lay,
And the dragon-fly had fled away,
Ere he brought it out of the river.
—“A Musical Instrument,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning

O little shells, so curious-convolute! so limpid-cold and voiceless!
Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

Give me thy hand, and hush awhile,
And turn those limpid eyes on mine,
And let me read there, love! thy inmost soul.
—“The Buried Life,” Matthew Arnold

Ebb stung by the flow, and flow stung by the ebb—love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching;
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of love, white-blow and delirious juice;
Bridegroom night of love, working surely and softly into the prostrate dawn;
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh’d day.
Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman

and each, as soon as it felt the antennæ, immediately lifted up its abdomen and excreted a limpid drop of sweet juice, which was eagerly devoured by the ant.
The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin

Limpid. All that is limpid is pure poetry and ecstasy and clarity. It is a lamp, but a lamp filled with the late-night oil of the quill-pen wielder. It infects. It sweetens.

All who say limpid thirst for clarity, the clarity that says nothing is clear. The word is shaped like a dream bed by a stream, l and d the posts, and i and i candles or heads; the m is a pillow or a pair of legs, and the p is an arm dipping into the stream. Dipping into the dream. Not dreamy eyes: eyes that you dream about. Not eyes that you see through: eyes that see through you. Limpid like the night sky when you see stars, millions of miles away and thousands of years ago: you see clearly that all is dark and unreachable, and all that you see is past. And you thirst for it and it enters you and breaks you. You limp into limpid eternity. And the eyes never stop looking, so cool and blue.

One response to “limpid

  1. Here’s one more:

    To you my love is such a little thing,
    Breaking the even surface of your mood
    More lightly than the tilted swallow’s wing
    Disturbs the limpid, glassy solitude
    Of some clear pool.

    –“Sanctuary,” Hildegarde Flanner

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