On Summer

Springing, by Marie Ponsot

In a skiff on a sunrisen lake we are watchers.

Swimming aimlessly is luxury just as walking
loudly up a shallow stream is.

As we lean over the deep well, we whisper.

Friends at hearths are drawn to the one warm air;
strangers meet on beaches drawn to the one wet sea.

What wd it be to be water, one body of water
(what water is is another mystery) (We are
water divided.) It wd be a self without walls,
with surface tension, specific gravity a local
exchange between bedrock and cloud of falling and rising,
rising to fall, falling to rise.

(1962)

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On Time, Space, and Other Weird Things

Song, by T.S. Eliot

If space and time, as sages say,
Are things which cannot be,
The fly that lives a single day
Has lived as long as we.
But let us live while yet we may,
While love and life are free,
For time is time, and runs away,
Though sages disagree.

The flowers I sent thee when the dew
Was trembling on the vine,
Were withered ere the wild bee flew
To suck the eglantine.
But let us haste to pluck anew
Nor mourn to see them pine,
And though the flowers of love be few
Yet let them be divine.

On Beauty

Beauty, by Elinor Wylie

Say not of Beauty she is good,
Or aught but beautiful,
Or sleek to doves’ wings of the wood
Her wild wings of a gull.

Call her not wicked; that word’s touch
Consumes her like a curse;
But love her not too much, too much,
For that is even worse.

O, she is neither good nor bad,
But innocent and wild!
Enshrine her and she dies, who had
The hard heart of a child.

On the Danger of Safety

The Sheltered Garden, by H.D.

I have had enough.
I gasp for breath.

Every way ends, every road,
every foot-path leads at last
to the hill-crest—
then you retrace your steps,
or find the same slope on the other side,
precipitate.

I have had enough—
border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
herbs, sweet-cress.

O for some sharp swish of a branch—
there is no scent of resin
in this place,
no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
aromatic, astringent—
only border on border of scented pinks.

Have you seen fruit under cover
that wanted light—
pears wadded in cloth,
protected from the frost,
melons, almost ripe,
smothered in straw?

Why not let the pears cling
to the empty branch?
All your coaxing will only make
a bitter fruit—
let them cling, ripen of themselves,
test their own worth,
nipped, shrivelled by the frost,
to fall at last but fair
With a russet coat.

Or the melon—
let it bleach yellow
in the winter light,
even tart to the taste—
it is better to taste of frost—
the exquisite frost—
than of wadding and of dead grass.

For this beauty,
beauty without strength,
chokes out life.
I want wind to break,
scatter these pink-stalks,
snap off their spiced heads,
fling them about with dead leaves—
spread the paths with twigs,
limbs broken off,
trail great pine branches,
hurled from some far wood
right across the melon-patch,
break pear and quince—
leave half-trees, torn, twisted
but showing the fight was valiant.

O to blot out this garden
to forget, to find a new beauty
in some terrible
wind-tortured place.

On the Beauty of Forgiving Even Yourself

Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

On the Science of Daily Life

Darwinist Logic, by Katie Willingham

To begin with the end, what the rain
did not uncover. A teacup overflows,
we call it a spill; a riverbed overflows, we
call it a flood, what it is to be

swept away. Great is the power of steady
misrepresentation
, writes Darwin. I like
things that light up on their own—
the headlights on my new car when we

drive under a bridge. I like how
it doesn’t distinguish between different types
of darkness. Darwin again: I am not
the least afraid to die.
Well,

I burned my thumb last night
on the kettle, distracted
by the buzzing of my phone—
my mother again. There is still some pleasure

in dissection—what admirably
well-adapted movements
the tip of a root possesses
. I like things
that come apart easily

in my hands—dried leaves, clumps of sugar—
Do you remember, before wireless,
when to unplug meant getting
on your knees to jerk the cord from the wall? Now

if you want to disconnect,
you have to ask nicely. Off/on;
let go/resurrect—the game your mind plays
in dreams, holding him up—no, a simulacrum

slipping its cage in my consciousness. Daytime
calls me to wakefulness, its dog home
from the walk, from the bewildering folly
of weather. Turns out these purple statices

on the dresser stand for
remembrance but I don’t need
any help remembering. They are right
in front of me—they have fully loaded.

On the Perseverance of Beauty

A Lot, by Scott Cairns

 

A vacant lot, maybe, but even such lit vacancy
as interstate motels announce can look, well, pretty
damned inviting after a long day’s drive, especially
if the day has been oppressed by manic truckers, detours,
endless road construction. And this poorly measured, semi-
rectangle, projected and plotted with the familiar
little flags upon a spread of neglected terra firma
also offers brief apprehension, which—let’s face it,
whether pleasing or encumbered by anxiety—dwells
luxuriously in potential. Me? Well, I like
a little space between shopping malls, and while this one may
never come to be much of a garden, once we rip
the old tires from the brambles and bag the trash, we might
just glimpse the lot we meant, the lot we hoped to find.