You Could….Not Know Why, At Any Given Moment

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Off A Side Road Near Stauton

by Stanley Plumly (1939 – 2019)

Some nothing afternoon, no one anywhere,
an early autumn stillness in the air,
the kind of empty day you fill by taking in
the full size of the valley and its layers leading
slowly to the Blue Ridge, the quality of country,
if you stand here long enough, you could stay
for, step into, the way a landscape, even on a wall,
pulls you in, one field at a time, pasture and fall
meadow, high above the harvest, perfect
to the tree line, then spirit clouds and intermittent
sunlit smoky rain riding the tops of the mountains,
though you could walk until it’s dark and not reach those rains—
you could walk the rest of the day into the picture
and not know why, at any given moment, you’re there.

Labor Day is here, marking the end of  summer.   Today and tomorrow will be the last of the swimming season in Minnesota (at least for me) as the lows are going to be in the 40’s all week after Monday and the lakes will suddenly be too cold.  This has to be the strangest summer of my entire existence.  It was utterly devoid of most rituals and events that have marked summer’s passing since I was a child.  The only thing that I have done that felt the same was to swim and camp, but summer music festivals, fireworks, friends BBQ and fish fries, the State Fair, and an endless list of summer work events were all cancelled this year.   This loss of ritual strangely made the summer slip by too quickly, as the weeks and months ran together.

In trying to find a poem to sum up my feelings on what has transpired since George Floyd’s death in May, I kept coming back to a poem I shared in my Auden retrospective in January of 2019.  Auden’s line “we must love one another or die,” sticks in my brain as the one call to action that might heal this nation.  In my opinion, it is the only thing that might work.  We aren’t going to solve inequality through partisan gamesmanship and politics, from either side of the political spectrum.  Somewhere we have to find the ability for mutual respect and acceptance of differences to co-exist again in America in a productive manner, both sides have to flourish.  There is no winning in love.

With roughly 60 days before the election I am bracing for what will be a glaring, blaring intolerable two months of  political attack ads and over reaching rhetoric.  All the more reason to retreat from the media into the silence of nature and cast my vote by mail.  I will attempt to avoid the shrillness of American politics as best I can and hope that change is coming after the first of the year. Not just in the White House, but in our hearts and lives as well.


September 1, 1939

(Excerpt)

by W. H. Auden

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

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A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations.

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