by Anne Porter (1911 – 2011)
Wild geese are flocking and calling in pure golden air,
Glory like that which painters long ago
Spread as a background for some little hermit
Beside his cave, giving his cloak away,
Or for some martyr stretching out
On her expected rack.
A few black cedars grow nearby
And there’s a donkey grazing.
Small craftsmen, steeped in anonymity like bees,
Gilded their wooden panels, leaving fame to chance,
Like the maker of this wing-flooded golden sky,
Who forgives all our ignorance
Both of his nature and of his very name,
Freely accepting our one heedless glance.
Anne Porter is a role model for all of us that we can be artists our entire lives, published or unpublished. Her first collection of poetry An Altogether Different Language was published in 1994 when she was 84. Widowed in 1975, she focused less on supporting her husband’s and children’s artistic pursuits and more on her own, finding more time to write. Anne Porter, not to be confused with the writer Katherine Anne Porter, writes in a style that I appreciate – not overly dramatic or complicated while connecting emotions and insights from her brilliant experience and view of the world. It is a very personal style while being accessible. Her poems are not confusing while also not confining.
I relate to her sense of awe watching waterfowl in a late Autumn sky. Last Sunday as the sun began to set I was finishing up a project on the farm and Trumpeter Swans, some summer residents and others that had joined them on their travels, lifted off the lake adjacent to the farm and left in family groups in Vs sounding their enthusiasm for the journey to come. The scale of the birds and the purity of their voices made us stand still and watch in wonder.
An Altogether Different Language
by Anne Porter
There was a church in Umbria, Little Portion,
Already old eight hundred years ago.
It was abandoned and in disrepair
But it was called St. Mary of the Angels
For it was known to be the haunt of angels,
Often at night the country people
Could hear them singing there.
What was it like, to listen to the angels,
To hear those mountain-fresh, those simple voices
Poured out on the bare stones of Little Portion
In hymns of joy?
No one has told us.
Perhaps it needs another language
That we have still to learn,
An altogether different language.