It Was All Of That

Kathleen Norris

In spite of the cost of living, its still popular.

Kathleen Norris

Ascension

by Kathleen Norris

Why do you stand looking up at the skies?
.                                                        . Acts 1:11

It wasn’t just wind, chasing
thin gunmetal clouds
across the loud sky;
it wasn’t the feeling that one might ascend
on that excited air,
rising like a trumpet note.

And it wasn’t just my sister’s water breaking,
her crying out,
the downward draw of blood and bone…

It was all of that,
the mud and new grass
pushing up through melting snow,
the lilac in bud
by my front door, bent low
by last week’s ice storm.

Now the new mother, that leaky vessel,
begins to nurse her child,
beginning the long good-bye.


Mrs. Adam

By Kathleen Norris 
 

I have lately come to the conclusion that I am Eve,
alias Mrs. Adam. You know, there is no account
of her death in the Bible, and why am I not Eve?
Emily Dickinson in a letter,
12 January, 1846

Wake up,
you’ll need your wits about you.
This is not a dream,
but a woman who loves you, speaking.
 
She was there
when you cried out;
she brushed the terror away.
She knew
when it was time to sin.
You were wise
to let her handle it,
and leave that place.
 
We couldn’t speak at first
for the bitter knowledge,
the sweet taste of memory
on our tongues.
 
Listen, it’s time.
You were chosen too,
to put the world together.
 

The Bookman Comes

Jack The Giant Killer

How frail the bloom, how short the stay

That terminates us all!

Today we flourish green and gay,

Like leaves tomorrow fall.”

John Clare

To John Clare 

By John Clare (1793 – 1864)

Well, honest John, how fare you now at home?
The spring is come, and birds are building nests;
The old cock-robin to the sty is come,
With olive feathers and its ruddy breast;
And the old cock, with wattles and red comb,
Struts with the hens, and seems to like some best,
Then crows, and looks about for little crumbs,
Swept out by little folks an hour ago;
The pigs sleep in the sty; the bookman comes—
The little boy lets home-close nesting go,
And pockets tops and taws, where daisies blow,
To look at the new number just laid down,
With lots of pictures, and good stories too,
And Jack the Giant-killer’s high renown.
 

Prayer 

by John Untermeyer

God, though this life is but a wraith,
Although we know not what we use,
Although we grope with little faith,
Give me the heart to fight—and lose.

Ever insurgent let me be,
Make me more daring than devout;
From sleek contentment keep me free.
And fill me with a buoyant doubt.

Open my eyes to visions girt
With beauty, and with wonder lit—
But let me always see the dirt,
And all that spawn and die in it.

Open my ears to music; let
Me thrill with Spring’s first flutes and drums—
But never let me dare forget
The bitter ballads of the slums.

From compromise and things half-done,
Keep me, with stern and stubborn pride;
And when, at last, the fight is won
God, keep me still unsatisfied.

All The Trembling World

Louis Untermeyer (1885 – 1977)

Laughter shall drown the raucous shout;

And, though these shelt’ring walls are thin,

May they be strong to keep hate out

And hold love in.

Louis Untermeyer

 Feuerzauber

by Louis Untermeyer

I never knew the earth had so much gold—
The fields run over with it, and this hill
Hoary and old,
Is young with buoyant blooms that flame and thrill.

Such golden fires, such yellow—lo, how good
This spendthrift world, and what a lavish God—
This fringe of wood,
Blazing with buttercup and goldenrod.

You too, beloved, are changed. Again I see
Your face grow mystical, as on that night
You turned to me,
And all the trembling world—and you—were white.

Aye, you are touched; your singing lips grow dumb;
The fields absorb you, color you entire….
And you become
A goddess standing in a world of fire!


Faith

by Louis Untermeyer

What are we bound for? What’s the yield
Of all this energy and waste?
Why do we spend ourselves and build
With such an empty haste?

Wherefore the bravery we boast?
How can we spend one laughing breath
When at the end all things are lost
In ignorance and death? . . .

The stars have found a blazing course
In a vast curve that cuts through space;
Enough for us to feel that force
Swinging us through the days.

Enough that we have strength to sing
And fight and somehow scorn the grave;
That Life’s too bold and bright a thing
To question or to save.

I’m Lonely As Those Story Tellers

Michael S. Harper (1938 – 2016)

I have a great fear for the moral will of Americans if it takes more than a week to achieve results.

Michael S. Harper

Clan Meeting: Births and Nations: A Blood Song

By Michael S. Harper
 
We reconstruct lives in the intensive
care unit, pieced together in a buffet
dinner: two widows with cancerous breasts
in their balled hands; a 30-year-old man
in a three-month coma
from a Buick and a brick wall;
a woman who bleeds off and on from her gullet;
a prominent socialite, our own nurse,
shrieking for twins, “her bump gone”;
the gallery of veterans, succored,
awake, without valves, some lungs gone.
 
Splicing the meats with fluids
seasoned on the dressing room
table, she sings “the bump gone”
refrain in this 69-degree oven,
unstuffing her twin yolks
carved from the breast, the dark meat
wrapped in tinfoil and clean newspaper;
the half black registered nurse
hums her six years in an orphanage,
her adopted white family,
breaded and primed in a posse,
rising in clan for their dinner.
 
We reload our brains as the cameras,
the film overexposed
in the x-ray light,
locked with our double door
light meters: race and sex
spooled and rungs in a hobby;
we take our bundle and go home.
 


Moonshine

By Yusef Komunyakaa 
 
Drunken laughter escapes
Behind the fence woven
With honeysuckle, up to where   
I stand. Daddy’s running-buddy,   
Carson, is beside him. In the time   
It takes to turn & watch a woman   
Tiptoe & pull a sheer blouse off   
The clothesline, to see her sun-lit   
Dress ride up peasant legs
Like the last image of mercy, three   
Are drinking from the Mason jar.
 
That’s the oak we planted
The day before I left town,   
As if father & son
Needed staking down to earth.   
If anything could now plumb   
Distance, that tree comes close,   
Recounting lost friends
As they turn into mist.
 
The woman stands in a kitchen   
Folding a man’s trousers—
Her chin tucked to hold
The cuffs straight.
I’m lonely as those storytellers   
In my father’s backyard
I shall join soon. Alone
As they are, tilting back heads   
To let the burning ease down.   
The names of women melt
In their mouths like hot mints,
As if we didn’t know Old Man Pagget’s   
Stoopdown is doctored with   
Slivers of Red Devil Lye.

What Could I Have Said?

Sharon Olds

If I wrote in a sonnet form, I would be distorting. Or if I had some great new idea for line breaks and I used it in a poem, but it’s really not right for that poem, but I wanted it, that would be distorting.

Sharon Olds

His Stillness

By Sharon Olds
 
The doctor said to my father, “You asked me
to tell you when nothing more could be done.
That’s what I’m telling you now.” My father
sat quite still, as he always did,
especially not moving his eyes. I had thought
he would rave if he understood he would die,
wave his arms and cry out. He sat up,
thin, and clean, in his clean gown,
like a holy man. The doctor said,
“There are things we can do which might give you time,
but we cannot cure you.” My father said,
“Thank you.” And he sat, motionless, alone,
with the dignity of a foreign leader.
I sat beside him. This was my father.
He had known he was mortal. I had feared they would have to
tie him down. I had not remembered
he had always held still and kept quiet to bear things,
the liquor a way to keep still. I had not
known him. My father had dignity. At the
end of his life his life began
to wake in me.
 

I wonder what the divorce rate is among poets?   In particular how many first marriages survive?  No matter what a poet writes, whether autobiographical or not, there is a tendency for readers to think it is, particularly family members. It’s why poems written in the style of confessional poetry, in first person, can be difficult reading, there is little wiggle room for the reader, unless you view every poem as fiction, a product of imagination.  Who is the greater exhibitionist; the painter or the nude, the poet or the reader, the artist or the gallery?  
 
I find it interesting that Olds views the sonnet form as stifling and I find it liberating.  I like structured verse because it provides a canopy under which I can get out of the bright sun and allows fiction to mingle with experience more readily into a nice rosy shade of pink reading glasses.  
 
There are many sides to every failed marriage, particularly if there are children involved and the marriage went on and on, well into their young adulthood; then every member of the family will have their opinion on the matter. When a poet eulogizes their failed marriage in poetry, it takes on a whole new level of sentimentality, there becomes multiple deaths, the death of possibilities.  I wrote a number of poems about my failed marriage.  None of them were any good.  I am not as talented a poet as Olds in that regard.  Poetry of failure is not as inspiring as the poetry of discovery, but maybe it’s equally as important.   The poetry of failure serves as a glue, to remind us all, that life is complicated.  We all fail in our lifetimes, particularly in our marriages. Its just a matter of degrees.  Olds’ poem below was a good reminder to myself, to not be so quick to burn the past without forethought as to the portent of the memories that go up in that rich smoke of the lives that were worth living long ago.  Even those lives that ended in divorce. 
 

 
 

The Easel

by Sharon Olds

When I build a fire, I feel purposeful –
proud I can unscrew the wing-nuts
from off the rusted bolts, dis-
assembling one of the things my ex
left when he left right left. And laying its
narrow, polished, maple bones
across the fire, providing for updraft –
good. Then by flame-light I see: I am burning
his old easel. How can that be,
after the hours and hours – all told, maybe
weeks, a month of stillness – modelling
for him, our first years together,
smell of acrylic, stretch of treated
canvas. I am burning his left-behind craft,
he who was the first to turn
our family, naked, into art.
What if someone had told me, thirty
years ago: If you give up, now,
wanting to be an artist, he might
love you all your life – just put your
gifts into the heart’s domestic service.
What would I have said? I didn’t even
have an art, it would come to me
from out of our family’s life – what could I have said?

Try This

Franz Wright (1953 – 2015)

Why has our poetry eschewed The rapture and response of food? What hymns are sung, what praises said For home-made miracles of bread?

Louis Untermeyer

University of One

by Franz Wright

And I’ve lost my fear
of death
here, what death?
There is no such thing.
There is only
mine,
or yours–
but the world
will be filled with the living. Mysteriously
(heavy dear sky-colored book), too,
I have been spared
the fate of those who love words
more than what they mean!
My poem is not
for example
a blank check in pussyland
anymore,
nor
entry in the contest for the world’s
most poignant suicide
note. Now
I have to go–, but
meet my friend Miss April
snow.


Northern Pike

by James Wright

All right.  Try this,
Then.  Every body
I know and care for,
And every body
Else is going
To die in a lonliness
I can’t imagine and a pain –
I don’t know.  We had
To go on living.  We
Untangled the net, we slit
The body of this fish
Open from the hinge of the tail
To a place beneath the chin
I wish I could sing of.
I would just as soon we let
The living go on living.
An old poet whom we believe in
Said the same thing, and so
We paused among the dark cattails and prayed
For the muskrats,
For the ripples below their tails,
For the little movements that we knew the crawdads were making under water,
For the right-hand wrist of my cousin who is a policeman.
We prayed for the game warden’s blindness.
We prayed for the road home.
We ate the fish.
There must be something very beautiful in my body,
I am so happy.

Above The Vanished Ground

Richard Wilbur

Writing poetry is talking to oneself; yet it is a mode of talking to oneself in which the self disappears; and the product’s something that, though it may not be for everybody, is about everybody.

Richard Wilbur

The Death of A Toad

by Richard Wilbur

A toad the power mower caught,
Chewed and clipped of a leg, with a hobbling hop has got
To the garden verge, and sanctuaried him
Under the cineraria leaves, in the shade
Of the ashen and heartshaped leaves, in a dim,
Low, and a final glade.

The rare original heartsblood goes,
Spends in the earthen hide, in the folds and wizenings, flows
In the gutters of the banked and staring eyes. He lies
As still as if he would return to stone,
And soundlessly attending, dies
Toward some deep monotone,

Toward misted and ebullient seas
And cooling shores, toward lost Amphibia’s emperies.
Day dwindles, drowning and at length is gone
In the wide and antique eyes, which still appear
To watch, across the castrate lawn,
The haggard daylight steer.


In the spring of 2019, all the factors aligned for a small explosion of baby toads the end of May everywhere in Minneapolis. It had to be the right combination of moisture, temperature and soft moon light for toad pick up bars.  Regardless suddenly in every back yard, every front yard and in every school yard, where there was even a tiny bit of grass and shade there were baby toads in multitudes.  Fortunately the lawn that I was helping to keep cut, was tiny, with ample places for baby toads to hop off to safety.  The first mowing, with Wilbur’s poem firmly in my mind, I went slow, mowing around them mindfully, even leaving some grass uncut where there were too many toads to let pass in the pedestrian zone.  But the things that help baby toads prosper are the same things that nurture grass, and so with the lawn turning into the rough at the U. S. Open after a week and it being even harder to see them, I tearfully admit there was some carnage.  Okay, there was lots of carnage, the herd was thinned.  By mid June I was still trying as best I could to mow around the survivors, but I began to realize that sometimes when I purposefully went on the other side of a toad I spotted in my path, it would at the last minute jump into harms way, possibly suicidal over the loss of his pals from this evil contraption built to torment them from the week ago, or on a fools errand, sent by the toad general to make a mighty stand against the steel tank. It never ended well, no ceremonial burial beneath the rhubarb like Wilbur, no 21 gun salute. By August I stopped trying. I realized I actually killed less, and by now we were down to maybe .001% of the original population, if I just moved in a straight line at a reasonable speed and let them get out of the way.  The survivors had figured it out as long as I acted consistently, the tornado staying in tornado alley where it belongs.

Despite my first hand summer long reality TV experience with Richard Wilbur’s famous poem, you would think I had figured it out then.  In fact, Wilbur’s poem just made me more annoyed as the summer passed, I disliked it all the more.  It felt pointless, the poem and all the toad slaughter.  It wasn’t until the Ukraine war began, and men, women and children, unarmed, are being attacked by tanks, that I suddenly had a connection to Wilbur’s poem. I have no idea what Wilbur intended when he wrote it, but it feels to me like the poetic narration to the CNN clip of the family killed in a mortar attack crossing the street in Kyiv, their deaths replayed over and over again on YouTube, their heart blood seeping out on the pavement.  

The problem right now, for me,  is that its harder and harder to believe that good always defeats wrong, that light always overcomes darkness.  Does it?  Not for that family.  Not for George Floyd. And maybe the point of Wilbur’s poem is to remind us of this fact; sometimes you have to get lucky and hop at just the right moment in the right direction. 

Last night on the way home from work I stopped by my local Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things.  There was a car alarm on a late model Toyota going off a few cars away in the parking lot, blaring its sad song. I went in and shopped and came out and it was still at it. Just as I started pulling out of my parking spot, a man approached me, shivering, asking if I could roll down my window.   I stopped and we looked at each other for maybe two seconds.  We were the same age.  He was conspicuously under dressed for the current temperature and wind chill.  He had fear in his eyes and I realized I probably did too.  The spate of high profile car-jackings across the Twin Cities the past year running through my mind and he probably thinking the same, “is this guy crazy?”  I rolled down my window.  He said; “I am the biggest idiot in the world, but I think I locked my keys in my car, and I set off the alarm trying to get in, can you help me?”  A white person calls the police when you lock your keys in your car and they send out a nice young cop to unlock it for you, even free of charge in Elk River, or they dispatch a tow truck with a door jimmy.  In Minneapolis, black men do not call the police to help them open their cars. I said; “sure, hop in.”  He guided me to his house about 4 miles away, and he said as we pulled up, “I will be right back, I know where my extra key is, it will only take a minute.”  He looked me up and down briefly.  His eye’s downcast, imploring silently, unsaid; “are you going to take off the minute I get out?”   I didn’t.   He came back in about 3 minutes.  We drove back and chatted the whole way.   I asked him “where are you from?”  He said, “Queens”.   I asked, “Mets or Yankees?”  He laughed, “Yankees!”  I said “damn, those Yankees eat the Twins for breakfast.” He laughed again and said, “you have no idea how much I appreciate this.” As we approached his car, he hit the fob and the alarm stopped.   I fist bumped him as he climbed out, winked and said, “We were on a mission from God!”, doing my best Blues Brothers imitation.   He smiled and said, “I loved that movie. I still lived in New York when Belushi died.”   To which I thought, man, was that death pointless….


Chronic Condition

by Richard Wilbur

Berkeley did not forsee such misty weather,
Nor centuries of light
Intend so dim a day.  Swaddled together
In separateness, the trees
Persist or not beyond the gray-white
Palings of the air.  Gone
Are whatever wings bothered the lighted leaves
When leaves there were.  Are all
The sparrows fallen?  I can hardly hear
My memory of those bees
Who only lately mesmerized the lawn.
Now, something, blaze!  A fear
Swaddles me now that Hylas’ tree will fall
Where no eye lights and grieves,
Will fall to nothing and without a sound,
I sway and lean above the vanished ground.

Speak Of The World’s Own Change

Richard Wilbur (1921-2017)

Teach me, like you, to drink creation whole/ And casting out myself, become a soul.

Richard Wilbur

A Barred Owl

By Richard Wilbur
 
The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”
 
Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.
 
 

Richard Wilbur is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th Century.  Few racked up the awards like him; two Pulitzers, the Bollinger Award, Poet Laureate of the United States (the second after Robert Penn Warren), the Frost Award, and you can go on and on.   I have honestly never understood or even much liked Wilbur because I never understood his most anthologized poem – The Death of a Toad, until the start of the Ukraine war.   And now, I relate to it and him completely differently.  It made me go back and reassess Wilbur and I found him surprisingly humorous.   I also realized what I had always missed before, the context of his use of animals as metaphors and symbols for the tragedy and violence of human existence are informed by a perspective of having survived WWII as a soldier.  
 
Born into men of letters, the descendant of both a father and grandfather who were editors, it was only natural that Wilbur would find a way to make a living with words.   Wilbur may be a little too formal for today’s mainstream poetry taste’s.  Even in his heyday he was accused by critics that he favored the smoothness of his poetry, picking the rhyme and meter over emotion and content.   But, I think that’s rubbish.  There’s nothing wrong with wordsmithing in my opinion if the reader can figure out the emotion on their own easy enough.  We never accuse a song writer of being too in love with the rhyme in their lyrics, even when the lyrics are complete nonsense, as long as the song writing and singing are first rate and deliver the emotion.   Let’s give poets the same freedom to operate. If the reader can’t summon a little emotion of their own, well then, the poet can bring a reader to the handkerchief, but they can’t make them cry….
 
There is a sneaky complexity to some of Wilbur’s word choices that I had never considered before reading him this week.  Take the poem above.  Linger on the second word – warping.  What’s being warped?  Reread it and ponder how darkness changes the things we see in the light and how we all domesticate, normalize, our fears. 
 
The poem below, read it the first time aloud, enjoy the smoothness of the words, don’t give it much thought as to meaning.  Then read it again, now that your subconscious has an idea of what lays ahead, and this time consider how much of the imagery and ideas are a defiance of the God of war.  Is his reference to a soul unshelled, the idea of it living beyond the husk of our mortal body, or has it survived, intact, endless mortars raining down, surviving as if it hadn’t occurred?  Is it a prophet coming to the streets of your city, or soldiers of war? 

 
 
 

Advice to a Prophet

By Richard Wilbur 
 
When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,   
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God’s name to have self-pity,
 
Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,   
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,   
Unable to fear what is too strange.
 
Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.   
How should we dream of this place without us?—
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,   
A stone look on the stone’s face?
 
Speak of the world’s own change. Though we cannot conceive   
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,   
How the view alters. We could believe,
 
If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip   
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip
 
On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without   
The dolphin’s arc, the dove’s return,
 
These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?   
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken
 
In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean   
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.
 
Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose   
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding   
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing   
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.
 

Whatever Good We Did

Marvin Bell (1937 – 2020)

Our job is to become more of who we are. The growth of a poet seems to be related to his or her becoming less embarrassed about more and more.

Marvin Bell

Around Us

by Marvin Bell

We need some pines to assuage the darkness
when it blankets the mind,
we need a silvery stream that banks as smoothly
as a plane’s wing, and a worn bed of
needles to pad the rumble that fills the mind,
and a blur or two of a wild thing
that sees and is not seen. We need these things
between appointments, after work,
and, if we keep them, then someone someday,
lying down after a walk
and supper, with the fire hole wet down,
the whole night sky set at a particular
time, without numbers or hours, will cause
a little sound of thanks—a zipper or a snap—
to close round the moment and the thought
of whatever good we did.


Is it cowardice to feel like I can only listen to small bits of the endless news and interviews coming out of Ukraine?   I know that being an active witness to fascism is an important part of denying its power, its grip on the oppressed.  Witnessing is an act of resistance as long as we hold our democratic governments accountable for actions to help overcome Putin, but it feels like too little when tanks are rolling on civilians. I feel impotent.  I know that poetry is not cowardice.  I wonder what Marvin Bell would be writing if he were alive today? 

Bell was born in New York City, whose parents had immigrated from Ukraine.  Bell wrote frequently about his themes of family and reconciliation in the context of his Ukrainian heritage.  A celebrated educator at the University of Iowa from 1965 to 2005, he influenced and mentored some of the best American poets of the last 50 years, including Rita Dove, John Irving and Joy Harjo.  He was the first poet laureate of Iowa in 2000, while winning numerous awards and honors during his long career. 

In listening to National Public Radio interviews with Ukrainians from around the globe, one of their concerns is for their elderly parents who are reliving the invasion of Ukraine during World War II.  Several have expressed disbelief that their parents are witnessing tanks rolling into their country once again. It feels like madness because it it is. 


Ending With a Line From Lear

by Marvin Bell

I will try to remember. It was light.
It was also dark, in the grave. I could feel
how dark it was, how black it would be
without my father. When he was gone.
But he was not gone, not yet. He was only
a corpse, and I could still touch him
that afternoon. Earlier the same afternoon.
This is the one thing that scares me:
losing my father. I don’t want him to go.
I am a young man. I will never be older.
I am wearing a tie and a watch. The sky,
gray, hangs over everything. Today
the sky has no curve to it, and no end.
He is deep into his mission. He has business
to attend to. He wears a tie but no watch.
I will skip a lot of what happens next.
Then the moment comes. Everything, everything
has been said, and the wheels start to turn.
They roll, the straps unwind, and the coffin
begins to descend. Into the awful damp.
Into the black center of the earth. I
am being left behind. The center of my body
sinks down into the cold fire of the grave.
But still my feet stand on top of the dirt.
My father’s grave. I will never again.
Never. Never. Never. Never. Never.

Hidden In You

Groundhog Day

Cover me over, clover,
Cover me over, grass;
The mellow day is over
And there is night to pass.

Green arms about my head,
Green fingers on my hands,
Earth has no quieter bed
In all her quiet lands. 

Richard Eberhart – Song

 

February Poem

by Sara Teasdale

They spoke of him I love
With cruel words and gay;
My lips kept silent guard
On all I could not say.

I heard, and down the street
The lonely trees in the square
Stood in the winter wind
Patient and bare.

I heard . . . oh voiceless trees
Under the wind, I knew
The eager terrible spring
Hidden in you.


The Groundhog

By Richard Eberhart
 
In June, amid the golden fields,
I saw a groundhog lying dead.
Dead lay he; my senses shook,
And mind outshot our naked frailty.
There lowly in the vigorous summer
His form began its senseless change,
And made my senses waver dim
Seeing nature ferocious in him.
Inspecting close his maggots’ might
And seething cauldron of his being,
Half with loathing, half with a strange love,
I poked him with an angry stick.
The fever arose, became a flame
And Vigour circumscribed the skies,
Immense energy in the sun,
And through my frame a sunless trembling.
My stick had done nor good nor harm.
Then stood I silent in the day
Watching the object, as before;
And kept my reverence for knowledge
Trying for control, to be still,
To quell the passion of the blood;
Until I had bent down on my knees
Praying for joy in the sight of decay.
And so I left; and I returned
In Autumn strict of eye, to see
The sap gone out of the groundhog,
But the bony sodden hulk remained.
But the year had lost its meaning,
And in intellectual chains
I lost both love and loathing,
Mured up in the wall of wisdom.
Another summer took the fields again
Massive and burning, full of life,
But when I chanced upon the spot
There was only a little hair left,
And bones bleaching in the sunlight
Beautiful as architecture;
I watched them like a geometer,
And cut a walking stick from a birch.
It has been three years, now.
There is no sign of the groundhog.
I stood there in the whirling summer,
My hand capped a withered heart,
And thought of China and of Greece,
Of Alexander in his tent;
Of Montaigne in his tower,
Of Saint Theresa in her wild lament.