These poems are a three-part series written at The Frost Place. The series is called “Metaphysics in the White Mountains,” and they are in memory of Don Sheehan.
1. Little Red Berries
(On Poetry and Martin Heidegger)
Well, Martin, the way I see it,
when it comes to poetry and Being
it’s the moves you make getting there
that matter. How glibly I say this,
yet part of me believes it. There was,
after all, the great blue heron that allowed me
to kneel on a two-plank bridge and watch it,
aware that I was watching. That’s a gift,
empirical proof of embodiment, It behind It,
wonder of wonders. Creation honored me today,
and I thank it. Oh, how I thank it!
But there also was the wind. It went slack,
mosquitoes attacked, rain began to fall,
and the way I see it
turned into the way I saw it.
Now the truth of all embodiment is clear.
I say this to you, Martin, one day
after the fifty-ninth Hiroshima Day.
Truth, it seems, is stacked,
the tallest pile in all the world.
This has been a bad summer for clintonia,
only an occasional blue berry to set things right,
and it’s too early for mountain ash,
but see, Martin, poetry, like Being, is.
Little red berries prosper along the trail.
2: Simple Rock
(On Antinomies and Poetry)
In a place of great bleached boulders,
right here amid the white swirling waters
of the brook, this one is dark
nuance of nothing but the dying yellow leaves
of the beeches rising above and over it.
When my mind is too much with me
this is where I come, to this boulder
shrugged off by the Ice Age and left here
to astound me into sonnets and villanelles,
and if I can’t come, to conjure it.
For there is a face in the boulder,
an actual face configured by the lines
and cracks and creases in the stone
as if by divine direction. An older face,
it has a wide brow, like Shakespeare
or Homer, cherubic cheeks made more so
by a lush mustache, a stubby nose,
lips shut so tightly they are thin,
chin narrowed to a goatee, and eyes closed
in what looks to be deep sleep,
or disciplined contemplation.
It’s a gentle face, serene, stone-still,
impervious to emotion, a countenance that
reconciles antinomies by keeping them intact,
and against the rational mind arrays
the deep unmitigated grace of simple rock.
3: No Thrushes Anywhere
(On Disjunction in the Poetry of Thomas Hardy)
I leaned on the new steel rail
of the bridge that spanned the brook
at a spot where the water was mild,
its current muscular but slow,
swirling around the ledges and rocks
in a dazzling display of deference.
There were birds, but no thrushes
anywhere, on each bank a sparrow
or two, and butterflies doing
whatever it is butterflies do.
With wild flowers resplendent in
evening air it was a pretty scene,
but like the thrush before
the darkly charging mountain storm,
melodiously irrelevant. It was
as if this particular brook had
two currents, one going east,
the other west, and there I was,
one leg being pulled in one
direction, one in the other. Oh,
agony! Go east, the heart commands,
but no, the head directs, go west.
Just then, announcing night, a bat
flew over and I pulled back,
my dark weight too much for
something so simple as a thrush’s wing.