Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Joy's Trick


At the alder-darkened brink 
Where the stream slows to a lucid jet 
I lean to the water, dinting its top with sweat, 
And see, before I can drink, 

A startled inchling trout 
Of spotted near-transparency, 
Trawling a shadow solider than he. 
He swerves now, darting out 

To where, in a flicked slew 
Of sparks and glittering silt, he weaves 
Through stream-bed rocks, disturbing foundered leaves, 
And butts then out of view 

Beneath a sliding glass 
Crazed by the skimming of a brace 
Of burnished dragon-flies across its face, 
In which deep cloudlets pass 

And a white precipice 
Of mirrored birch-trees plunges down 
Toward where the azures of the zenith drown. 
How shall I drink all this? 

Joy’s trick is to supply 
Dry lips with what can cool and slake, 
Leaving them dumbstruck also with an ache 
Nothing can satisfy. 


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Medieval Man

Burgundian miniature, ca 1460
"Medieval man thought that truth had been revealed to him, so that he was spared from its wild pursuit; the reckless energy that we give to seeking it was turned in those days to the creation of beauty; and amid poverty, epidemics, famines, and wars men found time and spirit to make beautiful a thousand varieties of objects, from initials to cathedrals... we thank a million forgotten men for redeeming the blood of history with the sacrament of art."
~WIll Durant, The Age of Faith

Monday, February 4, 2019

From a Window

Incurable and unbelieving
in any truth but the truth of grieving,

I saw a tree inside a tree
rise kaleidoscopically

as if the leaves had livelier ghosts.
I pressed my face as close

to the pane as I could get
to watch that fitful, fluent spirit

that seemed a single being undefined
or countless beings of one mind

haul its strange cohesion
beyond the limits of my vision

over the house heavenwards.
Of course I knew those leaves were birds.

Of course that old tree stood
exactly as it had and would

(but why should it seem fuller now?)
and though a man’s mind might endow

even a tree with some excess
of life to which a man seems witness,

that life is not the life of men.
And that is where the joy came in.