Sunday, April 14, 2013

"like the sky long ago over China"

This is the third year that this lovely cherry has bloomed since we planted it. I am still wanting, also, to plant fruit trees, which is silly really, because I will  be too old to pick the fruit.
But it is clear to me that I don't want to live anywhere where I cannot plant things
and watch the seasons come round with bloom and leaf.

Planting things is important to W. S. Merwin, too. A major part of his life now is his land in Hawaii, which had been badly damaged. He began by wanting to restore the native ecosystem, but found that the land was so degraded that it would no longer support those plants. So he began a palm conservancy and planted many different species of palm tree.
He has established a foundation to carry on this work.


It is said that you came from China
but you never saw China
you eat up the leaves here

your ancestors travelled blind in eggs
you arrive just after dark from underground
with a clicking whir in the first night
knowing by the smell what leaves to eat here
where you have wakened for the first time

the strawberry leaves foreign as you
the beans the orchid tree the eggplant
the old leaves of the heliconia the banana some palms
and the roses from everywhere but here
and the hibiscus from here the abutilons
the royal ilima

in the night you turn them into lace
into an arid net
into sky

like the sky long ago over China

W. S. Merwin, from The Rain in the Trees, p 78

I like the way (without the pesticide of judgment!) he understands the deep unknowing life of the beetle!
I love the movement of the poem from now to then. I like the use of foreign plants and those native and special to Hawaii! And most of all I love the elegant simplicity of the diction. Typing out a poem like this, your fingers keep wanting to add commas and other devices. But, looking carefully, the words are so arranged that those commas are not necessary! This is a beautiful thing to witness. Good night. . .

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