Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Afternoon light on Silverwood Way

This is the welcome sight when we got here. The ducks came by a few minutes after I came out to take this photo. I'm out of cracked corn, but will replenish very soon. It is wonderful to be here at last, even after the special BIG SKY beauties of North Dakota and Montana in the last few days.This photo is a simple view of the sun on the lawn through trees. Tonight's poem is not quite that simple, but I think it repays careful attention. It's by a favorite poet of mine, Tomas Transtromer, whose work (in translation) I have loved ever since Bob Hass introduced him to our poetry class in the early 1980s. It is found on pages 50-51 of the slender book, INSPIRED NOTES; poems of Tomas Transtromer, translated by John F. Deane, which was published by Dedalus Press, Dublin, Ireland.

Shanghai Streets

The white butterfly in the park is being read by many.
      I love this cabbage butterfly as if it were a fluttering
      corner of truth itself.

At dawn the running crowds jump-start our silent planet.
Then the park fills up with people. Each one with eight
      faces polished like jade, for every situation, for
      avoiding blunders.
Each one also with the invisible face that reflects
      "something not to be mentioned."
Something that emerges in weary moments and is rank
      as a draught of viper brandy with its lasting scaly

The carp in the pond perpetually move, they swim even
      while they sleep, they are models for the faithful:
      always in motion.


Now it is mid-day. Laundry is fluttering in the grey sea
      winds high above the cyclists
who come in tight shoals. Watch out for the labyrinths
      off to either side!

I am surrounded by written characters I can't decipher,
     I am totally illiterate.
But I have paid as I ought and have receipts for
I have collected about me so many illegible receipts.
I am an old tree with withered leaves that are hanging
      on intact and cannot fall to the ground.

And a breath from the sea causes all these receipts to

                                        * * * * * *

I love the way this poem moves! I like the arrangement on the page, and the little narratives which expand, like the one about the receipts. I like the setting and I love the nature images. I particularly love the swift movement of the poem through so many human quandaries. I love the way the poet is present and becomes even more so in the last parts. It makes me want to stretch and stretch my imagination.

Tonight, through the magic of Netflix, my son showed us a documentary on twin boxers from Los Angeles. Boxing is hard work and I am not sure that the effort is well spent. I will have to work on why. There isn't much of a place for women, although in one of the final important bouts, the referee was a tall woman who looked like the actress who used to play Maud on the TV show. She was wearing a fitted white shirtwaist with belted slacks. It struck me funny, although I am sure she would have been insulted to hear me say so. In this competitive, violent, sweating world, there seemed very little time for reading or poetry. I would not be at home there, even if I had receipts for everything.
Sleep well.

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