Friday, October 04, 2013

Gang of Four, looking at Autumn

Tonight my daughter drove me by a field where field corn had just been harvested. She's a rural mail carrier and she had seen it on her route today. Numerous Canada geese and three sandhill cranes were foraging there in the near-darkness. This made me very happy! We watched until the cranes flew away. In the iPhone photo they are mere flying sky-specks. The geese were still feeding as we drove away into the dusk.

And last night when I was putting away some of the books as I get ready to leave, I found this Vern Rutsala poem in a chapbook. The chapbook is hand sewn and printed on dark cream paper with a dark brown cover decorated with an illustrated cream label. It is a pleasure to hold an elegant thing like this! I love beautiful paper! The chapbook is called Other Voices; translations and variations by Vern Rutsala. It contains versions of poems by a dozen poets from many times and places. Here is the note in the back on "Gunther Eich, (1907-1972) A notable author of radio plays, his most enduring work is found in his tough and unadorned poems." [If you click the link you can also discover his role in writing radio plays for Hitler's Germany.] Eich was born in the same year as my mother, and lived in momentous times. I cannot say what I would have done in Hitler's Germany. Of course, we all think we would have resisted, fought, survived, But surely it is impossible to know, since we live here and not there, now and not then.

Here is a link to a short interview with Vern Rutsala.


 -----  after Eich

Who could live without trees?
It's good that they die, too -----
we have mortality in common.

Now all the peaches have been picked
and the plums deepen in color
as time flows quickly under the bridges.

I signal my despair to the geese,
they have their piece of mortality, too,
and somehow their wings' movements
help color the fruit in the orchards.

We've got to be patient.
But someday we'll be able to translate
the language of the birds
and read the stories trees tell the wind.

Version by Vern Rutsala on page 24.

As you might guess, I love the nature images. We have just watched the plums on my daughter's tree become richer in color. Even after we picked them, they ripened on the kitchen counter and the color became deeper. I also am pleased by the structure of this 14-line poem. Two three line, unrhymed stanzas followed by two four line stanzas gives enough room to work with an idea, without overdoing things.

 Here, as autumn deepens, we listen for autumn rains. Last night it poured all night long. Everything is freshened by it. Good Night!

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