Saturday, October 11, 2014

"family, or the fragile earth"

This is the shifting light of autumn; some other beauty anywhere I turn.   jhh

Last night I introduced you to Tim Bowling, the boy in the library at dusk who grew up to be the Canadian poet. Now, here is one of his poems. I am still thinking about Carolyn Kizer, too, so recently dead. I have always thought of her as sort of an Empress of Poetry, and was sad to learn that she had been suffering from dementia.

Meditation on a Fall Day

To be sad before the occasion of sadness --
the apogee of wisdom, or some sickness 
of the spirit, leaf gone to earth in summer,
the salmon spreading its milt far out at sea?

A social worker my brother once dated
summarizing our melancholy brood, looked deep
into his onyx eyes, with sympathy, and said,
"you're all in a state of premature grief."

Elderly parents so loved, one with kidney illness
and the other worn out from nursing and worry.
Yet can love be too much love that it makes us
immortally distant from the gift of our mortality?

Autumnal now the years and skies, autumnal the heart
that walks its fawn's fear over twigs and starts
at every sound that augurs the sound of absence,
a siren to my siblings, the shrill cry of a phone.

What binds us firm must pain us to the very quick
when it has gone, love, memory, the familiar joke
told in the comforting tongue. But until gone,
wisdom must contain defiant glee when flesh is warm.

So to revel in what we cannot bear to lose, family
or the fragile earth, is mortality made wisest: the sea
is salt but clear of milt that serves no purpose, the sky
is without leaf but cannot stop the ascent of the forest.

Tim Bowling, The Thin Smoke of the Heart, McGill-Queen's University Press, Canada, 2000, pages 26-27.

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