Given a chance, poetry knits itself into my normal life, and bits most often surface outside, away from the halts and hitches created by screens and phones. There, time undammed becomes a current again and words may rise and catch hold of moments.
Standing on rocks in a curve of the French Creek, I saw a tree swallow, iridescent as neon, sweep down through the trees and three times dip and drink, each time rising sharply into some kind of figure eight pattern and then descending, an unbroken weaving. Moments later, in one of those random conjunctions that lift my spirit, a great blue heron, so close that he looked as big as a bomber, flew feet above my head, and startled by my silhouette but seeing me too late suddenly rose full in my field of vision into an open patch above the stream — its enormous wings suddenly increasing their beat, and it was as if I could see the adrenaline punching out through its heart and exhilarating both of us. Just a minute later a fragment of a verse, just a few words which at home I looked up, the beginning of Keats’ Endymion:
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness;
but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
And this too, all within one half-hour — driving home, on a dog-leg turn, a young black snake sunning itself on the asphalt, oblivious of everything but sun and heat, and in time to stop the car, flick on the flashers and brake, and then out and hoisting him by the tail and carrying him to the brush and woods, safe, and the day suddenly a flow of lovely surprises.
But the reversal came quickly. Driving out, an hour later, a crushed box turtle in the middle of the road, newly dead, warm, blood still flowing out from under the shell.
They look like nothing else, not a rock or branch. They are singular in shape.
Therefore, I stood in the road for a minute, at least, feeling savage, cursing the driver, imagining deliberation on his part — some creature aiming and laughing. Another car crept by, the woman watching from behind her closed window. She saw the turtle in my hand and the look on my face.
Back in my car and pulling away, another fragment infiltrated my rage — from Roethke’s The Meadow Mouse :
I think of the nestling fallen into the deep grass,
The turtle gasping in the dusty rubble of the highway,
The paralytic stunned in the tub, and the water rising, —
All things innocent, hapless, forsaken.
I am not very good at ‘balance’ anymore. Age, maybe, or less tolerance for indirection, less patience for the inane. Certain kinds of ‘episodes’ provoke me more than they ever have before — I am more quick-tempered about matters of cruelty to almost anything or anyone rendered helpless by chance or malice. But so often I also do not know what to do with those inflamed thoughts. They sit inside me and resound.
That is why the ending of the day was a good one — it set me on a friend’s porch overlooking a field where we watched the stars come out and the lights of planes leaving Philadelphia and sometimes laughed at each other’s absurdities. And here, one more flash of lines, and when all has been said, words to live by I think — Ahab speaking of the warmth of a friend’s eyes upon him: “This is the magic glass.”
We cannot live alone. We cannot carry the density of the world by ourselves.