Monday, June 04, 2007

June swirl

The June Seminar is in full swing. I'm re-reading poems for my afternoon workshop. The June Poets (the early risers anyway) are over in the seminar room for an informal discussion/ knockdown on Frank O'Hara vs. Wallace Stevens (poetry of lived experience vs. poetry of the imagination).

It's raining gently; the tiger lily that rises into a double tower outside this basement office window is spangled with rain, like beads on its frilly crowns. It leans slightly away from the window, as if nodding. (We watched "The Queen" yesterday on DVD and the imagery has obviously lingered--so much decorous pressure!)

Karla Kelsey and Bill Olsen arrive this week, Karla for a one-day visit and Bill for half the Seminar. I just picked up Bill's new book, Avenue of Vanishing. Still in its shrinkwrap, it waits here on my desk for a block of quiet time. I think he's an amazing poet. So many of his lines strike like little hammers in my brain.

My father is having a procedure this morning. They're trying to save his legs.

Sun breaks through for a moment, then retreats. A crow in the hemlocks beside Bucknell Hall shakes down a shower of rain to the slate sidewalk. The windowsill, a white box one foot deep, is at chin level. When I stand to look out at the lilies, I see there are three lesser stems in addition to the two tall ones. Later this summer, they will bloom, bright orange with dark speckles, heavy with pollen: the petals will unhinge and fall after only a few days. All along the stem, each leaf axis will cradle a small purple-black bulbil. These grow to about the size of a pea before being dislodged and falling to the ground. I collected some three years ago; one of the plants that grew from them is a foot tall and may bloom this year. My grandfather had these lilies in his garden; when I was about ten, he showed me the bulbils one day, thumbing one off the stem and handing it to me: If you plant this, it will make another one.

Here's a poem by Brendan Galvin, from Great Blue (1990):


What the warbler must have seen
was the world swung round;
without turning back
she was flying into
a distance already passed through:

another side of the woodpile
she had just cleared in a single pitch,
and beyond, through the middle ground
of pines, the background glitter
of running sea she had skipped above
like a flat stone thrown so well
it touches down on water
all the way to the other shore.

Swung round,
only slightly blurred.
Trees twinning,
far water grained,
air of a density . . .

then that split-second insight

into splashes of newspaper
and clothing,
filtered through
final dusts of light.

As perhaps,
in our last seconds,
we are swung round
to live ourselves back through
each particular,
to fall faster and faster
out of loves, out of
changes of clothes,
whole snows lifting skyward
becoming autumn leaves lifting
back into the green trees,
the dead stepping out of
crumbling loam,

at the last, seed and egg
unraveling, falling away.

And all
in the time
it takes a flat stone to skip over water
and be let in.

[photo: Crow, May 15]

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