Sunday, November 11, 2007

Duke Altum's Poem of the Week #58

It probably doesn't need to be said here that the American writer Raymond Carver is known for his short stories primarily, rather than for his poems... but nonetheless he did write quite a few of the latter, and took the challenge of it very seriously. His poems may not go down in history as technically brilliant (not that I'd be a good judge of that!), but they are certainly interesting and, in their better moments, quite powerful.

This one is very meaningful to me because I think it can apply equally well both to the spiritual as well as the intellectual/artistic life. Anyone interested in pursuing both matters of the heart (i.e. following one's passion to create art) and matters of the spirit (i.e. attempting to approach something like holiness) should be able to relate to his determination to learn from the "book of Nature" without distraction -- and his subsequent failure to keep such distractions at bay: "But, as usual, my thoughts began to wander." Man, I sure found myself nodding in agreement over that line... anyway, I find it an admirably honest and accurate depiction of a common interior struggle.


This Morning

This morning was something. A little snow
lay on the ground. The sun floated in a clear
blue sky. The sea was blue, and blue-green,
as far as the eye could see.
Scarcely a ripple. Calm. I dressed and went
for a walk -- determined not to return
until I took in what Nature had to offer.
I passed close to some old, bent-over trees.
Crossed a field strewn with rocks
where snow had drifted. Kept going
until I reached the bluff.
Where I gazed at the sea, and the sky, and
the gulls wheeling over the white beach
far below. All lovely. All bathed in a pure
cold light. But, as usual, my thoughts
began to wander. I had to will
myself to see what I was seeing
and nothing else. I had to tell myself this is what
mattered, not the other. (And I did see it,
for a minute or two!) For a minute or two
it crowded out the usual musings on
what was right, and what was wrong -- duty,
tender memories, thoughts of death, how I should treat
with my former wife. All the things
I hoped would go away this morning.
The stuff I live with every day. What
I've trampled on in order to stay alive.
But for a minute or two I did forget
myself and everything else. I know I did.
For when I turned back i didn't know
where I was. Until some birds rose up
from the gnarled trees. And flew
in the direction I needed to be going.

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