An Interactive One That Just Might Bore You.

On this, the birthday of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, co-founder of City Lights, I'm celebrating poetry and poets. Keen to new talent and power of change, Ferlinghetti knew, when seeing and hearing Ginsberg's Howl for the first time, that American literature would never be the same.

Last week, I couldn't stop thinking of this line:
I tell you now, the glacier may take years to advance, but it never stops moving.

It's one of my all-time favorite* lines of poetry, but I couldn't remember who wrote it. Convinced that it was Gary Snyder, I paged through my tattered and highlighted copies of Riprap, Mountains and Rivers With No End, No Nature and even The High Sierra of California for good measure. Nothing.

Then I thought, "Maybe it's Billy Collins. It could be Billy Collins." So I grabbed Sailing Alone Around the Room and re-read his perfect, precise words. My favorite of his, another that ranks among the greats, is "On Turning Ten." The spectacular part of that poem, the moment of connection, of empathy and regret, comes here:

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.
But it wasn't from one of Billy Collins' poems, that line I was reciting over and over. And countless variances of "poem + glacier+ advance + never stops moving" yielded little in the way of the mystery poet.

But then I found it. I can't remember how, what combination of words ultimately led me to it, but suddenly, there it was.

The Kiss, by Jean Monahan
We've been saying something like this

For months: Slow-ripened sounds

Wafting out of our mouths the way

The hot sweet sweat of cut hay

Whispers and lifts out of a noon field;

Setting each other in our sights

The way the black and whits and staring eye

Of the egret fishes; with precision

Interpreting the light, the ridged waves

The streaked and mottled back of the catch;

Leaning nearer, close enough to watch

The beloved vein in the neck fire, see

Salt on the lip, the whole forest smoking

As the meteorite burns a swath.

I tell you now, the glacier may take years to advance,

But it never stops moving.

The eyes of the wolf are bigger

And hungrier than we remember.

Look at how my mouth years toward yours.

Far at sea, a small swell aims for shore.

And all this talk of poetry has me thinking about scansion and form and meters, of balancing love of language with reverence for structure. It has me looking into the Napa Writers' Conference and justifying both its expense and the effort of getting accepted. It's not hard to come up with a manuscript or 5 poems before April, right?

Actually, I could probably do that. I could even write in falling dactyls, my favorite, the long-short-short of them offering finality and decision. (Dactyls are most commonly written in hexameter, with 6 metrical feet per line, a form known as Heroic Hexameter, popular with Greek Masters and political speech writers.)

*Another favorite, this stanza:
"Bless you. You came back,
So I could see you once more, plainly,
So I could rest against you
Without thinking this happiness lessened anything,
Without thinking you were alive again."

(Those lines come from
Mark Doty's The Embrace and never fail to remind me of the first time I heard Doty read, in 1997. He's coming to Utah, to a university about 2 hours away, in early April. I'll be making the drive that night.)

1 comment:

Cindy said...

Hmmm . . . if you're in Napa, you're not that far from Yosemite and some climbing. Well, it's in the same state. Not that you need an excuse other than your writing! Get that pen busy!