Wednesday, December 12, 2007

enduring, a day and night pass

This is a substantial revision of this poem, the haibun sequence that originally had the working title Thanksgiving Day and Night. This is three or four revisions later.

In the interest of following up on the idea of showing the revision process by example, I thought I'd re-post the poem, here, in a later state. It might still be a work in progress, but it feels much more "complete" to me at this time, and ready to be "abandoned," as I move on to other projects.

I believe it was the French poet Paul Valery who said, A poem is never finished, only abandoned.

I've always found that to be true.

enduring, a day and night pass

time lost to visions
overlaying the world with
interlocking wheels

Time falls around my ankles, a discarded robe before one steps into the bath, warmed by living flesh, soon to chill. Whole days wash off, slosh down the drain. A week suddenly gone, and nothing happened: or, everything happened, and you could not record it all. The recording angel naps those days when acedia rises in the east, the bloody and demanding sun. Red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning. I'm going to wash these blues right out of my hair.

Snow late last night, coating the gray world white. I watched it fall in that perfect silence that new snowfall brings to the world, as blessing. Juncos, round slate-blue birds, come this morning to sit on the deck railings, kicking up tufts as they land and take off again. The live-in cardinal couple is brilliant against the white land, the male a moving cursor of laser-dot red against a black and white background. The chokecherry tree will still produce its small sable berries, come January. The birds will gather in its branches, gorging themselves, stooping down to pick through the snow under the tree for more fallen fruit.

Already melting. The sun comes out, fitfully, streaks of blue between the clouds. A few more light flakes, here and there, particles of bleached air-borne ash. I worry when I can’t find my gratitudes, even a poor and starving minimal thanks for being still alive—that temporary and contingent existence universally culminated in a face-on meeting with entropy.

If the only prayer
you ever said was "Thank you"—
that would suffice.

(Meister Eckhart)

More lost time: Driving home after dinner in another town, the clouds thin and crumpled, a near-full moon hangs high over white corn rows, blue shadows on the land. I think to myself, When did you get to be full again, moon? Then I realized, I hadn’t seen it for weeks, between illness and exhaustion, and all the cloudy weather. Suddenly the moon's eye was almost round again, silver behind mottled veils.

moon and starlight
on snow-draped fields near town:
black winter berries

I sit awhile at midnight, in the armchair with my heaviest quilt draped over, staring at the fire burning in the fireplace, no lights on, waiting. Outside a silver light; a few stars peek through bare trees. The cold clear night both dark and light. The room is silent except for the sounds of the fire. Approaching silence within. Nothing moves but the flames. The black lines of treeshadows on the white snow are arteries, rivers, tunnels between now and some deeper place.

snowlight firelight moonlight
candelight sunlight night that made us—
receive us all at the end

Lost time. No stories before bedtime, collapsing breath into narrative. Nothing is more unreal than the self-talk that claims to be real. An unstill mind cannot hear the silences rising up, to break into song.

Let go, and go back to sitting and staring at the flames, while out of the corner of the eye, stars and treeshadows slowly turn the wheel of the sky’s clock, winding up, winding down. And the return to silence durable, inevitable, unexpected, tremulous, inexplicable. Light wheels through the fireplace screen, makes shadow patterns on the ceiling, splashes on floors and walls of the silent house.

unnamed falls
to frozen lakes—
silent water sleep

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Blogger John Ettorre said...

"Time falls around my ankles." What a resonant phrase for we middle-aged folks. That would be a hell of a good book title.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Hmn. Thanks! I appreciate the thought. Makes me think. Hmn.

1:04 AM  

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