To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jerome Rothenberg: Nine from “A Poem of Miracles”

                             for Jack Collom on his 80th birthday

1 /
A miracle
more ordinary than
the grass
under our feet
the hot sun
as it dazzles
eyes & skin

so many memories
blending into one
we have no place
to go but where
we are    no nearer
to the source

2 /
A miracle
open on all sides
toward which
the mind moves slowly
&  the eye
as in a dream
opens & shuts

clouds without rain
cover the sun
the animal that sleeps
over our skylight
knows neither rest
nor waking
only a dream

3 /
Turn of the hand
by which a perfect
bird comes into
view    a flight
over the heads of some
no mystery
in what we see

we walk away
from it    no sooner
gone when something
ever bright
a flash of wing
assails us
heretofore concealed

4 /
The real comes first
the fancy a far second
hard to tell apart
still harder in the dark
the eye too weak
the skin still weaker
like the mind

the origin of species
hides its birth
the contours of the real
the hand feels
& the eye imagines
only later
in singular pursuit

A miracle
to make the seen
of the unseen
the animal you see
its metamorphosis

lurks here
brings concealments
into light
the world inside
the mind
turns upside down

6 /
A miracle
to live a life
in celebration
knowing fear
& feeling death
he finds the poem
more to his taste

they call it fancy
a game of chance
or choice
that pulls the mind
back from the literal
opens a door
to the imagined real

7 /
A miracle
from which
the other miracle
the owl living
night long
in the palm tree

a flight of pelicans
brown shadows
east of where the sun
touches the ocean
a miracle of distant bodies
voices from the sky
sounds absent words

8 /
A miracle
the sun crushed
by its clouds
the mind retreats from
blood lines
staining the horizon
raining down

the word is firmament
a cracked sky
over the sun & moon
imagined trackers
behind which
light seeps forth
a field of stars

9 /
A miracle
our lives that pass
a barrier
the evil wind
is not so evil
but brings us words
to string into a poem

nowhere to go
but up & out
the miracle
even to know
that knowing ends
having all tried & failed
against the odds

[A powerful defender of what Goethe called “the rights of nature” & a writer of focused & highly honed means, Jack Collom (born November 8, 1931) is an American poet, teacher & essayist. His twenty-three books include Blue Heron & IBC, The Fox, Arguing with Something Plato Said, Red Car Goes By: Selected Poems 1955-2000, Exchanges of Earth and Sky, & Situation Sings (with Lyn Hejinian). He has been anthologized in countless magazines & collections in the United States & abroad, from Best Poems of 1963 to The Best American Poetry 2004. He has lived in Boulder, Colorado for many years, where his eightieth birthday will be celebrated, one trusts, with all appropriate warmth & fanfare.  (J.R.)]


Anonymous said...

re: evil wind - "I have walked and prayed for this young child an hour
And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,"
mr. yeats - what a line!

i like your poem very much
better to have tried and failed
well,. as the man said, nothing is gained

Mickey O'Connor said...

VIVA Jack Collom

fija said...

i like to read poems , these works great to motivate us , i found same quality in your poems , thanks for this . hope i will see some more soon

Centranthus said...

I really enjoyed the flow and the imagery of this write. Especially the stanza which mentions rainless clouds obscuring the sun, and an animal over the skylight. So many things can be read into that.

A miracle
to make the seen
of the unseen
the animal you see
its metamorphosis

lurks here
brings concealments
into light
the world inside
the mind
turns upside down" -----

Outstanding stanza! I feel that we, as writers, try to turn a readers' mind upside down, and help them to (forgive the cliche) think out of the box. The second part of this stanza conveys that well.

I look forward to viewing more of your work. Your tempo, formatting, etc. are well put together.


Kit said...

Thanks for posting such an evocative poem. I found myself thinking of Stevens' "A Clear Day And No Memories"—and I am just now pleasantly waiting for more thoughts to come.