japonisme: full of grace

27 June 2009

full of grace

HOUSE SPARROWS

for Joe and U. T. Summers

Not of the wealthy, Coral Gables class
Of traveler, nor that rarified tax bracket,
These birds weathered the brutal, wind-chill facts
Under our eaves,
nesting in withered grass,
Wormless but hopeful,
and now their voice enacts
Forsythian spring with primavernal racket.

Their color is the elderly, moleskin gray
Of doggedness, of mist, magnolia bark.
Salt of the earth, they are;
the common clay;
Meek emigres come over on the Ark
In steerage from the
Old Country of the Drowned
To settle down along Long Island Sound,

Flatbush, Weehawken,
our brownstone tenements,
Wherever the local idiom is Cheep.
Savers of string, meticulous and mild,
They are given to nervous flight,
the troubled sleep
Of those who remember terrible events,
The wide-eyed, anxious haste
of the exiled.

Like all the poor, their safety
lies in numbers
And hardihood and anonymity
In a world of dripping browns and
duns and umbers.
They have inherited the lower sky,
Their Lake of Constants,
their blue modality
That they are borne upon
and battered by.

Those little shin-bones,
hollow at the core,
Emaciate finger-joints,
those fleshless wrists,
Wrapped in a wrinkled, loose, rice-paper skin,
As though the harvests of earth had never been,
Where have we seen such
frailty before?
In pictures of Biafra and Auschwitz.

Yet here they are,
these chipper stratoliners,
Unsullen, unresentful,
full of the grace
Of cheerfulness,
who seem to greet all comers
With the wild confidence
of Forty-Niners,
And, to the lively honor of their race,
Rude canticles of "Summers, Summers, Summers."

Anthony Hecht

Copyright © Anthony Hecht

Copyright © 2009 Ploughshares

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Passer Domesticus (house sparrow) in Japan,only Passer Montanus (black comma on the cheek). These artists remain so precise without manierism. Doric concept,ionic lightness. Simplicity in detail. How measured! d.

28 June, 2009 00:48  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

d-- you are a poet.

it amazes me that these birds are known everywhere and have been for centuries.

i believe they were introduced to the US to the dismay of many.

28 June, 2009 08:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely poem. Did you know that Anthony Hecht was stationed in Japan during the Occupation? He arrived in early October, 1945 and left in February, 1946. He was very much affected by the poverty of the Japanese. One poem, "Japan," probably has its genesis in his time there.

28 June, 2009 19:05  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

what a gift-- thank you. i'll look for it.

28 June, 2009 20:14  
Blogger Yoli said...

Exquisite.

30 June, 2009 07:48  
Blogger belvedere beads said...

all of these images made me wiggle with pleasure.

30 June, 2009 10:47  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

yoli--thank you so much!

30 June, 2009 10:55  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

bb-- i wish i could be there to witness that!

30 June, 2009 10:56  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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