japonisme: 11/15/09 - 11/22/09

19 November 2009

be of good cheer


Like the waxwings in the juniper,
a dozen at a time, divid- ed, paired,
passing the berries back and forth, and by night- fall, wobb- ling, piping, wounded with joy.

Or a party of redwings grazing what
falls—blossom and seed,
nutmeat and fruit—
made light in the head and
cut by the light,
swept from the ground,
carried downwind, taken....

It's called wing-rowing, the wing- burdened arms unbending, yielding, striking a balance,
walking the white
invisible line drawn
just ahead in the air,
first sign the slur,

the liquid notes too liquid, the heart in
the mouth melodious, too close, which starts
the chanting, the crooning, the long lyric
silences, the song of our undoing.

It's called side-step, head- forward, raised- crown, flap-
and-glide- flight aggression, though courtship is
the object, affection the compulsion,
love the overspill — the body nodding,

 still standing, ready to fly straight out of
itself—or its bill-tilt, wing-flash, topple-
over; wing-droop, bowing, tail-flick and drift; back-ruffle, wingspread,
quiver and soar.

Someone is troubled,
someone is trying,
in earnest, to explain;
to speak without
swallowing the tongue; to find the perfect
word among so few or the too many—

to sing like the thrush from
the deepest part
of the understory, territorial,
carnal, thorn-at-the-throat,
or flutelike
in order to make
one sobering sound.

Sound of the breath
blown over the bottle,
sound of the reveler
home at dawn, light of
the sun a warbler yellow,
the sun in song-flight, lopsided-pose.
Be of good-cheer,

my father says, lifting his glass to greet a morning in which he's awake to be with the birds: or up all night in the sleep of the world, alive again, singing.

Stanley Plumly

Stanley Plumly, "Cheer" from Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2000 by Stanley Plumly.

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16 November 2009

Our Mothers Depart


Our mothers depart from us,
gently depart
On tiptoe,
but we sleep soundly,
stuffed with food,
and fail to notice this dread hour.
Our mothers do not leave us suddenly,
no —
it only seems so 'sudden.'

Slowly they depart, and strangely,
with short steps down the stairs of years.
One year, remembering nervously,
we make a fuss to mark their birthday,
but this belated zeal
will save neither their souls
nor ours.

They withdraw ever further,
withdraw even further.
Roused from sleep,
we stretch toward them,
but our hands suddenly beat the air —
a wall of glass has grown up there!
We were too late.
The dread hour had struck,
Suppressing tears, we watch our mothers,
in columns quiet and austere,
departing from us.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

(my mother died almost two years ago.
i have not cried. we weren't friends.
but how i loved her, as a child.
the more she pulled away from me
the more i craved her.)

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