Saturday, July 1, 2017

At What Point is Something Gone Completely?

In my search for poems for the upcoming poetry retreat, I came across the poetry of Mary Szybist.

I didn't use any of her poems for the retreat- thought they might be too complicated for that occasion.

However, I was really struck by many of them.

Here is one:

The Troubadours Etc.

Just for this evening, let’s not mock them.

Not their curtsies or cross-garters

or ever-recurring pepper trees in their gardens

promising, promising.


At least they had ideas about love.


All day we’ve driven past cornfields, past cows poking their heads

through metal contraptions to eat.

We’ve followed West 84, and what else?

Irrigation sprinklers fly past us, huge wooden spools in the fields,

lounging sheep, telephone wires,

yellowing flowering shrubs.


Before us, above us, the clouds swell, layers of them,

the violet underneath of clouds.

Every idea I have is nostalgia. Look up:

there is the sky that passenger pigeons darkened and filled—

darkened for days, eclipsing sun, eclipsing all other sound

with the thunder of their wings.

After a while, it must have seemed that they followed

not instinct or pattern but only

one another.


When they stopped, Audubon observed,

they broke the limbs of stout trees by the weight of the numbers.


And when we stop we’ll follow—what?

Our hearts?


The Puritans thought that we are granted the ability to love

only through miracle,

but the troubadours knew how to burn themselves through,

how to make themselves shrines to their own longing.

The spectacular was never behind them.


Think of days of those scarlet-breasted, blue-winged birds above you.

Think of me in the garden, humming

quietly to myself in my blue dress,

a blue darker than the sky above us, a blue dark enough for storms,

though cloudless.


At what point is something gone completely?

The last of the sunlight is disappearing

even as it swells—


Just for this evening, won’t you put me before you

until I’m far enough away you can

believe in me?


Then try, try to come closer—

my wonderful and less than.


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