Friday, July 9, 2010

AT THE EDGE OF THE CLIFFS


[photo: Angie Vorhies]


The Edge

Pieces of earth break loose
and tumble from a cliff posted “unstable.”
I listen for the thud on the beach far below.

Standing at a different edge,
I’m already thinking of what I’ll miss,
things I won’t know I’ll miss:

mud puddles drying after rain, cracked
like shaved chocolate, a moon breaking free
of the mountains, a watercolor of the moon.

I’ll miss the feline beauty of fog,
the shabby chic of empty nests,
the way the world sleeps;

Baby Jacob on the kitchen floor
sitting in the non-stick frying pan,
grinning like Buddha.

The voice of the waves is rising.
Every day, I am one step closer to the edge.
In the trembling of a moment I already
miss the last poem I might have written.

     ~ Una Hynum

**

Every day, we are all one step closer to that edge. A lot of poetry deals with mortality; arguably, it is poetry’s chief subject. The best of mortality poems always celebrate life. I don’t think there is an exception.

This is true of Una’s poem as well. I love the unpredictability of the images of things she will miss, including the Buddha-like baby sitting in a non-stick frying pan. This is another example of “God is in the details.”

**


THE IRISH CLIFFS OF MOHER

Who is my father in this world, in this house,
At the spirit's base?

My father's father, his father's father, his –
Shadows like winds

Go back to a parent before thought, before speech,
At the head of the past.

They go to the cliffs of Moher rising out the mist,
Above the real

Rising out of present time and place, above
The wet, green grass.

This is not landscape, full of the somnambulations
Of poetry

And the sea. This is my father or, maybe,
It is as he was,

A likeness, one of the race of fathers: earth
And sea and air.


                        ~ Wallace Stevens

**

I love the surprise of "rising  . . . above the real." And the cosmic perspective, a substitute for God the Father (here I'd love to substitute "Mother").


I am also struck by how simple the words in this poem are -- with the single exception of "somnambulations" -- the sound works well. Stevens sometimes uses contrived, fanciful, or overly abstract words.  But his great poems, like most great poetry, rely on the very simplest words. 

Lilith:
Una's poem is indeed wonderful.
The unstable cliffs are such a fabulous metaphor for our entire existence.  The best surprise of all is missing the last poem I might have written.
Oriana:
I love the unstable cliffs as a metaphor for human life. Yes!


**

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