The level's so low in the short pond,
The snipe seems to walk on water,
ruffling his dagger-drawn wings
As he heads for the next massed hillock.
Suddenly, under a cloud, the sun's bottom auras the pond's surface,
And snipe is consumed by fire,
still walking, angelic, wings dipped in flame.
It must have been like this on the first retelling, back there on the
sunlight and surface-shine and something winged on the waves,
Snipe settled now, deep beak in the curls.
The logo is Fra Angelico,
alone in the unfinished rooms
Upstairs in S. Marco, blank windows
He colored with apparitions and visitations,
The outlines already there,
Apparently, waiting to be filled in.
And he filled them, stroke by stroke,
Bringing the outside inside.
He painted, it's been said, the first recognizable landscape.
As for the others,
he gathered the form from the air, and gave it flesh.
The snipe stands on top of himself
on the water beneath him.
When he drinks, he drinks from his own mouth.
What could be luckier, as full of grace and replenishment,
As feeding oneself on one's other self, one's stand-in,
Life's little helper swagged under our feet,
one's doppelganger and replica?
Windless, just-August evening.
Only the grasses move, and slightly,
The tall grasses, hearing the whispers of gravity,
And turning their tired necks
as though they'd prefer not to.
Otherwise, not even the stubbed clover moves, nor the snipe,
either of them.
August, blue mother, is calling her children in
Out of the sun-dried thistles
And out of the morning's dewlessness.
All of the little ones,
the hard-backed and flimsy-winged,
The many-legged and short-of-breath,
She calls them all, and they come.
Listen, this time I think she's calling your name as well.
I wish I remembered the way the stars looked
up here some thirty-five years ago
When the lights went out.
Pretty much as they do now, I'd guess,
Though I never see them,
given, as now I am, to an early bed.
Original oxymorons, ice on fire, I loved to watch them fall.
And loved them, too, as they stayed in place,
Designs from the afterlife of dreams,
and beyond that,
Connecting the dots of nothingness.
It comforts me to know they're up there,
and that their light
Keeps coming long after my sleep has gone forth, and my sleep's sleep.
We've all lead raucous lives,
some of them inside, some of them out.
But only the poem you leave behind is what's important.
Everyone knows this.
The voyage into the interior is all that matters,
Whatever your ride.
Sometimes I can't sit still for all the asininities I read.
Give me the hummingbird, who has to eat sixty times
His own weight a day just to stay alive.
Now that's a life on the edge.
I live here accompanied by clouds
Now that the weather's broken.
They take and release sunlight
like stained glass outside my small window.
A light that sometimes prompts me to want
To leave the world and settle, like some white bird,
on another mountain.
By Charles Wright
Recipient of the 2009 Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize
Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux
from Littlefoot by Charles Wright.
Copyright © 2007 by Charles Wright.