Categories
Poetry Uncategorized

National Poetry Month: Robert Pinsky

prd_018776

I received the following facebook message last night, from the gallery of distant rogues: “Poesy Month, eh? Where’s the fucking Pinksy (sic), Chuck?”

Point taken.

An Explanation of America: A Love of Death by Robert Pinsky

Imagine a child from Virginia or New Hampshire
Alone on the prairie eighty years ago
Or more, one afternoon—the shaggy pelt
Of grasses, for the first time in that child’s life,
Flowing for miles. Imagine the moving shadow
Of a cloud far off across that shadeless ocean,
The obliterating strangeness like a tide
That pulls or empties the bubble of the child’s
Imaginary heart. No hills, no trees.

The child’s heart lightens, tending like a bubble
Towards the currents of the grass and sky,
The pure potential of the clear blank spaces.

Or, imagine the child in a draw that holds a garden
Cupped from the limitless motion of the prairie,
Head resting against a pumpkin, in evening sun.
Ground-cherry bushes grow along the furrows,
The fruit red under its papery, moth-shaped sheath.
Grasshoppers tumble among the vines, as large
As dragons in the crumbs of pale dry earth.
The ground is warm to the child’s cheek, and the wind
Is a humming sound in the grass above the draw,
Rippling the shadows of the red-green blades.
The bubble of the child’s heart melts a little,
Because the quiet of that air and earth
Is like the shadow of a peaceful death—
Limitless and potential; a kind of space
Where one dissolves to become a part of something
Entire … whether of sun and air, or goodness
And knowledge, it does not matter to the child.
Dissolved among the particles of the garden
Or into the motion of the grass and air,
Imagine the child happy to be a thing.

Imagine, then, that on that same wide prairie
Some people are threshing in the terrible heat
With horses and machines, cutting bands
And shoveling amid the clatter of the threshers,
The chaff in prickly clouds and the naked sun
Burning as if it could set the chaff on fire.
Imagine that the people are Swedes or Germans,
Some of them resting pressed against the strawstacks,
Trying to get the meager shade.
A man,
A tramp, comes laboring across the stubble
Like a mirage against that blank horizon,
Laboring in his torn shoes toward the tall
Mirage-like images of the tilted threshers
Clattering in the heat. Because the Swedes
Or Germans have no beer, or else because
They cannot speak his language properly,
Or for some reason one cannot imagine,
The man climbs up on a thresher and cuts bands
A minute or two, then waves to one of the people,
A young girl or a child, and jumps head-first
Into the sucking mouth of the machine,
Where he is wedged and beat and cut to pieces—
While the people shout and run in the clouds of chaff,
Like lost mirages on the pelt of prairie.

The obliterating strangeness and the spaces
Are as hard to imagine as the love of death …
Which is the love of an entire strangeness,
The contagious blankness of a quiet plain.
Imagine that a man, who had seen a prairie,
Should write a poem about a Dark or Shadow
That seemed to be both his, and the prairie’s—as if
The shadow proved that he was not a man,
But something that lived in quiet, like the grass.
Imagine that the man who writes that poem,
Stunned by the loneliness of that wide pelt,
Should prove to himself that he was like a shadow
Or like an animal living in the dark.
In the dark proof he finds in his poem, the man
Might come to think of himself as the very prairie,
The sod itself, not lonely, and immune to death.

None of this happens precisely as I try
To imagine that it does, in the empty plains,
And yet it happens in the imagination
Of part of the country: not in any place
More than another, on the map, but rather
Like a place, where you and I have never been
And need to try to imagine—place like a prairie
Where immigrants, in the obliterating strangeness,
Thirst for the wide contagion of the shadow
Or prairie—where you and I, with our other ways,
More like the cities or the hills or trees,
Less like the clear blank spaces with their potential,
Are like strangers in a place we must imagine.

By JunkChuck

Native, Militant Westsylvanian (the first last best place), laborer, gardener, and literary hobbyist (if by literary you mean "hack"). I've had a bunch of different blogs, probably four, due to a recurring compulsion to start over. This incarnation owes to a desire to dredge up the best entries of the worst little book of hand-scrawled poems I could ever dream of writing, salvageable excerpts from fiction both in progress and long-abandoned. and a smattering of whatever the hell seems to fit at any particular moment. At first blush, I was here just to focus on old, terrible verse, but I reserve the right to include...anything. Maybe everything, certainly my love of pulp novels, growing garlic, the Pittsburgh Steelers and howling at the moon--both figuratively and, on rare occasions, literally.

3 replies on “National Poetry Month: Robert Pinsky”

Outstanding! Looks like a great place for a long distance trail. I think I’ll link to that article as well . . .

I think the photo you chose was of the Flint Hills in Kansas, not too far from the Land Institute where Jeff worked for a while . . .

Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s