From Summer Grass

The willows are thinking again about thickness,

slowness, lizard skin on hot rock,

and day by day this imaging transforms them

into what we see: dragons in leaf, draped scales

alongside the river of harried, spring-stirred silt.

The magpie recites Scriabin in early morning as a mating song,

and home is just a place you started out,

the only place you still know how to think from,

so that that place is mated to this

by necessity as well as choice,

though now you have to start again from here,

and it isn’t home. Venus rising in the early evening

beside the Travelodge, as wayward and causal as

will, or beauty, or as once we willed beauty to be —

though this was in retrospect, and only practice

for some other life. Do you still love poetry?

Below the willows, in the dry winter reeds,

banjo frogs begin a disconcerting raga,

one note each, the rustling blades grow green —

and it tires, the lichen-spotted tin canteen

suspended in the river weeds like a turtle

up for air: such a curious tiredness deflected there.

And what would you give up,

what would give up, in the beautiful

false logic of math, or Greek? In the sum

of the possible, long ago in the summer grass... 

Here beside the river I close my eyes: there

the little girls lean continuously across a rusted

sign that says Don’t Feed the Swans

and feed the swans. The swans are reasoning beings;

the young cygnets, hatched from pins

and old mattress stuffing, bright-eyed, learning

what has bread, and what doesn’t. What doesn’t

have to do with this is all the rest:

one more chance to blow out the candles and wish

for things we wished for

that wouldn’t happen unless we closed our eyes.

Not the gingko or the level gaze, or the speaking voice

beneath the pillow, or the waking in the morning

with a name. But cloud — or grief, when grief

is loneliness and you close your eyes. Speech,

when speech is loneliness, and you close your eyes.

Bibliographical info

Roo Borson, “From Summer Grass” from Short Journey Upriver toward Oishida. Copyright © 2004 by Roo Borson. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: Short Journey Upriver toward Oishida (McClelland & Stewart, 2004).

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